Back in 2011, T Magazine, the NY Times’ style magazine interviewed Aric Chen, a reputable Chinese-American design curator, and asked him about the stereotype that Made in China means poor quality. He replied by saying that:
We know the clichés — that the Chinese only copy, that they’re just following Western trends. There’s an element of truth to that, but the opposite is true as well. There’s a strong desire here and a lot of energy, coming from all levels, to develop something new and on one’s own. When I first arrived, there was a huge interest in defining “Chinese design,” and in just three years, I’ve seen that evolve from reinterpreting traditional motifs to a much more sophisticated sense of what it means to be Chinese. If creativity, by definition, requires optimism, China has optimism in spades and I’m confident that the creativity will follow.
Indeed, the label “Made In China” has a negative connotation today, evoking thoughts of poor manufacturing and sweatshops. During the Beijing Design Week, SWAG Architects developed a bike-pedaled MADE IN CHINA exhibition toured around to show off some of the country’s beautifully-designed items. The items showcased exemplify concepts that have been historically central to Chinese design: durability, classic styling, careful craftsmanship…etc. These qualities were conveyed through basic, utilitarian, domestic objects such as spoons, mooncake shaper, steamer, wire holder, back scratcher…etc.
It’ may be puzzling as to why this initiative was executed in Beijing rather a foreign country where perceptions of Chinese manufacturing and design may be less favorable, but perhaps the strategy was to garner awareness through China’s local Design Week in order to catapult the clever interactive project into future Design Weeks in other cities.