About elizabethjeanmurray

Third year Illustration student. Currently taking made in China module at DJCAD.

TOXIC TOYS

While I was researching assignment 3 I was looking in the Dundee disney store to see if toys from popular companies were also made in China. As I expected they were and what surprised me with the harder toys was the quality of painting and the toys didn’t look stable or worth the 20 or so pounds that were being asked for them.

While I was thinking about the toys I remember a story about toxic lead paint being painted on Children’s toys by accident. Not only were they shipped out but they were put on Shelves and sold to People who planned to give them to their children.The Pizza play set  was found to contain over 90 milligrams per gram in total of lead. Lead is toxic to children even at low exposure but Luckily the health board did tests on the toy and it was recalled. Although people had already given this toy to their children and risked their children’s well-being due to a mistake which should have never of happened.

More and more of these stories started appearing as I looked more in to this subject. Some of the stories I made me think I had read the title wrong as they were just utterly ridiculous! I read the heading ‘ China confirms toxic ‘ date rape’ substance on toys. Apparently China had to recall toy beads from Britain due to them containing the date rape drug rohypnol. Beads started sickening children and some even became unconscious after swallowing the beads. Other effects were breathing problems, seizures and drowsiness. Some of the worst effects on children could have been coma or death, luckily none of children suffered from these.  Lead paint seems to be quite a popular paint for Kids toys that are made in China as  Fisher-Price Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and 83 other types of fun toys were recalled in 2007 due to high amount of lead.

British standards and quality control for products especially food or children’s toys are very high so why is it acceptable to accept imports from countries which cannot adhere to our regulations. Is cheaper toys worth risking a child’s life for? After all a child can’t play with an elmo toy after it’s died from lead poisoning!

It seems their is a steady flow of stories and reports on Chinas quality scandals. This ultimately has tarnished Chinas image as a reliable exporter of goods. But since it is the cheapest way to import goods to other countries they are still allowed to export things which they have again and again mucked up. The Chines government has tried to increase inspections, selectively punishing companies and launching public campaigns to boost quality. Can they really be trusted to make sure mistakes don’t happen or are these measures just to make the outside investors more comfortable?

Their are so many factories that churn out thousands of products every day so no wonder the quality control gets left behind. You are always going to sacrifice important things when you rush a job. Heated competition among factories and rising cost of labour, land and fuel sometimes put pressure on profits, causing producers to cut corners!

China is not just exporting dangerous toys they are also the biggest source of potentially dangerous  appliances and other merchandise according to the European union. Over 1,600 products were pulled from shelves in one year. More and more products are being detected as dangerous but are being destroyed before they can reach the european market. Goods are being checked more often and stricter rules are coming in to keep us safe from China’s mistakes. But the main problem is people need to buy cheap products and China supplies the cheapest so we will always have dangerous products entering our country. Unless all guide lines and rules are compulsory and checked constantly which is not going to happen while demand is so high.

MADE IN CHINA – Dundee

Like every western country in the world, Britain is a top importer of Chinese goods, it is more than likely that the laptop you are working on, the phone you are using to call your friends or the clothes that you wear will have been completely manufactured or components of it will be produced in China. The main reason for this is employees are willing to work long hours for a small wage. For many workers  willing to work these hours it is out of necessity, they have no other way of guaranteeing an income for their family. Factories are reliable jobs which pay enough to let them live life at a better standard than life on the street or in the country where food and money are scarce. They may also get a chance to learn at the same time as working which is very important to the youth of China, but this may only be available in very high standard factory’s.

Items which are manufactured in China range from, toasters, Mac books, Ipods, clothing and toys. The list is endless! Even though so many things are labelled as MADE IN CHINA, it is not often that people really realise where their items are from. It is almost like the MADE IN CHINA logo is so common that we have started to ignore or not notice what is says anymore. Just like when you see the washing instructions on your label. You never really read them and take them on unless you need to know what it says. I myself was a bit like this. I remember as a child being interested in why things were made so far away and  thought it was pretty cool to have something from an exotic country. I always had the picture in my head of people happily making these things with their families, enjoying the sunshine and just taking it easy.

Over the years you soon get to know the reality of what is going on, but still some people have the ideological idea that people who make these products are happy and are just working the same hours and have the same work load as people in Britian. When I watched the video ” Factory City” I thought this must be a pretty special factory to work in. I expected so much worse from working, living and eating conditions. For some reason I thought it would be a dark shed with people coughing, smoking, Children and old people working and looking tired, even people risking their lives to get job complete. In the video the work shops were clean, safety equipment was given, beds were provided, the age of people were 16-30 and they all looked quite healthy. To me if you are making a living and providing for your family but not risking your health then it must be a good job. I know their are probably worse factories out their but it is a better life than living on the streets or trying to scrape money together every month. The long hours I think would be the worse part of the job, never having any spare time  and knowing you will probably be working their 7 days a week and without sufficient sleep.

Our group wanted to find out the opinions of the Dundee consumers . Whether they knew where their products were manufactured or not. We came up with a set of questions to ask people and recorded the answers.

‎1) Do you have any idea where the majority of your products are produced?
2) Are you willing to pay a bit more money for clothes if you knew they were made in better conditions?
3) Do you own any Apple products and/or know where they were manufactured?

Female – 17 years old
1)Not a clue
2)n/a
3)iPhone

Female – 69 years old
1) Assumed China.
2) Would have been willing to pay more for certain products if they were produced more fairly and working conditions were better.
3) Didn’t own any Apple products. Had just bought a HP computer and was happy with it. Assumed the parts were made abroad.

Male – 22 years old – Apple Shop Worker
1) Yes. Worked in the Apple shop so knew quite a lot about where the components were built and how poor the conditions of the workers are.
2) Would definitely pay more for the product, even if built in the west and cost more. He stated that the love for the product was the main reason, and if working conditions were improved or even moved to the west, he would still buy them.
3)Yes. Pretty much owns every Apple product known on Earth. Knows they are built in factories in China.

Female – 23 years old – Works in SuperDry
1) Didn’t really know if she could tell us where the clothes were made. We stated that it says on the label. This lass was being an awkward kitten!
2) I asked her if she were to have the choice of buying the same polo shirt, one made in China and one made in America, would she pay more for the one that was made with better working conditions and fairer pay. She eventually stated that she would, after discussing she had done a college course in fashion.
3) She didn’t own any Apple products, but assumed they were made in Asia somewhere.

People are pretty clued up on where their products are made and would not mind paying a little more for them to be manufactured in factories with better working conditions. One lady that we interviewed said she wouldn’t mind paying more money for the same product because you are buying the companies traits in the product so it doesn’t matter how much it is. For example people buy Ipods made from Apple because they know they are reliable, aesthetically pleasing, durable and that software,apps and accessories are available throughout the world. So if the price of the ipod went up people would still buy ipods because of all the positive things the company have to back them up, even if their was a cheaper alternative available. This is theory of how it could work but whether people are telling the truth is not clear.

We also looked around clothing stores to see if any of their pieces were made in China. First stop was TOPMAN. I was expecting most clothes to be made in one country but was not expecting what I found. I picked up a pair of Jeans they were made in Egypt, I thought alright not so bad but I started to pick up more and their were MADE IN labels from; Turkey, Italy, Malaysia, China and India. I sort of went on a label checking spree around the shop wondering if I would find anymore foreign names! Luckily I didn’t. When you start to analyse something so closely you know you knew that clothes were made in different countries and shipped in to Britain, But taking a closer look just gives you a shock and your eyes are opened to the fact that clothes which are sold in Shops like Superdry ( which was another clothing shop we looked at) cost thrupence to make due to cheap materials and labour are sold in reputable british shops for people to buy at highly marked up prices. One not so special Jumper from Superdry which was made in China was for sale at £109. So they are making a huge profit while workers are being given 40 pence an hour to make the clothes. They will be probably be getting nothing more tan 1p from that piece of clothing.

It is easy enough to say that companies should put their prices up and give these factories more money but if their is such a happy cycle going on, would places like Apple and TOPSHOP really be happy to cut their earnings? People just don’t care enough to fight for what is right if there getting a good bargain. Of course people who we stopped in the street are going to say they would be more than happy to pay a bit extra for ethical products, who wouldn’t if you are questioned in front of people. I think secretly we really just don’t care, these countries are too far away and the deals we are getting are just too good.

We also have to ask questions about the cons of factories getting more money. Would they employ people or buy in machines to make things instead. If these people didn’t have their factory jobs how would they provide for their families? They can’t protest or strike because their are so many other people who would gladly step in their shoes! The wouldn’t be able to get a more skilled job as most of them cannot afford education and have no employability. These factories are not breaking any laws and are giving people a chance to earn money and provide for their families. Of course they would love to have a easy job with high pay but they are making the best of their circumstances and putting their families well being at the forefront of their own.

Chinese Illustration

In traditional China as in many other cultures, the visual representation of stories was a medium for creating, expressing and spreading cultural values. Chinese illustrations usually featured human and immortal beings with some relation to moralising texts whether written down of orally transmitted. These inspired viewers awareness and attainment. “Viewers of the pictures repeatedly claimed that the images conveyed something words could not, making them complimentary to the writing and of equal importance”. pictorial art also plays a part in forming disseminating social norms and political authority.

Chinese narrative illustrations can be divided in to three different categories – Moral narrative which is associated with an instructive function, literary narrative which has expressive qualities and genre narrative which is about a particular subject matter from everyday life. Although these three are different you can overlap each of them in a single painting. As well as those three sub categories of illustration they were also known under subject headings as figures, ghosts and spirits. The figures were also sometime divided in to more specific types like peasants, barbarian tribes and beautiful women.

Buddhist viewed the distribution of texts and duplication of images as devout works and they played a part in the invention of printing, Which is by nature an act of duplication. The creating of authority stamps with personal names carved in them were the first print like instruments but were more like bronze rubbings than printing, they were used to produce multiple copies of their image so was a starting point to create printing.

China has been using illustrations in their stories since the 8th century this was with the invention of block printing. Block Printing as with many of mankind’s firsts originated in China.  It originally was created to print images on textiles, the earliest extant example of this dates back to CE 25-220, it was only later that someone thought to use the blocks for creating text. The areas of text were originally quite small and were accompanied by large amounts of Imagery. These usually had a religious proverb to accompany it.

The world’s earliest precisely dated printed book is a Chinese scroll about 16 feet in length and is called the Diamond Sutra. It starts with an illustration of a Buddha who has finished his daily walk with the monks to gather offerings of food and has sit down to rest. This illustration tells the story that is contained in the large scroll.

The earliest example of an illustrated book in three colours- red, black and white was called the Ink Garden of the Cheng family. It included a number of Biblical illustrations from the gospels. The history of Chinese illustration is very much the the history of printing in China.

Illustrations were an integral part of many books, appearing in a variety of formats, from carefully produced and no doubt more expensive items with fine block prints placed at intervals between the text, to cheaper, cruder books with small illustrations at the top of every page. The small illustrations were popular with the Ming and Quing editions of popular fiction and commonly contained a series of illustrations of characters or scenes grouped together at the beginning of the text.

Illustration within the last decade

Illustration in China was not used to its full potential over the last decade or two as it was mostly used for propaganda. It was re-istablished at the start of the digital age and grew with the rise of the design and advertising industries, which boomed in the early 1980’s and slowed down due to the fall of world wide economy. Young illustrators work was mostly found on the internet through online blogs, this was quick and easy way of introducing their work to the world. The only problem with this was that is  was not easily available for art galleries to find. Many young illustrators who have made it to selling work usually work part-time as fee competition between illustrators is common.

An astonishing transformation of China’s creative land scape, growing wealth, new technology and a fresh confidence in individual expression is happening now. Illustrators  are creating an ever growing and more influential artist identity. They are technically competent  due to the rigorous art school training, originated from the Russian academic heritage.  China is determined to grow its “cultural and creative industries”. It has a new generation of 20-30 year old Artists that are really taking the world by storm, with Chinas economic boom their is more money to encourage people to take up illustration and create a career out of it. It is now recognised and accepted as a valid creative art form.

Chinese Economy and Morality in the news

Chinese Economy in the news

While searching through websites, newspapers, videos and blogs the most talked about chinese subject in the News was the economy. It is growing at an enormous rate and doesn’t show signs of ending any time soon.

China has overtaken Japan as the second largest economy in the world, First being the U.S.A. The American economy is nearly three times the size of Chinas but analysts see the U.S.A being pushed off the top spot in about a decade.

Their economy is currently estimated to be worth around $5.8 trillion. This ever-growing economy is probably due to China being the worlds largest exporter and second largest importer of goods. It has a sovereign wealth fund of 410 billion dollars. Some of this wealth has recently been invested in an 8.68 percent share in Thames Water. This was China’s first major purchase in the UK and came after Chancellor George Osborne visited the country earlier this year. He wants to see Britain become”the home of Asian investments”.

It comes as a vote of confidence in Britain as a place to invest and do business. This investment is not just a sign of Chinas growing power but it comes at an advantage as Britain is a safe and secure place to invest funds. Although this gives the impression that China is an unstoppable force it is claimed that Chinas economy is beginning to show deep fault lines. These are such things as house prices falling, a slump in export growth and recent high inflations have led some to foresee a looming crash. Although this is predicted Chinese firms are reportedly placing about $1tn to $2tn in direct investments around the world by 2020 and this will double in size every year. They claim they are paying more attention to the structure and health of their economy. Maybe with this added security and care China might just evolve in to the super power everyone expects it to be.

Another popular topic of News about China was an article that shocked people from all over the world.

This story is about a two year old Chinese girl who had started walking across a road in a busy market street when she was run over by a white van. People walked past, cyclists weaved around her and then she was run over by a second vehicle. Eventually after being ignored by 18 people and run over twice a street cleaner came to her rescue,picked her up and moved her out of harms way. Sadly she died in hospital as her injuries were too severe.

This news story shocked people from all around the world. Questions were asked about how human beings could possibly be so heartless. Some Chinese citizens blamed it on the govement focusing too much on the economy and neglecting to teach people values and morality. Others suggested it was due to the people in the country chasing after money and loosing their faith and grip on religion. A man wrote on Chinese twitter : “Everyone is praising the rubbish-collecting granny, but isn’t it normal to help someone who is wounded or dying? This just shows how abnormal the moral situation is in this society! The sad Chinese, poor China are we even rescuable?”. It seems even the chinese couldn’t understand the inhumane actions of their own people.

Newspapers tried to come up with a logical explanation by writing that the possible reason for this inhumane act was that there are a lot of high-profile cases in which residents who stopped to assist people in distress were later held responsible for their plight.

I watched a chinese news report on the incident which showed the girl blatantly lying in the middle of the road  and was visibly injured. Most of the passers by saw her lying there, she was moving so they knew she was still alive, yet they did nothing to help. What message does this send to other countries about the state of Chinas morality?

Ties in with todays international celebration lunch.

Food symbolism: Why do we give food meaning? BBC magazine article.

Dishes eaten at Chinese New Year carry great significance, as does the way a Burns Night supper is presented. But these are not the only meals which represent something to diners and the reasons we attach meaning are as myriad as the food itself.

It seems odd that a small parcel of tasty filling encased in a light dough wrapper can represent so much.

But the jiaozi dumpling symbolises prosperity to diners, who traditionally sit down for a family feast on the eve of Chinese New Year. It also means wealth when the dumpling is crescent shaped, like the gold ingot once used in ancient China as money.

Chinese chef Ching-He Huang says the centuries-old “lucky” food traditions come from superstitions about feeding the spiritual world, legends and history.

“For example, the bamboo glutinous rice, zongzi, was eaten to commemorate a famed poet. These rice dumplings were thrown in a river so the fish would feed on the rice instead of his corpse, because he threw himself into the river and he was a well-loved poet and patriot of the people,” she says.

Fuchsia Dunlop, BBC journalist and author of the Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, says many of the meanings given to Chinese food are homophones of their names in Mandarin.

“In the Chinese language, so many different characters have the same sound and it is ripe for word play. For instance nian gao – which is a new year’s cake – also means tall or high, so it is eaten to represent doing better or reaching higher every year,” she says.

Steamed fish, which is a staple of many suppers, is served as a dish called nian nian you yu, the word for fish “yu”, being a homophone of “surplus” and “abundance”. It must be whole to symbolise completeness and good fortune.

Noodles represent a long life and autumn moon cakes are eaten to celebrate the roundness of the moon. Oranges are thought to symbolise wealth and tangerines good luck.

“The lunar new year is the biggest festival of the year in China,” says Dunlop. “An important element of it is for the whole family to be together, with people coming back to the provinces to share in the holiday.”

It is this togetherness that has perpetuated the popularity of the meal, says Huang.

“It’s a celebration of past, present and future. A big family gathering and a great excuse to eat great food. Eating is a social occasion in China because Chinese food is cooked in a way that is specifically for sharing, with lots of dishes at the dinner table.”

So a chicken must be served whole to symbolise family unity and togetherness, and whole roasted animals symbolise fidelity. Sweet, steamed cakes are also eaten as the sweetness symbolises a rich, sweet life and the round shape signifies family reunion.

Prof Michael Owen Jones wrote in a research paper for the American Folklore Society that people “define events through food”. He says individuals may also define themselves by the food they prepare, serve and consume, while symbols can evoke emotions.

If people do associate food with feelings and identity, celebratory meals will always remain part of human culture.

The ritual during festivals can also give the dishes meaning, such as on Burns Night in Scotland.

Burns Night suppers began in 1801, when friends of the late Scottish poet Robert Burns gathered together to celebrate his life and his poetry. They recited his Address to a Haggis and feasted on the offal, oatmeal and spices wrapped in a sheep’s stomach. It started what has since become a national tradition, although there are some variations to how the supper is celebrated.

Prof Gerard Carruthers, Glasgow University’s co-director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, says haggis was actually invented by the Chinese, but took on its “power” after Burns died.

“Burns’s poem to the haggis – it’s comical, but also serious. In the 18th Century, he felt people were too luxurious and eating too many luxuries, so his message was ‘keep it simple’.”

Scottish chef Shirley Spear says haggis is a very rustic Scottish dish.

“Burns was a farmer’s son and the haggis and vegetables served with it have strong association with the land. It’s a symbol of a humble life. Burns became a world renowned poet but had humble beginnings. It also symbolises his approach to life, meaning every person is worth his own salt. It’s about the simple man.”

The ritual of piping in the haggis, reciting the poem and plunging the knife in to the dish before serving it out stems back to peasant one-pot dishes which are shared, she says.

The stabbing of the haggis also mimics the idea of Scottish aggression and military power, says Prof Carruthers.

“The early Burns suppers were at a time when Britain was at war with France, so the idea was: ‘Let’s have a bit of fun in gloomy times.’ Burns’s poem is about celebrating the haggis, but this stabbing also had Masonic undertones. All these things are in the mix.”

But over the course of time, symbolism can change and food myths can spring up, says Gray. Many of which need “debunking”. Take simnel cake, which is usually baked and eaten during the Easter period.

“People associate with it servants having a day off, also that it was made for Mothering Sunday and had balls on the top to represent Jesus and his disciples. None of it is true.”

So where do such myths come from? They can usually be traced back to one era – the Victorians, she says. They were “very good at telling tall stories”.

Traditional to serve:

Cock-a-leekie soup
Haggis, neeps & tatties (“Haggis wi’ bashit neeps an’ champit tatties”)
Clootie Dumpling (a pudding prepared in a linen cloth or cloot) or Typsy Laird (a Scottish sherry trifle)
Whisky
Chinese homophones

Steamed fish – the Mandarin word for fish is “yu” and the phrase “nian nian you yu” is a popular Chinese New Year greeting. “Yu” also means abundance, so the phrase means: “Every year may you have abundance”
“Fa cai” or “black moss” – a seaweed dish also sounds like “fa cai” – to prosper
Apples – because the Mandarin word for apple is “ping”, and “ping an” means peace
Nian gao – sweet sticky glutinous rice cake, dipped in egg batter. Nian gao is also part of the phrase “nian nian sheng gao” meaning “every year you rise up the ranks”. “Nian” also means “sticky”, so you will stick with loved ones through thick and thin