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Made in China

China products are everywhere, even to the remotest barangay in the Philippines. Filipinos buy products with Chinese characters they couldn’t understand. This is just the obvious part of the bigger problem. There are more alarming truths underneath.

Made in China Product

Made in China Label of a Box

Made in China with Characters Unrecognizable to Common Filipinos

From the Filipinos Perception
Before we go over the complicated "Made in China" thing, let me first share with you this short conversation among Filipinos.

This conversation 
with my co-barangays in Batangas about substandard quality of products being sold and used in the Philippines by the Filipinos started on a morning cooking session for a despedida party. One guy complained:

“Ano ga naman yan, ano gang pagkakanipis naring siyansi na are! Pag may kaunti pang diin ay pihong bali.”
(What the heck, why this spatula is so thin! Some more pressure and this will surely break.)

This guy is in-charge of frying fish and tofu and he’s not satisfied with the kitchen turner’s ability to do its thing.

Man Holding a Spatula

Then another guy said this:

“Pag mahinang klase, sasabihin gawang China. Pag mahusay, sasabihin galing sa Japan o gawa sa USA ay pagkamahal naman. Bakit nga ba gayon?”
(If its poor quality, we will say it is made in China. If it is of good quality, we’ll say it's from Japan or made in USA but is too expensive. Why is it like that?”

Then another guy shared his thoughts in the conversation by saying:

“Naku, karamihan naman ng nabibili natin ngayon ay gawang China, mapa-sa mall o sa mga tiyange. Mura nga pero di naman kagandahan ang kalidad kaya maka isa o dalawang buwan di na mapakinabangan.”
(Oh, many of the stuffs we’re buying today are made in China, even if its from shopping malls or from small sidewalk stores. Yes it is cheaper but the quality is not that good so in a month or two, we can no longer use it.)

Then one of the cooks tells his joke:

“ Pare, sa susunod nga’y tayo’y yumasyas na laang ng kawayan at baka maigi-igi pa.”
(Brother, I think next time we create one out of bamboo and maybe it is way better.)

Map of China and the Philippines

Calendar with Chinese Characters

China and the Chinese - In the World's Eye
Geographically speaking, we are too close to China. Our ancestors used to trade with China even before the Spaniard came. Many Chinese choose to settle in the Philippines and it seems that many of them are happy being here. China as we know, is now one of the world’s superpowers, it terms of the economy. While it is also a fact that the Chinese are over a billion in numbers, their work ethics is truly one of a kind. Like the Filipinos, the Chinese people will do whatever they can to survive, earn a living. But to better understand why the Philippines is one of the many nations highly dependent on products made in China nowadays, here’s a sensible observation that I want to share in this blog post.

Products Sold in Philippine Markets - Mostly Made in China

Chinese Products Sold Inside Palengke

First and foremost, majority of China products are cheaper than any other products manufactured around the globe. One of the main reasons is their “cheap labor cost”. Chinese people will be contented enough to earn half of our minimum wage per day. If ours is around P500, theirs is like P250. With millions of Chinese workers hungry for jobs, they are willing to sacrifice their wages just to get employed. Like in the Philippines, there are many poor people in China.

Another reason is that a significant number of China companies are linked into counterfeiting or copying products made by known international companies. From shoes to clothing, smartphones to laptops, industrial machinery to military technology, there have been accusations over the past years that Chinese companies are into counterfeiting. This activity in a lot of ways lowers down the production or manufacturing cost of a product. That is because there is no more Research and Development (R&D) involved, nothing to invest on about it.

Battery of a Camera Made in China

Sanyang Brand - Originated in China

But on one hand, China is really into the so-called “globalization”. They have the intelligent minds, creative hands, and strategic position. China is selling its products across many countries for decades, the key reason why they are the world’s second biggest economy today.Think for example the giant company “Alibaba”. Chinese products are sold into the global market that fast and easy because of this eCommerce platform made by a Chinese businessman whose name is Jack Ma. The way Chinese think about business is way different, compared to Filipinos. When products distribution is made simple and systematic, there is no need for them to increase the margins or the profits during sale. For as long as you can sell thousands of units over a short period of time, the profit will surely follow. All you just have to do is produce, produce and produce.

Products Made in China, Purchased from Lazada

Google Product, Made in China

If you’ve ever heard this Chinese ideology about business, you’ll get for sure a good idea on why most Chinese businesses prospers. China town in the Philippines is still here prospering because of their business-minded traits. Chinese people will rather sell at a very low margin (or tubo in local terms) and have all his products sold quickly, rather than sell at a higher margin and end up waiting for days before everything is sold. Filipinos are used to telling jokes with the way Chinese people say it and I’m sure some of you have heard it personally or maybe seen it in the movies:

“Ako tinda mura lang para bilis ubos akin tinda. Dito ka na akin suki bili mura lang pero ganda gawa.”
(My products are cheaper so I can sell them fast. Buy from me as it is cheap but of good quality.)

Chinese Products Sold in the Philippines

Chinese Envelope, a Chinese Influence to the Filipinos

China Products Acceptance in Philippines
Going back to the Philippines, it is not uncommon these days that China products are sold on sidewalks, tiangge, shopping malls, and popular eCommerce shops like Lazada and Shopee. To be fair, they are not just cheap, they are also of good design. In economics, there goes the term “economies of scale”. In manufacturing, it means that the more products you manufacture in a given time, the lesser will be your production costs. This term can be well understood in a consumer’s perspective this way:

If say one piece of clothes cost Php200, then here’s an offer that you can get it for Php100 if you will buy 100 pieces, or even at Php80 if you go for 1000 pieces.

Products Imported from China

Slippers Manufactured in China

Filipino vendors will of course go for it. They will buy it from China, through importers, in volumes and re-sell it here in the country for a good profit. This is what we call here trading in “bultuhan”, “pakyawan” or “maramihan”. If you’ve been to Divisoria, Raon, Baclaran and Greenhills, the wholesale markets are right there. As a consumer, you can of course bargain for a lower price. The “economies of scale” is in the air in these known bargain centers of the Philippines.

Made in China Cooking Wares

Cheaper But Poor Quality
But, I think it would also be fair that we talk of the downsides of buying products made in China.

Let’s get into the hardware or construction supply shops as an example. If you ask construction workers, mainly the foreman or project officer in charge, about where they buy the sand, gravel, cement, plywood, nails, and lumbers, many of them will say its from “Mr. Ang”, “Boss Teng”, or simply “Kay Intsik”. The truth is, it is relatively cheaper to go for this China hardware shops. You can save a thousand or two pesos in your house repair budget if you prefer going with China shops in the Philippines instead of going with pure-Filipino stores. Chinese sellers are easy to bargain with.

This is just a common thing many of us completely have no idea of the negative effects in our everyday way of living.

Another best example to talk about is the household shops inside our local “palengke”. If you’re one of those mothers or fathers who’s into that “do-it-yourself” sort of thing, then going into these all-in-one or one-stop shops can be helpful. In my place, I used to buy things helpful on activities like plumbing fixes, electrical connections, electronics repair, and house repair. There are also gardening tools, furniture, cleaning materials, car accessories, and more. When compared to popular shops like Ace Hardware and Handyman, stuffs are really cheaper here. Noticeably, many customers are going back and forth in this DIY shop in our local market.

Products of China

Stores Selling Chinese Products

Yes, we can save a few. However, we are then used to scratching our heads a few days or weeks later.

Now, if it’s about quality, what my curious eyes (and probably of your’s too) can see is something I cannot really hide. Many of the China products in these hardware supply stores and household shops are of poor quality; not all but many. You could have experienced it too and for that reason we will no longer go over those bad experiences about defective, sub-par, and disappointing products.

The construction supply and household one-stop shops are just a few of the major issues we’re having here in the Philippines if it’s about made in China products. There is a much bigger and alarming one.

Filipinos are Losing the Trade
Little by little, our dear country is being flooded with China products. What is not good about it is that our very own products are no longer able to compete or be sold. Name a Filipino product that is selling like hotcakes in the country, there could be only a few to almost none. Also, in an economic point of view, we are losing our supposedly privilege to compete in the local and global business markets. With China products as contents of our stores, it is the Chinese who purely benefits on the trade. Yes, we export bananas, crabs, prawns, tunas, and a few more locally-produced agricultural products, but sadly, these are being leveled or counter-traded with our massive imports of China goods like pork, beef, and maybe even our very own fishes.

Chinese-inspired Smartphone Seller

HP Ink Cartridge, Made in China

Even some of the products we buy from shopping malls have China components inside of them. Probably not known to many, even big companies are outsourcing their materials or components from China. They label in with their own brand, but inside of these electronic devices are components made in China. Even the entire unit is made in China, it is just that it doesn't show on the packaging or manuals. You'll only realize it when you are already using the device and see the Chinese characters there.

I am not an economist to explain all of these but the way I see things, we Filipinos are losing a lot of important things in this trade. And if this will continue in a decade or two, all of us will be staring more on words labeled on boxes and packaging we couldn’t understand at all, for they are in Chinese characters. Or maybe, we will be just contented in an English translation that could put us in trouble. Far worse, we will be collecting boxes after boxes with “Made in China”. Many of you knows what I am talking about for sure. Time will come that everything we use is made in China, which is not impossible given the on-going situation today in our beautiful country.

Is there something we can do?

This is very difficult to answer. In this country where there are more poor people than wealthy ones, buying cheap products from China is all about practicality in life. In the earlier conversations I shared in the opening of this post, where I was a participant of, no one can be blamed if Filipinos are like this complaining about substandard quality of the stuffs we use. It is the cheaper option, three to five times cheaper than the other brands of known good quality. What it is to own a China product just good enough to last for a year? If it got broken or defective, buying another one is still way economical. Imagine this: Buy a kitchen spatula for Php100 good for a year’s lifetime or that one at P500 that can last for 5 years. Where would you go if you’re just earning a few hundreds of pesos in a month?

Sounds Systems Made in China

Yes. There is something we can do.

If you will deeply analyse the situation, consumers who have just enough will of course go for products they can afford. I believe this is the normal response or reaction of people anywhere in this world. But okay, let’s figure it out more if there is really something we can do.

My thought is like this.

What we can do is to act as one nation, not just individually. The big action must come from our government, that is, by supporting our local products to become more competitive, price-wise, quality-wise. The government must encourage more Filipino innovators to make products that can at least balance the local demand for imported goods. Existing “negosyo” centers should do their part even more. Government must make long-term actions to cut the huge importation of China goods, and of course the illegal smuggling going on. We should set-up more environment-friendly factories capable of producing plastic wares, household items, and basic necessities of our citizens. If the government happens to read this post, those are my recommendations to them.

We should not depend entirely on China, but to ourselves.

Made in China Labels

Philips Light Bulb Box with Made in China label

Local businesses should sell local products produce in their localities. Manufacturing companies should be encouraged to buy locally-produced raw materials. Filipino workers should do their part in improving the quality of our very own products. For example, production of handbags, furniture, clothing, and hats, the raw materials of which are coming from our forests and grasslands, should be supported by Filipino investors. Basic construction materials like plywoods, lumbers, and steels should come from our land for I think we have the capacity to produce them.

Remember the “Marikina shoes”? My brother during his younger years used to work in one of Marikina’s shoe factories. The clay pots, we have many backyard businesses of this product still alive today. The local knife called “balisong”, we are good in making those. The impressive wood curvings in furniture, we are very good on that. The marbles or “marmol” coming from Romblon, we are known for that. But they are slowly disappearing, getting replaced with foreign-produced stuffs if not the China ones.

Tangkilikin ang sariling atin.
(Let us patronize our own.)

In terms of price, China is actually still not too far from that of ours here in the Philippines. In other words, it is still not too late to make adjustments. We can compete if its about pricing, even more with the quality of our locally produced commodities. We just have to think and act smarter this time and in the future.

Photo of a Chinese Temple Captured from Inside a Philippine Shopping Mall

There is much that we can do to save our very own products, our national identity. For now, we can buy China products for this is one of the best means we can survive in our struggling economy. But we should not forget about “patriotism”. And more importantly, our mentality towards business should be improved as well. Where is our being “masipag”, “matiyaga” and “madiskarte” if we will just leave it this way? Enough of foreign invasion. Made in China should not become a permanent solution. It should be “Made in the Philippines”.

Philippine National Flag

Let us all prove that:

“Mas magaling pa rin ang gawang Pilipinas”.

About this Post
What can you say about this article written by Noriel Panganiban, founder of and Did you learn something? Please leave your comment below.

The intention of articles like this is to create awareness. As life goes on, so is business. However, there are things going on that we may not know are affecting our lives, particularly our economic activities here in the Philippines. Importation of goods is inevitable in this modern age. For a country to survive, it has to trade with other countries. But too much is not good and it applies to Chinese products flooding the Philippine markets. This post is an eye-opener. Filipinos has to do something before its too late.


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