Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Poorly Made in China: An Insider's Account of the Tactics Behind China's Production Game” as Want to Read:
Poorly Made in China: An Insider's Account of the Tactics Behind China's Production Game
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,932 ratings  ·  246 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Poorly Made in China, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
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 importatio…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

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,932 ratings  ·  246 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Poorly Made in China: An Insider's Account of the Tactics Behind China's Production Game
Petra Kiss
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
L.A. Starks
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
While I enjoyed the book, I thought it gave a limited glance on the reality of Chinese companies, especially manufacturers. First of all, the book is written from the point of view of low-skill product importers in the USA. That's a valid point of view but doesn't represent everyone who manufacture in China. Besides, the book is written in 2010 and most of the experiences recounted are from the early 2000s. Between now and then, China improved substantially. For example, a reader of the book wou ...more
Jul 28, 2009 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
Son Tung
Jul 18, 2017 rated it liked it
This is an interesting read, many tactics employed by Chinese manufacturers (in this book, shampoo, healthcare products) are similar in daily life in Viet Nam. This is some real good but painfully learnt experiences of the author as a intermediaries between American companies and Chinese manufacturers.
1/ First they welcome you with open arms, sometimes with fake showrooms, previously made products for famous multinational corporations.
2/ They begin to make your products, copy the sample beautif
Feb 19, 2012 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
Hameed Younis
Jun 22, 2017 rated it liked it
The book is a bit different than I was thinking, The book was telling diaries of the businessman and his experiences with importing and trading in China. It was fun and informative regarding the work there but enough! Nothing more, nothing to be considered or said about the social, cultural and psychological perspectives of Chinese, as the writer wasn't concern about these matters entirely.

‎كتاب سيرة ذاتية على شكل مذكرات لتاجر امريكي يقيم في الصين لمدة طويلة، يدون فيه تجاربه وخبرته في التجارة وا
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
Apr 04, 2014 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
Sep 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia, economics, culture
Wow, this one was great! I wasn't sure what to expect; this is a book about manufacturing in China, after all...
Author Paul Midler is a middle-man of sorts. He lives in China and speaks fluent Mandarin. He acts as a go-between for his Western clients, and the factories of southern China who produce products on their behalf.

Author Paul Midler:

Poorly Made in China compiles stories from Midler's business dealings in China; the book focuses on a handful of case studies.
Inside its pages are the
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Manufacturing and import is a topic that doesn’t sound exciting. When it’s told through the lens of a culturally sensitive, deadpan narrator it became a really engaging story.
Tõnu Vahtra
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book reinforces what I have heard from various people and places about doing business in China. There are many opportunities there but it is by no means easy money for the naive. You have to be conscious to the ways of doing business in China and you have to keep in mind that customer is often not king there. You get exactly what you ask for (at least in your very first order). The European/American direct approach to problem solving also doesn’t work there, in some aspects it’s similar to ...more
Urban Sedlar
Jul 10, 2013 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
Dan Watts
Oct 18, 2016 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 manufacturing.
Ben Rogers
Apr 26, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who bought anything made in China
What a fascinating read!

Book Summary
A manufacturer outlines the strategies of material production in China.

Because China is so far away, a lot of the cutting corners is to reduce weight, since the products need to be shipped overseas. Every saved kilogram is a kilogram more of products that can be packed into the shipping containers.
However, reducing the weight comes at a price. It reduces the quality, and safety for things that rely on structural integrity. Affecting things like safety equipme
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
“You foreigners, you come to China and complain about the pollution, but I don’t know why. To me, this place smells like money.”

An entertaining book outlining some of the business logic employed when working with Chinese manufacturers. This book, with funny quips from businessmen, coupled with finishing s4 of the Sopranos, makes one realise that it takes a lot more than a degree or executing rules well to run a successful business.

Takeaways about manufacturing relationships:
- Chinese manufacture
Jan 11, 2012 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:
Shawn  Stone
Dec 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
To satisfy the insatiable appetite for plastic crap at bargain prices, it’s no secret that the world’s multinationals look to China to mass produce their trinkets for minimum cost. With a cheap and infinitely replaceable labour supply, minimum government intervention and the ability to skirt environmental responsibilities, what appears to be a capitalist’s wet dream degenerates into a Faustian bargain whereby the Western rules of contract law, product quality and safety standards don’t apply. A ...more
Kha Nguyen
Oct 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is well-written and full of practical experiences of the author. The real life stories of the author are what made this book appealing and helpful. Although I have some experience living in China for a while, this book opens a totally whole new horizon for me about the reality behind all the cheap product 'made in china'. When I was in China, I and my friends were always surprised by the cheap prices of clothes, toys, shampoos.. you name it! To be honest, it was good to be able to buy ...more
Miebara Jato
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book takes the reader into the world of trade tricks of Chinese manufacturers. Occasionally, the author veers into the Chinese culture and idiosyncratic politics, but its mainly about the tricky relationship between Chinese manufacturers and the trading partners or importers. The author was an advisor or consultant to some Western importers, and this book is his experience playing that role. The lack of regulation and quality control in Chinese factories would leave you aghast. To Chinese m ...more
John Pombrio
Feb 10, 2010 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
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.

Tommy Tong
Mar 17, 2014 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!
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Ever since the breakneck pace of China’s economic development from the 1980s, only the word ‘miracle’ seems to capture what China has accomplished in the past forty years. GDP was galloping at 10-12% per annum and poverty was declining rapidly. New cities and massive projects like highways and high-speed rail are coming up at an unprecedented pace. As if all this is not enough, they produce goods for the world at prices which are at such low levels that even other developing nations like India a
Bon Tom
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Incredible and super fun. It's a festival of moments you're not sure if they should make you laugh in amazement or angry. I can't begin to imagine the stomach and nerves you need to have in order to do business with Chinese, and yet so many people keep doing so. This is also account on how and why exactly they agree to take all the crap from people and system set up to set them up. Great book and masterfully written and skillfully read by the author. ...more
Boni Aditya
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: management, culture
The book throws a light into the Chinese Culture and the various techniques used by Chinese Manufacturers to create an illusion of the Golden Geese, only to realize that the Geese starts laying silver eggs after a while and then finally iron eggs after a few more years into the relationship. This book talks more about persuasion and negotiation techniques used by the Chinese at the bargaining table. It shows how the lack of knowledge of a language could actually used to one's advantage at a disc ...more
Apr 15, 2011 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
Jul 20, 2014 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 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.
Jul 26, 2012 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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Chinese Rules: Mao's Dog, Deng's Cat, and Five Timeless Lessons from the Front Lines in China
  • Has China Won?: The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy
  • Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America's Cheap Goods
  • Stealth War: How China Took Over While America's Elite Slept
  • China's Great Wall of Debt: Shadow Banks, Ghost Cities, Massive Loans, and the End of the Chinese Miracle
  • The Hundred-Year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower
  • On China
  • Unknown Market Wizards: The Best Traders You've Never Heard of
  • The New Right: A Journey to the Fringe of American Politics
  • Xi Jinping: The Backlash
  • Mr. China
  • Red Flags: Why Xi's China Is in Jeopardy
  • Knagsted
  • Livsens Ondskab
  • Slægten
  • Haabløse Slægter
  • Den kroniske uskyld
  • Tina
See similar books…
See top shelves…

News & Interviews

These twelve books are so consistently adored, they have become regulars month after month in our data of most popular and most read books on...
107 likes · 42 comments
“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.”
More quotes…