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UPDATED: March 14, 2015 NO.12 MARCH 19, 2015
What's Behind the Lowly Status of 'Sold in China?'


It has been reported that during this year's Spring Festival holiday in February, Chinese tourists spent a total of 6 billion yuan ($958 million) in Japan. Apart from snatching up Japan's famous electronic products, they also splashed out on domestic appliances--notably toilet lids. According to Japanese media outlets, toilet lids almost fell out of stock in Japanese shops owing to the run on the product. The splurge on toilet seats available in Japan that feature built-in spray washing and seat warmers has prompted many comparisons of made-in-China products with their Japanese-produced counterparts. However, it was soon discovered that some toilet seats bought from Japan back to China had in fact been produced in Hangzhou in east China's Zhejiang Province.

Some have deemed those who buy toilet seats in Japan unreasonable, while others believe different standards for products have led to a qualitative difference between toilet seats sold in China and in Japan.

Lack of trust

Bian Guangchun (Beijing Morning Post): China is not inferior to Japan in terms of the technology of producing electric household appliances, toilet lids included.

The prices of toilet lids under Japanese brands range from 1,000 yuan ($160) to 5,000 yuan ($800), and the majority of Chinese consumers choose to buy toilet seats at a median price of 2,000 yuan ($320). There is method to this madness as the same model within the same product range costs more in China. Furthermore, although Chinese shops also sell Japanese-made toilet seats, owing to their lack of confidence in the domestic retail sector, Chinese consumers prefer instead to bring back the same toilet seats back from Japan.

As a typical trick of the trade, before retailers make discounts on certain commodities, they first raise the prices of these items artificially high, thereby psychologically inflating the value of the product in question in the buyer's mind. Jaded to such tactics, more and more Chinese consumers have begun to lose confidence in domestic retailers and turn to other channels for shopping in lieu of them. Moreover, fake and low-quality commodities are also scaring consumers away. In short, several factors have conspired to dampen consumer confidence in commodities available at home, and domestic consumption has thusly suffered. This may go a long way toward accounting for overseas shopping sprees of the type recently encountered in Japan.

Qiao Zhifeng (www.cnhubei.com): The Hangzhou-based toilet lid manufacturer has admitted that its products exported to Japan are manufactured in line with the relevant Japanese criteria, which are stricter than those in China. Toilet seats on the Japanese market are therefore of a higher quality than their counterparts sold in China under the same brand. Thus, there is no justifiable reason to deride those Chinese consumers who bring back toilet lids and other sundry products from their trips to Japan. They are simply unable to get commodities of an equivalent quality at home.

The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China has explicitly stated that export-oriented products, particularly food, are absolutely safe and of merchantable quality. How wonderful it would be if products made for domestic market were held to the same standard!

In most cases, it's not that Chinese consumers are possessed of a sudden irrational fervor for all things foreign-produced. Fundamentally, their buying of foreign products can be attributed to their lack of trust in domestically available products. They are more confident in the quality of products on foreign markets, even those exported from China. The frequent occurrence in China of health scares and scandals involving substandard and counterfeit products, particularly in the area of food safety, is steadily chipping away at consumer trust in domestic commodities, and thus strengthening Chinese resolve to buy foreign.

These so-called Japanese lids were actually produced in China! Who then should feel ashamed? Not Chinese consumers, that's for sure. Conversely, they have shown themselves to be remarkably canny. Quality must always come first--whether the products are intended for export or for domestic consumption.

In order to retain Chinese consumers, domestic producers should therefore spare no efforts in improving product quality.

Qiao Shan (Information Times): It's necessary to make it clear that not all products manufactured in China are available in the Chinese market. Some Chinese manufacturers have also revealed that they adopt the most rigid criteria when manufacturing overseas-oriented products, while those sold in China is made according to lower standards, even under the umbrella of the same brand.

Therefore, we cannot help but ask, although many of the toilet seats brought back from Japan are made in China, are such products to be found in the Chinese market? To some extent, when people shop in Japan, they are not just buying toilet seats, rather they are investing in the guarantee of a higher standard of quality.

Nowadays, China boasts strong manufacturing credentials, and it's impossible to conceive of its market being incapable of producing high-quality products. The question therefore remains, when will it be possible for Chinese consumers to buy products as good as those exported to other countries from China?

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