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Poorly Made in China: An Insider's Account of the Tactics Behind China's Production Game
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Poorly Made in China: An Insider's Account of the Tactics Behind China's Production Game

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  1,137 Ratings  ·  166 Reviews
Praise for Poorly Made in China "This fast-paced travelogue through the world of Chinese manufacturing is scary, fascinating, and very funny. Midler is not only a knowledgeable guide to the invisible underbelly of the global economy, he is a sympathetic and astute observer of China, its challenges, and its people. A great read."
--Pietra Rivoli, author of The Travels of a
Hardcover, 241 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by John Wiley & Sons (first published March 23rd 2009)
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Thing Two In the afterword section of the version I read, the author writes the following:

"It took my publisher many months to get customs to approve…more
In the afterword section of the version I read, the author writes the following:

"It took my publisher many months to get customs to approve importation of the English version of this book, and we have yet to find a publisher on the mainland who is willing to acquire foreign rights to have this book translated for the local market."

He goes on to say: "I personally got involved with the effort to find a publisher in China, speaking with one publishing house that was introduced to me by a writer friend. There was significant initial interest in the book based on the reviews, but then the publisher got cold feet. I was told point-blank that a book such as mine would be too much of a publishing risk, because of the possibility that it might attract the wrong sort of attention."

You may not get any mainland China answers.(less)

Community Reviews

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Petra Eggs
The author of the book is an American who has lived in China for a long time and as he speaks the language is an ideal agent or go-between for American companies and Chinese manufacturers. He relates one example of Chinese cost-cutting that I believe illuminates the whole business ethos of China. A company that has a number of cheap brands of shampoo and similar toiletries that are sold by the big box stores in the States gave a contract with a Chinese company to make them.

One day one of the ret
Sep 11, 2015 Hadrian rated it really liked it
Excellent case study of what Midler calls 'quality fade' - that is, the steady reduction in quality of a product by continual cost-saving measures such as low-quality ingredients, reducing sanitary standards, cheap packaging, etc. Foreign direct investors wondered how production could be so quick, cheap, and efficient, and if it was 'too good to be true' for manufacturing. And so it was.
Cheap prices are driven by low capital investment and squeezing hard on labor, who still flock to these jobs a
L.A. Starks
Feb 05, 2016 L.A. Starks rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 29, 2009 Kate rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: business readers; global trade readers; narrative nonfiction readers
Shelves: nf
I was expecting something drier, with more statistics. In fact, this is a narrative of the author's experience as a business consultant working with importers from the US and manufacturers in China. It was a pleasant surprise, fast-paced and worth reading.

The ethics (or lack of ethics, to be truthful) and self-serving and/or delusional behavior of both parties in these relationships are on display here - although there are some detours into Chinese culture as well. The author believes he is maki
Mar 04, 2012 Noladishu rated it it was amazing

I just finished Poorly Made in China and wanted to highlight some of my key takeaways in the book. The book recently made The Economist's Book of the year list (Book review - The Economist). Paul Midler has lived in China for over 15 years and worked as an outsourcing consultant for small-to-mid-sized companies on a range of products. He wrote the book because he was shocked at what he saw. The book was written as a response to the string of 2007 Chinese quality scandals (yes, it even it's own W
Author Paul Midler, a non-Chinese U.S. native, learned Chinese as an undergrad and eventually got an MBA. Not wanting a stereotypical U.S. finance job, he became a middleman in southeast China's economic heartland -- a middleman between U.S. importers and Chinese manufacturers.

First, many American companies dealing with China are just that -- importers. Their companies never made a thing in America. They're start-up or near start-up entrepreneurs, aglow at the idea of selling cheap made-in-China
Taras Solovei
Nov 23, 2015 Taras Solovei rated it it was amazing
Наткнулся на книгу совершенно случайно, и в конечном итоге проглотил за один вечер и маленький кусочек утра. Автор - ни разу не литератор, а самый что ни на есть посредник между компаниями-импортерами из США и китайскими производителями самых разнообразных товаров. Соответсвенно, и читается книга не как цельное произведение, а, скорее, как набор коротких очерков, связанных между собой лишь персонажами и единой смысловой составляющей. Но оторваться все равно невозможно.

Книга не является руководст
Apr 05, 2014 Nihkita rated it it was amazing
This book is great if you've lived in China just long enough to start to understand it and in turn hate it. Yes it’s about Chinese manufacturing but any lao wai will have common experiences even if they don't work in manufacturing or business or work at all. It’s got the culture of China, not the nuances, but things Chinese people do that add to the culture gap. This book had such a light tone about it too. It’s not telling you what to do or think its just telling you what happened. For once whe ...more
Urban Sedlar
Jul 10, 2013 Urban Sedlar rated it it was amazing
A shocking look into the Chinese manufacturing phenomenon. The stories described within shed light on the peculiarities of the Chinese character and culture, and at the same time reveal the true ugliness beneath: practically nonexistent business ethics.

The author lives and works in China--as an agent for the US importers; he mediates the entire process of setting up a business and intervenes whenever shit hits the fan, which seems to happen quite often. The book exposes many dirty strategies the
Aug 28, 2016 Huong rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Đọc quyển này xong lại nhớ ngày xưa ngô nghê từng hỏi một thằng TQ là sao chúng mày toàn sản xuất hàng kém chất lượng thế. Nó thản nhiên bảo tiền nào của nấy cả. Giống như Tỉ phang vào mặt ông già Bernie: Với giá các ông đang trả, các ông mong đợi cái gì? :))
Apr 15, 2011 Joe rated it liked it
The author of this book worked as a facilitator in China, generally helping American importers and Chinese manufacturers come together. It's interesting, and is written by someone in the rare position of having experience and a good understanding of a variety of Chinese businesses and business deals, but I don't think there's really much new insight here for most people.

If the author has one point, it is this: a difference in assumptions about business practices and goals means that people often
Книжку могу рекомендовать к прочтению - читается легко, написана с юмором.
И скорее всего в основном содержит достоверные факты о излагаемом аспекте современного Китая - взаимоотношениях западных заказчиков и китайских подрядчиков.

Не понравилось два момента. Во-1х автор рассказывает о приемах кривого ведения бизнеса в King Chemical, при этом он долго и плодотворно с ними сотрудничал в роли посредника-переводчика. Т.е. по сути сам участвовал в этом "обувании", причем, поскольку делал это в отноше
Jan 01, 2013 Taras rated it really liked it
Interesting insight into "unique" manufacturing practices in China.

The author sounds like he was in love with chine during his undergrad, business school. With experience he became more bitter and started blaming his frustrations on oddities of Chinese culture. The narrative consists of typically hilarious vignettes on the clash of clashing cultures.

This book helps me understand the Chinese direct2consumer relationships on aliexpress better. I wish the author would consider the notion that oper
Jul 28, 2012 Alex rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A man recounts his adventures dealing as a middle-man for Chinese manufacturers and American exporters, comes to the conclusion that Chinese business practises are fundamentally corrupt, and offers little in the way of solutions. Midler's prose is at once propulsive and repetitive, with his impact being diminished by establishing several sets of Confucian ideals over and over. The section on the short term versus long term goals is particularly infuriating in this regard.

Midler offers no answers
Thang Ly
Jul 25, 2011 Thang Ly rated it it was amazing
This is a very well written, well informs, and, very well paced book. The author did an outstanding job of describing the business aspect of China mixed with his own personal experiences. I highly recommend this book to any International Business students because a lot of business has head oversea to setup in China; thus, this is a great book to get a better understanding about the Chinese culture. Some argues that this book only talks about South China and it should be taken as factual because ...more
Feb 17, 2013 Jeanne rated it really liked it
This book will make you never want to buy anything made in China again. After the fall of communism and the birth of capitalism in China, businesses have started to pave their way into world production. For many of the products sent to China for manufacture, the quality of the items is slowly chipped away to be pennies cheaper at every iteration until something collapses. Since quantities are so large, and the degradation of raw materials is so gradual, the cost savings is worth it to the manufa ...more
John Pombrio
Feb 10, 2010 John Pombrio rated it it was amazing
I just found this book fascinating. The way the small factory owners put the squeeze on their customers, the product's quality, and the workers lives harks back to Ebenezer Scrooge or the old robber barons of yore. The complete lack of ethics, oversight, quality control, or environmental responsibility puts China in a poor position to maintain their growth.
The writing is well done in a narrative story following a few customers through the ordeal of moving production to China, finding a manufact
Patrick Zandl
Jun 29, 2015 Patrick Zandl rated it it was amazing
U nás vyšlo pod názvem Made in China. Z mé vlastní zkušenosti velmi dobrý průvodce světem výrobních a dodavatelských vztahů v Číně, psáno s nadhledem, zaujetím pro detail a humorem. Doporučuju i jako příjemné oddychové čtení. Asi to nejlepší, co jsem v oboru četl a co vychází z praxe, takže pokud nechcete suché seznamy toho, jak má probíhat kontraktáž v čínské fabrice, tady se dozvíte to, co byste se v Číně dozvěděli záhy po příjezdu: kontraktáž nikdy neprobíhá podle seznamu, rozhodně ne podle t ...more
Thing Two
Grrrr ... I'm beginning to wonder if my laptop wasn't manufactured in China. This is my third attempt at a review!

Written at the height of China's toy/dog food/infant formula recall, Paul Midler's Poorly Made in China left me cringing. Please, please, please check the label before you purchase anything you ingest, apply to your skin, or in anyway breathe. If it's made in China, chances are it's not what the label claims it is.

Jun 12, 2015 Cassie rated it it was amazing
As someone who's lived in China, I found his commentary on quality control, relationships and other themes very, very accurate. Definitely a must-read for those who are thinking about moving/working in China, who are currently in the country. I think you'll find some of your own opinions about the country echoed.
Tommy Tong
Mar 17, 2014 Tommy Tong rated it it was amazing
quick read, extremely eye-opening, essential for buyers of Chinese products - uh, that would be just about everyone in the world!
May 19, 2012 Gannonwb rated it liked it
Shelves: china
If you're coming to China to do busines better add this one to the list.....
Dec 28, 2016 Kendra rated it really liked it
I picked up this book to start gaining a bit of insight into the mind of Chinese manufacturers, something which might become important in the book I'm currently writing. I'm not sure what I expected, but it wasn't this—a calmly self-aware journey through some of China's many factories, replete with the insights of an American expat who is an outsider to both countries, but interested in fostering a better (more understanding) relationship between the two. He spares no one, manufacturer or Americ ...more
Jan 12, 2017 Anne rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
This is an eye opening story of products made in China and imported to US(and other countries). As well as reminding us of the horror stories we hear about the working conditions for workers:long hours, poor wages, etc.
This book also points out the uncleanliness of the of the factories, and at times the workers themselves. The workers handle containers with infected hands, sometimes fill bottles with liquid by hand and wipe the over flow with cloths that are probably less than sanitary.

Also poi
Dan Watts
Oct 18, 2016 Dan Watts rated it it was ok
Although I have no first-hand experience with manufacturers in China, I suspect that this book is badly biased.

The author wants to prove that manufacturing standards in China are unusually poor, so gives various examples of nothing but, most of them from the same small company.

As he mentions in passing at the end of the book, a lot of brand name goods are manufactured in China. It's fair to assume that companies like Apple and Johnson & Johnson aren't going to accept low quality manufactur
Nguyen Trung
Dec 06, 2016 Nguyen Trung rated it it was amazing
Eye-opening on the scary business practices in China.
Sep 20, 2016 Luisa rated it liked it
This book is a very easy read.
It confirmed everything I'd always imagined about China manufacturing. No oversight, no responsibility, no quality.
Jul 22, 2014 Eva rated it really liked it
Super fascinating book! In short, the author, a Wharton MBA who serves as an on-the-ground liaison between Western importers and Chinese manufacturers, recounts his experiences with trying to make the process go smoothly. It's amazing to hear how Chinese business culture and ethics differ from ours, and, relatedly, how hard it is for the author and his importer clients to get their products manufactured as agreed upon. The manufacturers are always finding creative new ways to shave off costs and ...more
Tim Jin
Dec 06, 2013 Tim Jin rated it it was amazing
Unlike reading a feature article from WSJ on manufacturing in China and reading a commentary from an economist, you get a first hand look from Paul Midler doing business. I was afraid that it would be all about bashing the Chinese, but it's interesting on the cultural differences and the insightful views on what is going on in the factories.

We cannot really blame the Chinese at cutting corners at making the products that we use. Just look at your bath towels and most likely it is made in China.
Aug 10, 2012 Cwhk rated it it was ok
I am working with Chinese companies for over 7 years in China. I agree with many points of the author Paul Midler but he is missing some important points and here is a key message:

Mattel's toxic toys scandal
I have seen customers who don't bother about quality certificates.
Push prices to the limit and leave controls away. The supplier who worked with Mattel at this time was Lee Der Industrial. I was lucky enough to meet one of their employees on a train back to Hong Kong.

Zhang Shuhong (Chinese:
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“They believed that the customer's exact wishes mattered only as far as they were necessary to capture the initial order. Beyond that, they figured, what an importer didn't know couldn't hurt it.” 2 likes
“Somewhere along the line, Made in China began to sound like a bargain. (...)
When an importer told a retail buyer that an item was quoted at 65¢ and made in the USA, the buyer figured it could be purchased somewhere cheaper.

When the same product was quoted at 65¢ and was said to have been made in China the buyer figured it could not be found for any less.”
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