The ever-increasing flood of foreign goods into China could force improvement in Chinese manufacturing; photo by ground.zero

By Aaron Posehn

The San Francisco Business Times recently ran an article called “Made in San Francisco label hits China.” It speaks to the fact that the tables have recently turned and now American brands, including those hailing from San Francisco, are becoming more and more popular with the rising middle classes of Chinese citizens.

Of course, this is not exactly new as foreign brands have long been ogled by all income classes, ranging from Gucci, to Louis Vuitton, to Mercedes, and every status symbol in between. After all, a large part of the fake goods market in China is devoted to providing these (fake) brand names at ultra-low prices so that everyone can get in on the action.

However, it’s interesting that products specifically from San Francisco have recently been gaining market share – the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development has even created a “Made in San Francisco” to build the city’s brand.

There is much potential to cash in on. The city is utilizing its connections with the existing Chinese immigrant community to expose more of these opportunities. The historical connection with the “Old Golden Mountain” (旧金山) also plays a part, and although most opportunities are currently in retail, “middle class consumers with money to spend have gained a greater appreciation for all things American made.”

On the other side of things, it’s also  important to consider many of the local Chinese brands can’t seem to knock their reputation for being unsafe, poorly made and lacking sophistication. With an increase of Western status symbols, this dichotomy begs the question of whether it could further fuel the underlying inferiority complex that has existed since the Opium Wars, and most recently played out in a battle over the Diaoyu Islands. (Though obviously not a western power, Japan did it’s share contributing to the Century of Humiliation.)

This is not to say that China will take this to the extreme and shun everything homegrown; after all, Americans don’t always opt for exotic European brands simply because they are available and affordable. However, with more foreign imports becoming accessible, it will be interesting to keep an eye on domestic Chinese products to see how they are received by local citizens, if issues with quality will be addressed, and if there will be a push for further innovation in order to compete.

Aaron Posehn graduated of the University of British Columbia majoring in Asian Area Studies
and specializing in China, Taiwan, and India. He is currently finishing work on “chinEASE,” an eBook that teaches beginners how to easily learn Chinese characters.