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back to index backCHINAtalk September,  2005

Can Chinese products survive a crash test? – the WTO column

Brussels - The question about the safety of Chinese cars has not been asked too often at the Chinese roads, where a victim more just adds to the entertainment for the lucky people who have not been caught in the accident. But now the car is entering the more traditional market, difficult questions are being asked.

It took a while for the issue to come up. With almost unprecedented masochism European media have been reporting about the success of the first Chinese SUV, the Landwind, entering the European market.

The first original Chinese car to enter the European markets has become a symbol for China's fast pace into the global markets. Unfortunately, that symbol of Chinese diligence has not passed the European crash tests that are so much appreciated by European drivers, who think live should be a bit more than a good bet.

This week's report by the Dutch association of car owners ANWB is devastating. "In the twenty years of our experience, we have never seen such bad test results," writes the organization on its website. A frontal crash will kill the front passengers at a speed of 64 km per hour, while their verdict on more regular ways of moving through the traffic is hardly more encouraging. It will consult its European sister organizations and press for a ban in Europe, it says.

When the Landwind was a symbol for China's export aspirations, we might now consider it to be crashed.

Quality of Chinese products is increasingly becoming a problem, I learned this week at the China Sourcing Fair at Duesseldorf in Germany. Even when it is not about life and death, like in the case of the Landwind, also the reputation of other products is not improving.

"The Chinese companies are getting lazy," told me more than one European visitor. "The quality of their products is not improving, as we all hoped, but deteriorating."

How good is this coffee maker, I asked two weeks ago a staff member of Carrefour in Brussels when I purchased a Bluesky coffee maker for eight euro. By now the English language skills of Shanghainese police officers has passed that of the French-speaking Wallonians. "Very good," he said, while sticking up his thumb. I was stupid enough to go ahead with the purchase.

After a week with five floodings of my sink, fortunately the pot crashed and I could buy a decent machine. Quality still is one of the core strengths in Europe, I believe. It has a price, but both good coffee and my live may cost a bit. We also purchased a TV-set and a hair dryer from Bluesky. I use rubber gloves when I have to touch them. 

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