In Poorly Made In China: An Insider’s Account of the China Production Game Paul Midler gives a glimpse into the manufacturing world of China. Considering that many of the things we use every day are built in these factories, it was surprising to me to realize how little I know about it. The only other book I’ve read which talks about the factories of China is Factory Girls by Leslie Chang (my review). Where Factory Girls was concerned with the lives of the girls working in the factories, this book comes from the other end of the spectrum. Midler serves as a translater and go-between for Western business men and the Chinese factory owners, and so gets a view into the cutthroat wheeling and dealing world of Chinese manufacturing operations.
Two things become readily apparent when reading this book. First, Midler has at best a love-hate relationship with China. His frustrations with nearly every aspect of life and work there are apparent in nearly every page. He disparages the tricks factory owners use to make few extra dollars, and then turns around and hates on the western businessmen who fall for them. Second is that the we should all be very concerned with Chinese manufacturing practices. Beyond just worrying about what these factories are doing to China and Chinese people through pollution and poor working conditions, the corners they cut should worry consumers of those goods everywhere.
Because of the surprising insight Midler brings on a part of the world intrinsic to our lives today, I’d like to recommend this book. Midler’s bitter writing style however is hard to get past, so like Midler’s relationship with China be prepared for a love-hate relationship with this book.