Introduction: A brief history of “Made in China”


After the First and Second Opium Wars (between 1839 to 1860), China lost many advantages in international trade. The Chinese Civil War and the Korean War hindered or even suspended the trades between the U.S. and China for decades. China’s economy did not start to recover until the new leader of China advocated economic reform in 1978, leading the way for the explosion of China’s manufacturing. Foxconn, as a representative of China’s manufacturing companies, then established connection with some innovative American companies by massively producing the product they designed with the lowest labor cost. In 2005, the American conservative report showed that “more than half of all goods imported from China were made by U.S. companies which were offshoring their production to China” (Harris, 2011).

Today, it is hard to find an American store that was NOT selling products manufactured in China. For ordinary Americans, they may not survive this Halloween without purchasing any Chinese-made costumes and decorations. China now is the world’s largest manufacturing nation and ranks the top in global export market.

Description: Safety Issue, human rights, and unemployment

The “Made in China” label is not simply the symbol of modernization or massive production, it is also associated with low quality and poor safety standard.


( The picture form New York Time : News about Mattel recall )


(The picture from TimeWorld.com: News about China’s tainted milk recall )

From 2007 to 2010, a series of safety-related scandals were exposed through European and American media, which undermined consumers’ perceptions of “Made in China” and spurred global concerns. In 2007, the world’s biggest toy company Mattel recalled its toys exported from China because the toys are lathered over with lead paint. In the same year, media around the world reported the Chinese-made toxic toothpaste event. During the 2008 Chinese export recalls, U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced heparin issues due to contamination of the raw heparin stock imported from China. The following Chinese poisonous milk scandal further generated more negative media coverage related to Chinese food safety issue.


(Picture form CNN: The report of “Foxconn suicides“)

The tainted image of “Made in China” also resulted from reports of labor problems. Taiwan-based Foxconn used to be the contract manufacture of Apple. It is now attached the tag of “Death Factory” by the media and being criticized for its abominable and dehumanizing working conditions after 14 employees committed suicides in 2010. The American media “warned” that if American companies or government agencies turned to choose Chinese manufactured products over American products, the choice itself would be described as the support for “an authoritarian regime that prohibits independent labor unions from organizing.”

( Video: 2012 Mitt Romney Presidential Campaign Ad )

The repellent attitude to “Made in China” has a political dimension. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney blamed China for stealing American jobs and technology. The message delivered by this campaign ad pointed that American outsourcing manufacture to China led to the loss of jobs within the US. It seems that if the Obama administration doesn’t take action, Chinese-made products would finally threaten the US economy.  In this ad, “Made in China” was portrayed as the culprit of soaring U.S. unemployment rate.

I think the intended use of the concept of “Made in China” could be broken down into two different parts: First, media reported safety issues to remind American consumers avoid the possible dangers, and also push Chinese manufacturers to improve the quality of their products. Second, the topic related to “Made in China” was playing a vital role in the debate between the two parties. By objecting to the existing economic policy which benefits Chinese manufacturing, the opposition could gain more supports from the public.

Theories: Propaganda and Cognitive Dissonance

I was hesitating to use propaganda theory to analyze the formation of negative perception of “Made in China”. I think media reports and politician’s words did, to some degree, reflect the “shameful” truth of Chinese manufacturing . But in the meantime, the “Made in China” label was certainly used as a master symbol to intrigue strong emotion and attitude among American consumers.

Even though new research shows that the rise of labor costs in China pushed more and more American companies to outsource in other poor countries, Chinese products were still portrayed to be only competitive on the cost in many media coverage. Also, I did’t find much positive news about how China-made was transferred to China-branded, despite some China-based brands (e.g. Lenovo, Huawei and Haier)  have already been leading the global market. When it comes to economic issues, the “dark side” of  “Made in China” has been also inappropriately accentuated–the growing unemployment rate was simply explained as “China took American jobs away” problem by politicians without ruling out any other factor influencing U.S. economic recession and job loss.

According to Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance, it indicates that people tend to accept the information consistent with their pre-existing attitude and avoid the possible comfort or dissonance brought by different information. (Baran & Davis, 2012, P154)  Since he image of “Made in China” has been already damaged by the negative publicities, people’s attitude Chinese made products are not easily to be changed by the new information related to Chinese manufacturing.


(The chart from 2012 JWT research: Comparison of country manufacturer impressions)


(The chart from 2012 JWT research: Reasons for low opinion of Chinese brands)

Last year, JWT Intelligence, a London based communication agency conducted a marketing research on American and British consumers to find out the external and internal factors impeding Chinese brands development. The result showed that respondents are likely to have same negative perception of both China-made and China-branded. I found it echoes the selective perception process, as it said “people will alter the meaning of messages so they become consistent with preexisting attitudes and belief. “(Baran & Davis, 2012, P155). For people who haven’t experience with Chinese brand, they are simply carrying over their negative perception of China-made onto China-branded.

Moreover, the JWT research showed that even though many participants have already been the consumers of the Chinese brands, there is still a low awareness of Chinese brand among American and British consumers. International marketing firm HD Trade Services released a similar result this year, which revealed that 94% of U.S. consumers couldn’t even name one Chinese brand. I think this finding could be explained by selective retention mechanism. As it was mentioned above, consumers’ initial attitude toward Chinese products make it hard for them to build up positive perception of Chinese brand. The memory of Chinese brand message was disturbed by the negative news or undesirable experience with Chinese products, which makes consumers unlikely to remember Chinese brands.

Analysis: My perception of “Made in China” and multiple Intelligence theory

If we could step back over centuries, our Chinese ancestors would be shocked by hostile and skeptical consumer perceptions of Chinese-made. China used to be well known for its exotic products such as silk and porcelain, which are imported exclusively for the royalty due to their high prestige. Since when has “Made in China” become synonymous  with cheap, shoddy or even counterfeit goods ?

Here are the headlines of some news which covered Chinese-made stories:

  • “Made in China” Label Spurs Global Concern–Yaleglobal Online, August,2007
  • The Hidden Cost of “Made in China”: Tomorrow’s American Jobs–HuffPost, June, 2011
  • The Price of “Made in China”–New York Time, August, 2013
  • Your Poultry Could Be the Next Thing “Made in China,” Is That Safe?Policymic,September,2013
  • Made in China Not Worth Hassle for Small Firms Returning to U.S.–Bloomberg, June, 2012


(The picture from google image search: Howard Gardner’s nine multiple Intelligence theory)

The artifact of “Made in China” consists of large amount of news stories and politicians’ bias, I think it fits in with linguistic intelligence theory.Both media and politicians use “Made in China” to “tell” the whole story behind the label to the public. The words that have been frequently used include “hidden cost”, “U.S. jobs, “concerns” and etc. In addition, spatial Intelligence theory is also well represented by the artifact of “Made in China”. The imagery of Chinese factories and Chinese workers are repeatedly shown in news clips once it was involved the topic of Chinese-made. It appeals to the public to associate poor working conditions and the low cost with “Made in China”.


Baran, S. J., & Davis, D. K. (2012). Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future (6th ed.). United States: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Dewey, C. (2013). China’s branding failure: only 6% of U.S. consumers can name one Chinese brand. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/04/05/chinas-branding-failure-only-6-of-u-s-consumers-can-name-one-chinese-brand/

Harris, A. (2011) Made in China: A Brief History of Manufacturing, Offshoring, and International Trade. Retrieved from http://www.seattlerep.org/Plays/1011/AE/DeeperLook/History

JWT London. (2012). Remark “Made in China”. Retrieved from http://jwt.co.uk/thinking/remaking-made-in-china.html

Lebeau, P. (2013) New study finds China manufacturing costs rising to US level. Retrieved from http://www.cnbc.com/id/100651692

Made In China Documentary [Youtube Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnfjciuwKvA

Navarro, P. (2013) The Price of ‘Made in China’. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/05/opinion/the-price-of-made-in-china.html

Story, L. (2007). Lead Paint Prompts Mattel to Recall 967,000 Toys. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/02/business/02toy.html?_r=1&

Stand up to China. [Youtube Video].Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRViUQntMf



In the city of Boston, every winter after snowstorms, hydrants are buried in the 4-feet snow and cause dangerous delays when fire emergencies occurred. Local government was bothered by this problem because digging out all of them from snow across the city is a costly and time-consuming. Noticing that people shovel out the sidewalk beside the hydrants after snow, one of the fellows in Code for America wrote an app, which shows the map of all hydrants in the city and in the meantime called for citizens to clear the snow covered on hydrants. The idea is that citizen should first claim the responsibility of shoveling out a fire hydrant after it snows and then they get the right to name these hydrants once they clear them.

The action of “adopting” a hydrant is supported by  a fellowship name “Code for America”. The fellowship itself is characterized by its crowdsourcing mechanism. Every year, Code for America seeks for talented coders and software developer all over the world to facilitate governments work through writing app which help gathering the power of crowd. The case of adopting a hydrant mentioned above is one of their works.

What motivate talented citizen to participate in the fellowship set up by Code for America? The answer is that in the process of changing government and cities, Code for America also satisfies the needs of its fellows.

First of all, there is an intrinsic motivation. People think that they can learn new things over the year and thus “advance one’s career”. The opportunity to work with cutting-edge technologies is provided by Code of America, and fellows can learn new technical skills from other talented peers in the program.

Secondly, people learn new knowledge  and expand their horizon in the process of participation. To solve the social problem effectively, fellows of Code of American are required to work with officers in government. CFA exposed the coder to the intricacies of city and federal government. People have a reasonably good understanding of how things actually get done in government, which turns out to be very different from what they teach in textbooks or report in the media.

Thirdly, the affective factor also promotes the participation. Fellows have a lot fun in working on social problem because most of problems are interesting, and they enjoyed the solving process through contributing to a collaborative effort.

In addition,fellows who participate in the program have a chance not only to express they own thoughts, but also apply them into reality and see how their efforts “make a difference”  to the cities. They gain a feeling of fulfillment in this way.

Elections and citizen journalism

The article titled “Citizen Journalism and Democracy”explores the mechanism about how citizen journalism influences the formation of political knowledge and citizen’s involvement in political issues. Based on the precondition that political knowledge and political participation are key indicators of democratic citizenship, the research brought up to some interesting results. Firstly, it shows that professional journalism content consumption positively related to the political knowledge, while the consumers of citizen journalism content are more likely to be involved in political participation. Secondly, the authors point out that “trust” plays a role of moderator in the relationship among news media consumers, political knowledge, and online political participation. The research reveals that “trust” in professional news organizations lead to less active online political involvement compared to the “trust” in citizen news media.

In another article “A journey through 10 countries”, Akoh & Ahiabenu demonstrate the changing face of African elections by analyzing the how journalism practitioners use new media in the process of election among 10 African countries. Since the broadcast media are long-time under control of government, the emergency of new media, along with citizen journalists, meet the Africans’ urgent demand for “free and fair election”. Different from traditional media organizations, new media take the advantage of its capability of quick responds to incidents and access to the information source which cannot be accessed in traditional way.

In the case of the African election project, the authors introduce how the project enhances the ability of both professional and citizen journalist in reporting election related news. Also, they explain how practitioners gain benefits from election guideline, online central information and knowledge portal during the election coverage.

Two similarities were found in these two articles. For one thing, both of them argue that citizen’s journalism serves to boost the progress of democracy. The first article claim that citizen’s journalism outperforms professional journalism when come to involvement in political issues; the second article emphasize its advantage over traditional media in reporting and monitoring election in a society lacks of democracy. Moreover, two articles mention the significance of “trust” relations. However, in first article, it focus on trust between information consumers and different type of news media; in second article, it aims at the trust relationships between the electoral commission and the media.

In addition, the case of African elections project impressed me a lot when I read it. The researchers are acutely aware of the dual role of new media in “peacemaking and the propagation of violence”, and this project works just like a regulation to monitor and adjust media behavior. It provides a broad platform to professional journalists, citizen journalists and the new media, merging their positive power together as a whole to generate the impartial and objective reports.

Viral online media: Fake dolphin pod?

“Kony 2012” is the most riveting short film I have ever seen. I still remember how astonished and excited I was when the first time I viewed it on Chinese version twitter “Weibo”. Thousands of Chinese people shared this videos, and at least three friends @me and left comments permeated with burning hatred of LRA and deep empathy for Uganda.

Joseph Kony, a man appeared from nowhere, suddenly enraged Chineses!

Apart from later criticisms, the video “Kony 2012” was undoubtedly successful. As a viral video case, I think it well matches the findings in Berger and Milkman’s study—“Positive and negative emotions characterized by activation or arousal(awe and anger) are positively linked to virality”. Its success can be attributed to the interesting mix of contents, which evoke both positive emotion and negative emotion. The first part of this film creates a suffocating atmosphere, describing the misery life of Ugandan under the treat of the repel group. One thing the viewers cannot accept is that the leader of repel group who was guilty of acts of great atrocity but still free. After stirring anger, the filmmaker Jason Russell showed the public achievements in stopping Kony and then mobilized people to participate in “make Kony famous” movement. Negatively activating emotion was transferred into positive one, and the awareness was finally turned into global actions.

In the article “What makes online content viral”, the authors said that “people may share content to help others”. It is well proven in the case of Kony 2012, since viewers shared this video to others in the purpose of spreading its influence, thereby helping the people lived under the treat of Kony.

Another view interests me in this article is that audience size, to same degree, determines whether an online video can go viral. One of the points Berger and Milkman made is that “self-presentation motives, identity signaling, or affiliation goals may play a stronger role in shaping what people share with larger audiences.” Regardless of culture background, justice is a common goal in Kony2012 movement. And what the members of Invisible Children did is not self-defense but because it is right thing to do. Just imagine, how can one stand by and do nothing, especially when they convinced that their collaborate actions in “Kony 2012” will “change the course of human history” as the filmmaker said in the very beginning of this video.

However, I hold different opinion when it comes to the effect of deactivating emotion (i.e. sadness). Many non-commercial advertising contain negative emotion induced contents such as the picture of ruined rainforest or hunger refugee. For me, the immediate reaction is sadness, but I personally considered that few people would just stay in the sad stage. Because the sad feeling is complex, it generally lies the seed of empathy or guilty. What I usually do is to share it or at least comment on it to express what I felt, getting ride of such negative feeling in this way.

“The Blue” filmed by Mark Peters. Click here to get orignal video on Vimeo

The news article link “Is viral dolphin pod video a hoax?”

A GoPro camera user uploaded a video named “The Blue” on Vimeo.com two months ago, showing a shoal of swimming dolphins underwater nearby Santa Crusz. This dolphin pod was filmed all in beautiful clear HD. So far, it has received 1.4 million views along with 2.2k likes on Facebook. And the number is still growing. View rate is also amazing on Youtube and Twitter. In the meanwhile, this video raised pubic skepticism. Although Mark Peters, the film maker emphasized that the stunning pod of dolphins was caught unexpectedly, some people criticized that GoPro itself involved in the making this video. Whereas, the only thing we are certain here is that GoPro used this “user-generated video” in marketing(official version dolphin pod). In this case, many viewers have positive arousal in the process of viewing and end up with big smile on their faces.I went through some response roughly on Vimeo.com, and there are some interesting findings.

Except majority of comments is about the enjoyable experience of viewing this video, a group of viewers focused on the maltreatment to tuna instead of dolphin in the very beginning of the video.

“the beauty of the end shot is cancelled out somewhat by what you do to the tuna in the beginning.”——Steven Mach

“The criticism regarding the tuna isn’t toward hunting: it’s about suffering. Hunting is fine, but allowing it to freak out on the floor is imposing unnecessary pain.”–DF

Besides, some viewers inquiry about the equipment and settings was used in filming.

“Mark I also have built a torpedo…but I would like to see how you built yours. Are you willing to send me some photos? I would like to improve my design.”——Adrian South

“Could you please post some info on the torpedo, I don’t normally post comments but I had to for this one, BTW great footage, totally fantastic.”———Brett Bouwer.

It apparently shows that people share this video not only because its amusement content, but also the useful information it offered.In addition, some viewers are on Mark Peters’s side and defense the credibility of this video. It seems that controversy on social networking also contributed to its virality.