What is the general public’s perception of items created in China?

As a group we decided to focus on products people buy, more specifically the items that people bought last and their views on the products made both here in the UK and those made in China. We chose to create a series of little red paper t-shirts, on these we prompted people to write the answers to some questions we had on them. We decided on a set of four questions, though these questions could be changed or even expanded on depending on what the person wrote:

What was the last thing you bought?

  • Do you know where your products are from?
  • Do you care and does it bother you where your products come from?
  • What are your views on the quality of products made her in the UK to products made elsewhere (China, Taiwan etc)

For the most part many of the answers for the most part were the same. A lot of people do not know where the products they buy come from and when asked many will reply with either “I don’t know” or the country stereotypically known for producing that product, many believing that only the lower quality items come from China. But is this ethical? Whilst many of the items are made in China some are not in fact able to be legally sold in China. The products can only be distributed by the company that outsourced the manufacturing to China. Among the biggest challenges faced by Chinese brands when approaching the foreign markets is the connotations associated with the words “Made in China”.

Although ,when asked, people do not seem to mind where their products come from so long as the products are of a decent to good quality. There are those who generally try to make sure that the ones employed to create the items are treated fairly before they make the purchase, though the majority are more likely to overlook the items origins altogether. It was only recently that the labour laws in China were changed. This was done in an effort to address the rising number of labour disputes. It was decreed that all contracts had to be put into writing within one month of the employee starting. Contracts are not seen as binding in China. It also covers areas such as severance pay, lay-offs, probationary periods and mandatory holidays, Chinese new year, International Labour Day and National Day each of which spanning a week at a time. The standard working time in China is 40 hours whilst the standard working week is Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm with the weekend off. However overtime is the norm and many companies don’t actually compensate their workers for it.

It would appear that the view of many concerning the comparisons between something made in the UK and something made elsewhere like China, many will state that the products made in the UK are of a higher quality. Whilst this is has an ounce of truth, it would be truer to say that whist the products may be inferior in quality, these same products are created for a market that expects the products for cheap prices. There are also a number of high quality products that are made in China as well, these selling for a much higher price. Other than this, it would seem that the awareness of many fake products and counterfeits also casts a more negative view of Chinese products.

Looking around online, it would seem it is very easy to have items manufactured over in China. Just searching “Manufacturing in China” brings you to a site for a company that helps set up the whole transaction. On the whole, the industry has developed incredibly quickly. The scale of the increase has been ranked in the top places providing obvious comparative advantages internationally. The manufacturing industry serves as the most dominant sector of China’s economic growth. As such it is the main source of employment in the cities and towns of China. The upgrade of the manufacturing industry in China has became the main symbol of improvement of natural power in China over the last 20 years. This has enabled China to primarily establish its status as a “big country of manufacturing” and has also laid the foundations for China becoming a “strong country of manufacturing”.

 

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Chinese Animation

Chinese animation began in 1918 when a piece from the United States names “Out of the Inkwell” came to Shanghai. The cartoon clips were used in advertisements for domestic products, however, the animation industry did not begin until the introduction of the WanSi Brothers in 1926. Until the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Chinese animation was relatively on pace with the rest of the world, a sort of golden age of Chinese animation. I was during this time that films such as “The Camel’s Dance”,the first Chinese film with sound, and the first film of notable length, “Princess Iron Fan” were created. During the Cultural Revolution, many animators were forced to quit either because of the harsh economic conditions or because of the general mistreatment given by the Red Guards. Any surviving animators started to lean closer to propaganda and by the 1980’s, China had been left behind and Japan had emerged as the dominating force in animation in the far east. However, two major changes took place in the 1990’s that brought about some of the biggest changes since the exploration period. The first of these was a political change, the application of a socialist market. This pushed out the traditional planned economy systems meaning that it would no longer be a single entity that was in control of the industries output and income. The second change was a technological change brought about by the arrival of the internet, this bringing new opportunities in the form of Flash animations. Today China is drastically reinventing itself within the animation industry with its influences coming from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Still from "Princess Iron Fan"

In the 1920’s, the WanSi brothers believed that their animations should focus on a style that was distinctly Chinese. This feeling stayed with the company for decades, as such the animations were an extension on other aspects of Chinese art and culture and as such drew most of its content from ancient folklore and manhua. A good example of traditional Chinese animation would be the character Monkey King who was derived from classic Chinese literature “Journey to the West.”.

The first Flash animation community in China was FlashEmpire. It made it’s first appearance in September of 1999. Although it’s content was generally quite amateurish, it was one of the first to offer any form of user created content in mainland China. By 2000 it averaged around 10,000 views daily and with more that 5000 individual pieces of work published, today it has over one million members. Sometime in 2001 Xiao Xiao was created. This is a series of animations about kung fu stick figures. These animations became popular gaining more that fifty million hits, most of these gained in mainland China.

The concept of Chinese animation has begun to loosen up in more recent years, however, it does not lock onto any particular style. The largest change was in 1995 with the release of “Cyber Weapon Z.” Whilst the style is barely indistinguishable from any other anime it has still be categorized as Chinese animation.

In 2001, Time Magazine Asian Edition rated Taiwanese webtoon character A-Kuei as one of the top 100 new figures in Asia. The characters appearance with it’s large head seems to lean more towards a children’s cartoon. These changes signify a welcoming change in Chinese character design as the traditional characters of the folklore like characters have had a hard time gaining international appeal.

A-Kuei

It was published in the first weekly Chinese animation magazine, GoGo Top Magazine, that only one out of twenty favourite characters among children was actually created in China. The Chinese Mainland Marketing Research Company asked 540 kids in four of the mainland cities what their favourite cartoons were, six were Japanese, two were Us made and two were produced in China. It is reported that only around eleven percent of Chinese young people claim to prefer Chinese made cartoons.

Chinese popular culture. Comics and Religion

When you think of comics you think of Marvel or DC from America or Manga from Japan. When asked, many do not know of Chinese comics, many believing that they are merely translated Japanese or American comic books. Chinese comics are called Manhua. The eldest being stone reliefs from 11C BC and on pottery from 5000 to 3000 BC. Chinese manhua was born roughly between the years 1867 and 1927. Because of the introduction of lithograph printing from the west, satirical drawings soon appeared in newspapers and periodicals. By the 1920’s palm sized books had been printed and were considered the predecessor of modern day manhua. Chinese comic books are seen as a way to entertain and educate the public of China. It’s content can include anything from literary classics, fiction and non fiction, fairy tales, myths and biographies. Due to the rising interest in Chinese visual art, popular culture and media, comic books have gained a lot of attention from academics in the more recent years. Around the time of the Cultural Revolution, politics showed up in in almost every aspect of everyday life. The comic book was no exception. Due to the content and artistry of comic books of the period of Cultural Revolution, these books are popular topics of study for modern day Chinese history as well as the communistic propaganda and the relationship between politics, art and education.

 

When thinking of religion in China, we think Buddhism or perhaps the worship of ancestors and deities. Mostly what we have seen in films or television adaptations, but what is the Chinese view on religion? Many travelling to China for the first time are often surprised or shocked at the differences between China and the western world. Beliefs and values play an important in the culture. The word religion only exists in western languages. In others a word had to be created. This is much the case with China. At the beginning of the century, the Chinese borrowed the Japanese word for religion. Currently there are five religions in China: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. Though due to the fact that religions are family based they do not demand the support of its members. Many believe that the term “religion” is inaccurate when speaking of Taoism or Buddhism and tend to refer to them as “cultural practices”. Much of who or what should be called religious in China is up for debate. It has been said that the general percentage of people that regard themselves as religious in China is amongst the lowest in the world.

Since it’s introduction in the first century, Buddhism has remained a popular religion in China. However the largest religious group in China is that of Chinese folk religion otherwise known as “Shenism” . It is the collective which includes Taoism and the worship of the shens. The shens are a collection of local deities, heroes and ancestors, and figures from Chinese myths and legend. Most recently Mazu, goddess of the seas; Huangdi, divine patriarch of the Chinese nation and the Black Dragon Caishen, god of prosperity and wealth.

Although Christianity in China is well established since the seventh century, it declined in the tenth through fourteenth centuries due to persecution. It was reintroduced in the sixteenth century and by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there had been an influx of European ideology in China. The Communist party of China, when it came to power in 1949, was seen as an atheist faction and viewed western religions as a tool of western colonialism and since then has preserved a separation of the church from state affairs. By the 1980’s more religious freedoms were granted and the traditional values and beliefs of Taoism and Buddhism were supported as a necessary part of Chinese culture.

Nowadays, Shenism-Taoism and Buddhism are the largest religions in China with around 30% of its population. Around 10% of the population are counted as non-Han ethnicities who follow their own tribal religions. It is believed that Christianity only covers around 3 or 4% of the population and Muslims are around 1 to 2%. It would seem that most of the population art agnostic or atheist, this being around the region of 60 to 70%. Confucianism is widely popular amongst intellectuals.