Over on Distribution Trends, Adam Fein recently featured a guest post by Dr. Benjamin Olshin that provides insight into the Chinese product quality mindset. Dr. Olshin's insights into how history and a number of Chinese business philosophies have combined to create the current quality concerns are quite thought provoking. Consider that "the Chinese are pragmatic and are less concerned with abstract principles -- and those principles include manufacturing standards. Expediency means cranking out products as quickly and cheaply as possible. In the Chinese mind, the negative consequences of such practices can always be dealt with later. Pragmatism means that to the Chinese those consequences, in fact, don't really exist at the present time."
I'm not sure if I entirely agree with Dr. Olshin based on my own experiences with China sourcing in the manufacturing world, but certainly others might side with his viewpoints. However, Dr. Olshin later offers up another insight that's harder to disagree with.
To wit, "China never had an Industrial Revolution. The West’s move into mass manufacturing was a long process by which technology, standards and ethics developed over two centuries … Sure, places like Japan took a shortcut on the road to industrialization, but they also consciously imported Western models of management, not just the technology. Taiwan based its industrial model to a great extent on the Japanese model, and Singapore had the influence of both the Japanese model and the British … Mainland China started most of its major industrialization in the Communist era, when the emphasis was much more on beating the West than on quality or safety."
This last point is a fascinating insight. Perhaps when it comes to industrial development, history really can teach us lessons. And one of those is that skipping stages -- and not learning from the paths of others -- is a move that is sure to introduce its own set of hiccups.