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English>>China Politics

State Council demands rice cooker, toilet seat upgrades

(Global Times)    08:38, April 22, 2016

Chinese shop overseas due to quality scandals

The central government on Wednesday announced a plan to improve the quality of China-made products, in an apparent bid to enhance international competitiveness and boost consumer confidence in domestic goods.

Issued by the State Council, China's cabinet, the plan listed specific consumer goods such as air filters, rice cookers and electronic toilet seats, which Chinese go overseas to purchase, and has sparked a debate on the quality of China-made goods.

The government will take special measures to improve consumer goods, particularly those Chinese demand the most, including smartphones, toys, children's clothes and furniture, the State Council said in the plan published on its website.

The move drew mixed reactions online, with some mocking the State Council for being too specific, and others saying the government has finally responded to their concerns over the quality of domestic products.

Experts said the public response is understandable, as China faces pressure to improve the quality of domestic goods to meet rising standards.

Although the general manufacturing capability of Chinese companies has been growing steadily in recent years, the lack of confidence in Chinese products' quality, punctuated by scandals, has compelled Chinese citizens to shop in countries such as Japan, the US and in Europe.

"The government should not list specific items, and instead focus on macro policies to encourage the manufacturing sector to upgrade and transform," said Yang Danhui, a research fellow at the Institute of Industrial Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

For the government to be involved too much in the process could have unintended consequences, such as limiting creativity and innovation, Yang told the Global Times on Wednesday. She said the government should leave enough room for companies to innovate.

"And there is enough pressure and motivation for companies to produce high-quality products because Chinese consumers' standards are rising," Yang added.

Pressure to improve quality and protect consumer rights also comes from the growing access to foreign alternatives, according to Xu Hongcai, director of the Economic Research Department under the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.

"Under such an open environment, if Chinese consumers are not satisfied with domestic goods, they can go the US or Japan to buy them," Xu told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Billions spent abroad

The number of Chinese who travel overseas has rapidly been rising along with the amount of money they spend. In 2015, the Chinese spent $215 billion outside the mainland, or a 53 percent increase from the previous year, according to data from the World Travel &Tourism Council.

Luxury goods, cosmetics and infant formula are among the products most sought after by Chinese who travel overseas, according to media reports. And in Japan, electronic toilet seats, which can spray wash, blow dry and massage, and rice cookers attract many Chinese visitors.

The trend sparked an online debate about domestic product quality and the rising standards of some consumers. It even drew the attention of Premier Li Keqiang, who commented on the trend in a press briefing last April, saying "consumers have the right to more options and we have an open attitude about it, and this will also pressure us to upgrade our industries," chinanews.com reported at the time.

Soon after Li's remarks, in May, the State Council unveiled the "Made in China 2015" plan, which aimed to upgrade and transform the country's manufacturing sector and improve the quality of China-made goods.

Wednesday's plan is part of long-term efforts to make China's manufacturing industry more competitive, said Xu, adding under a persistent slowdown in the country's economy, such a move is necessary to boost demand.

The real problem is poor regulation and low quality standards, Xu added. "So what we need is robust measures, including ousting inefficient factories and protecting intellectual property, to create a favorable environment for innovation."

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Huang Jin,Bianji)

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