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Cha Bu Duo: The expression that fills western manufacturers in China with dread (sourcingallies.com)
84 points by libpcap 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 80 comments



Cha: Difference Bu: No Duo: Much

There is a big difference in value judgement between "Close Enough" and "Difference Not Much". "Close Enough" is a value judgement on the customer's behalf, meaning that a factory representative is presuming to know what the exact customer (and the customer's customer, etc) requirements are, maybe even suggesting that th factory knows better than to follow the written specifications!

"Difference Not Much" just means that it's hard to tell the difference, without any inherent value judgement on whether the product is acceptable or not. It's not a fundamentally offensive statement in the way that "Close Enough" would be.

I think that the correct and polite response to "Cha Bu Duo" would probably be "Cha Bu Duo, but the small amount of Cha that is there is very important to our customers, etc..."

I also think this article is a little out of date, some factories in China have definitely been churning out some pretty good stuff for awhile now...


Yep if the customer can't tell, it's ChaBuDuo!

That's part of the reason there's so many damn tests in production and it's so damn hard to ever get rid of one.

One of the first and trickiest I had to deal with was a black paint. You can get the black in paint from a lot of different sources, but some of them are (slightly) conductive. The paint had been specified, but when margins are tight the way a CM makes extra money is sourcing on the down low. Well, that conductive paint made things not work!

The solution was to measure the conductivity, but there were millions of panels already made up and so a non-contact jig had to be made and a new test added to (near the beginning of) the assembly line to detect and separate the bad parts. It turned out that even after the initial paint substitution, the paint supplier changed their own process and this jig became useful again. It a significant piece of IP that made out product more reliable than others! It was made in the US and shipped to Asia (where I'm sure the reverse engineered it).


"I also think this article is a little out of date, some factories in China have definitely been churning out some pretty good stuff for awhile now... "

It is still how 96-98% of China and Chinese manufacturing works, but you are right. Before it was much more and there has been a lot of development during the last 10 years.

Also what most western people don't always realize is that the stuff from China that is shipped to western countries is usually higher quality than the stuff they sell domestically. This also applies to western brands. Chinese people have much higher tolerance for low quality and things getting broken so those factories producing the lower tier products are focusing on the domestic market while higher quality manufacturing is more focused in export.


The direct translation of the three characters doesn't matter. Saying chabuduo in reply to a question is like just answering Yeah in English. It means you don't care and it is a non reply.


I couldn't understand the thinking behind the design and logistics for putting into existence a tiny very hot lamp I bought from IKEA with a rubix cube size piece of magnetic metal wrapped a few times by wire, it was heavy too and potentially a fire causing hazard. And, on the day of purchase IKEA had a lot of unattractive cuddly toy rats in the bargain bin. Perhaps, it is all an inside joke among the supply chain accountants. Sad for the workers in their daily factory grind.


>> for putting into existence a tiny very hot lamp I bought from IKEA with a rubix cube size piece of magnetic metal wrapped a few times by wire

I'm not sure I can imagine what you mean exactly - care to explain a bit more?


Hah, I bought one of those rats!


I guess a farmer can repurpose on of those rats for cleaning off the mud and manure from the bottom of their boots, the brown color and spikey looking rat coat won't look any different outside by the door welcome mat.


Welcome to modern day housing construction. There is a reason your contract for a new build stipulates the amount of dimensional accuracy they can allow through, before its out of contract.

I don't for a minute dispute this is an issue in low-cost manufacturing. There is a very well written blog piece from 5+ years ago about how to spec building your gizmo in china which points out there is no part of the build, down to the spec of the cardboard they ship it back to you, somebody cannot substitute on for a cheaper outcome and more profit. ROHS is just the beginning.

Any discrete component device from the 70s had substitutes within spec, almost. I think this is why Hi Fi golden ears exist: you could buy a commodity which worked to spec, +/- 2% or you could pay more to get one somebody actually cared about in terms of 0.001% tolerances across the board. It costs money to care.

Been buying china (as in pottery) from a reputable, 2nd rank source for a decade. The same coffee cup comes in two slightly different shades of almost white, and has either thick or thin china at the mouth lip. Why? Because Cha Bu Duo. It has nothing to do with made in china. Its generic.

What the article says is that its culturally endemic in China. Well, that may well be true. I suspect its actually appropriate for their economy, and in times past for ours too.

here's a hint: look up the shift in meaning of the word "sophisticated"


To explicit your final recommendation:

> 1. Having obtained worldly experience, and lacking naiveté; cosmopolitan. > 2. Elegant, refined. > 3. Complicated, especially of complex technology. > 4. Appealing to the tastes of an intellectual; cerebral. > 5. (obsolete, UK) Dishonest or misleading. > 6. (obsolete, UK) Impure; adulterated.

The word comes from the Greek sophists, who are defined as being remunerated, by opposition from philosophers. The association seems to be that they use fallacious arguments to defend their thesis; and by extension is used derogatorily for anything deemed too fancy.

So I think what you're saying is that a collective appreciation for precision improves as society evolves in the same way that the word “sophisticated” has mostly become meliorative.


Points 5,6 were key. It's most recent obsolete meaning was to describe adulterated goods.


Perhaps in a similar sense to sophistry, "the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving."


In a previous life when I learned a 'real world job' (industrial toolmaker in Germany), our master used to yell: "Not as precise as possible, only as precise as necessary!" (essentially the German version of "Cha Bu Duo" I guess?) when we spent too much time on one thing.

This is exactly why tolerances exist which are clearly defined upfront for every measurement. Inside the tolerance is by definition 'good enough', outside is not. Very simple and leaves no room for discussion.


Absolutely not the same thing. Chabuduo is often disregarding the question or requirement and doing whatever they were going to do anyway.


It was my (typically German) poor attempt at making a joke about the 'German precision engineering' cliché ;)


Precisely maxing out the tolerance!


Well this article seems to be about the opposite of that, less precise than necessary or slightly outside of tolerance range!


Great 2016 essay in Aeon about this topic, with concrete examples of how chabuduo is not just an annoyance for manufacturers, but often actively hazardous:

https://aeon.co/essays/what-chinese-corner-cutting-reveals-a...


Not really. James "Beijing" Palmer bemoaning how most of PRC is still a developing country doing developing country things, including in tier1 cities full of poor, undereducated, undertrained, migrant workers who has to improvise/chabuduo their way to survive. That's the economic reality when about half the country are still lower middle income even if PRC is going to enter upper income per capita by years end. Ground conditions simply reflect disparity in material conditions throughout the country.

He insinuates China is caught in a chabudo trap because CCP's afraid of plumbers (or anyone) organizing when it's really about the hundreds of millions left behind by rapid modernization who are trapped in informal economy because they're chabuduo tier workers and the country must accomodate their existence by accepting chabuduo level work where possible.

He thinks PRC should be run by crafts people produced by years of rigourous training like in developed countries, when most of the country are tinkers produced by mediocre vocation training system established pre 90s when PRC was dirt poor. A system that's just getting some attention after being neglected for 20 years because state correctly prioritized resources towards highered / STEM.

Really that's the crux of the situation, large swaths of PRC is still a developing country where good enough is a realistic baseline but also one so large the central gov can intervene and titrate resources / enforce policies to be globally competitive in domains that matter more for "national rejuvenation" or "comprehensive national power". Afterall, PRC didn't chabuduo it's way through a relatively sucessful space program, or other critical strategic indigenous industries. Note, this doesn't mean they didn't wildly spam industrial policy to inefficiently pursue goals, at PRC scale means hammering 100 chabuduoing iterations to generate 1 gem is a viable strategy.


That's a pretty hostile take? He's not saying chabuduo as some mythical, uniquely Chinese characteristic, and specifically calls out the migrant worker situation as leading directly to chabuduo.

While wild income gaps definitely generate chabuduo in any developing country, as anyone who's seen electrical work in Thailand ("mai pen rai!") or road construction in India ("jugaad!") can attest, the uniquely Chinese spin is the hukuo system: those migrant workers are indeed "trapped", without any realistic possibility of ever graduating into a bona fide resident of Beijing or Shanghai, no matter how good their skills are.


>hostile take

Indeed. Not directed at you (no intention to offend), but author. Article reflects BJPalmer's pattern of why XYZ quality/phenomenon tyical developing countries including China is CCP fault because party afraid of people/liberal values and not mere appropriate reflection on material conditions commiserate with economic realities. Having followed western China Watchers like him for a while, he's either eloquent dunning kruger who writes gud but missing the big picture, or crafty propagandist that knows exactly the narrative he wants to manufacture. Personally weighing towards latter since he managed to become deputy editor at Foreign Policy with his hot takes.

> trapped", without any realistic possibility

Most skilled labour class workers who do well arbituage tier1/2 wages and build big houses back home in tier 3/4/countryside where purchase power stretches much further. Granted there's more hukou reforms ongoing, but moving/diffusing/redistributing wealth from coastal to interior provinces to build out mid/low tier cities is the overarching PRC urbanism strategy. Some jobs like construction/trades was never going to pay enough to make living in tier1/2 cities feasible, massive excess labour means there wasn't realistic scenario where CCP will allow say, unionized elevator repairman to self regulate membership to point of holding society hostage and charge muchos rmb like in west and deny 100s of thousands others job opportunities.

But the major omission/evasion/manipulation Palmer commits in this 2016 article, for which he should know better, especially if he choose to insist on lazy openning of the tofudreg construction chabuduo posterchild is balance picture with acknowledgement that PRC labours are also responsible for some of the most spectacular construction projects undertaken in recent memory. Having worked in the field on PRC projects, the amount of bullshit starchitect designs or ambitious infra projects that Chinese labours manage to build on time and have so far maintained - projects that central gov wants done right - is staggering and beyond capabilities of most western developers/builders. Meaning PRC excels at both end of the quality continuum, with caveat that even on the chabuduo end they can at least do cheap and fast versus many countries who would be lucky if they can only manage cheap. Other stupid reaching quips like "some art have survived" because new gen obviously want to make tradition lutes instead of focusing on new media modes like in western countries where many traditions are similarly fading, or how Chinese tech was an innovative exception but still chabuduos sloppy code / advertised quack meds as if that's not also customary in silicon valley.

Broader point being, yes most of PRC nessicarily chabuduos, both by material limitation and by design. But PRC/CCP can also focus energy to to undertake world class efforts, a gear most countries, even most developed ones don't have. Palmer (deliberately) confuses ubiquious carelessness with developing country who is capable of targetted exceptionalism, which is more significant factor to understanding why PRC is doing things many developed countries can't do. In that sense PRC is not like Thailand or India, really it's on a seperate tier just below USA but above almost all other developed countries in terms of indigenous capabilities. Yet his conclusion is maybe "close enough is good enough", when good enough is "not enough" to explain host of indigenous Chinese accomplishments which require more than chabuduo mindset. IMO he misses the point badly fixating on chabuduo, but being familiar with his writing, I'm not sure if that wasn't the point.


Also an excellent Wharton article on the related pgenome non of Quality Fade:

https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/quality-fade-chi...


How autocorrect thinks “pgenome” is a correction for “phenomenon” is beyond me.


I suspect my phone is dynamically acquiring stupid auto-correct words through internet-harvested trash data. For example, it prefers to capitalize Target even though I am never talking about the dang store.


It's an economical issue rather than a culture one. Chabuduo factories are making more profits because price wars and demands for chabuduo tier products. Once the Chabuduo demands dries out, those factories will be forced to make higher quality parts.

One example is how Xiaomi nearly wiped clean "Shanzhai" phones in China.


I would disagree it's an economic issue.

I've come across multiple examples of chabuduo resulting in lower quality at zero cost savings. A good example is the construction of a shower. It doesn't cost anything more to make sure the floor is sloped towards the drain. But it often isn't.

It's just the opposite "pride of craftmanship" that you see in Germany or Japan. In those countries, many people wouldn't want their name associated with a shoddy product, it reflects poorly on them.

In China, it doesn't matter, most likely because they get paid the same either way.


> It doesn't cost anything

> make sure the floor is sloped towards the drain. But it often isn't.

It costs a (or several) higher paid worker, better tools, patience and more inspection time. Often these Chabuduo workers are young people with a "Dagong" mindset, little education and got scammed into construction business and quit very soon.

> opposite "pride of craftmanship" that you see in Germany or Japan

Time period matters


> It costs a (or several) higher paid worker, better tools, patience and more inspection time. Often these Chabuduo workers are young people with a "Dagong" mindset, little education and got scammed into construction business and quit very soon.

I don't think it takes anything beyond "water won't flow towards the drains unless it's correctly sloped".

You don't need higher pay, the same old tools work just fine, or inspections. When they shape the underlayment, they just need to slope it. It's the same amount of work (I've done it), all it takes is an attitude of "when I make this, I should make sure it performs it's function".

I don't disagree some of it can be "screw this job, who cares", which certainly can be a factor for some workers, but my colleague worked with a guy who had his own cabinet business constantly cut corners to the points some cabinets door wouldn't open correctly (spacing the cabinet from the wall).

He was amazed when my buddy shared ideas on how to avoid it. The guy looked at him like he was some sort of wizard. It had never occurred him of doing this minor change. And this was his own business!


> The guy looked at him like he was some sort of wizard

That's exactly the point I am trying to make. Some of the sloppiness are lazy, some malice, some are pure dumbness. You'd be surprised to see how chaotic & booming the construction market is in China. Everyone is making money in one-off fashion like no tomorrow, and yet somehow even the most stupid contractor survived while keep making rookie mistakes after all those years.

There are quality builders in China, but construction industry as a whole had zero to none barrier of entry, thus it had the highest concentration of dumbness in 1.4b ppl. China was undergoing the most dramatic urbanization period of human history, the demand is huge.

So yeah it's an economical issue.


> It had never occurred him of doing this minor change. And this was his own business!

cost of knowledge acquisition is also a cost. Doing something in a better isn't free. Of course, for a small, minor thing like sloping the floor properly, it's a small mistake that won't really cost.

But if every little detail takes care and effort, the job becomes harder and take longer, and require someone with more knowledge and skill to perform. it's a spectrum - and where one would land on that spectrum is the level of quality (vs price).


> for a small, minor thing like sloping the floor properly, it's a small mistake that won't really cost.

I've actually met such a guy 20+ years ago, who didn't know slopes were a thing. He is from rural areas with extreme poverty, never had a shower room in his life really, came to cities for labor work regardless. I explained the idea of slopes to him, so he gladly spent the next few hours removed the tiles and made improvements. The new tiles are cut & adjusted like really ugly, but better than no slopes. I guess it's his first slope.


That worker attitude is created by more inspections and company willingness to rework faulty shower. However, when the company does not check quality and pushes workers to produce faster and faster, they will not care.

Otherwise said, quality is more expensive, because to achieve it you can not just say "done" whenever individual finishes shower and praise him for speed. You need supervisor to check against list of known issues regularly and you need to praise people for quality - which means lower speed.


I've seen workers in the US installing cabinets do work that homeowner would never see, that takes longer and costs more. They could easily skip it, nobody would be the wiser and their reputation wouldn't suffer.

The builder does it because "that's how it's done right and I don't do it half-assed".

That's the attitude that's missing - pride of workmanship.


Building such culture requires checks and controls where you can see. It requires customers that complain after a while if things don't work. It requires management that does not reward pure speed. The "that's how it's done right and I don't do it half-assed" does not magically happen.


That’s not true in my example.


The problem is contractors with zero pride can still get jobs. China's fast urbanization creates such demand imbalance.

The sad part is the boss won't promote the labor worker for a better slope, they just need the worker to move fast to the next job.


I'm not sure the bosses even know about slope. It's turtles all the way down.


>>It's just the opposite "pride of craftmanship" that you see in Germany or Japan. In those countries, many people wouldn't want their name associated with a shoddy product, it reflects poorly on them.

I know this is just a personal anecdote, but I had(recently) a Mercedes-AMG which was built first in Koln, then transfered over to Affalterbach for hand assembly and inspection, it was as German as any car could ever be, and it was the worst built car I have ever had. And I've had a 1995 Fiat Cinquecento in the past.

Creaking plastics, gaps in the interior, missing pieces of insulation that the dealer would swear "should have been there", panoramic roof that had to be taken out, re-lubricated and reinstalled because it was creaking so bad......"German engineering" at its finest, really.

In contrast, I now have a Volvo XC60 which was built in China, and it's the best car I have ever owned - nearly 3 years of ownership, not a single issue, no squeaks, no rattles, interior and panels fit perfectly......

Maybe I was just very unlucky with the Mercedes, and very lucky with the Volvo - but I don't trust that "German people take pride in their work".


> In contrast, I now have a Volvo XC60 which was built in China, and it's the best car I have ever owned - nearly 3 years of ownership, not a single issue, no squeaks, no rattles, interior and panels fit perfectly......

I've got a 2011 V60 (s/wagon, not CUV). It's a bit of an odd duck and I have mixed feelings.

Repairs are exceptionally expensive[1] (I do all my own repairs, so only talking about parts, not labour) but things hardly ever break.

It might be that, the V60 being a luxury car at time of release in 2011, more care was taken with sourcing, assembly and testing.

[1] Compared to other cars that I have owned.


> I've come across multiple examples of chabuduo resulting in lower quality at zero cost savings. A good example is the construction of a shower. It doesn't cost anything more to make sure the floor is sloped towards the drain. But it often isn't.

It actually does cost more, because it takes slightly more time.

Making the floor level means you can simply use a 2m long aluminium square tube[1] or similar makeshift tool when floating/finishing the bare floor (before tiles are put on) and simply sweep it across, and depending on the resin/concrete you are using, it might even self-level[2]. To make level-ish floors there's plenty of tools and plenty of quick methods.

To make a floor with a particular lowest-point takes more work because now you have a large curve to create in the floor and no simple tool that you can sweep across in a few attempts.

[1] I use the tube because it's light and easy to manhandle over the entire floor.

[2] When I needed a level floor in a room (pulled out the carpeting and the floor was too uneven for laminated wood), it took only 15m to pour the self-leveling resin in, sweep it over, and leave it overnight. When I built a shower floor, it took me about five hours from start to finish with a concrete mix to get an acceptable curve in the floor. Of course, it was the only time that I attempt to put a floor in a shower, so I may have spent more time getting it right than was necessary.


You’re overthinking it.

The drain is at the right level. The wall is at a higher level. A piece of wood to roughly make sure it’s an straight line would get you 90% of the way there.

They don’t even do that.


> You’re overthinking it.

I probably was; it was the first time I was doing that and I didn't want to have to redo it.


It's an economic issue associated with stage of development. Remember the joke from Back to the Future.

Doc Brown (1955): "No wonder this circuit failed, it says made in Japan."


A post on Shanzhai for those not familiar:

https://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=284


I'd like to nitpick that the song he linked is by MC HotDog from Taiwan, home to semiconductor fabs which produce some of the most precise manufacturing in the world.


Just adding color – the article is quite short.

Taiwan has its fair share of Chabuduo "culture" – you hear it all the time. TSMC and other high precision firms exist, and Taiwan markets itself as being able to handle this better than other alternatives (Taiwanese Foxconn is named HON HAI PRECISION, for example). But, if you see a major accident on the news, etc, people may joke that it's "chabuduo culture" at work.


Where as in my world we have fake doors and minimal variable products.

Let’s not mix up culture with something that is just business strategy driven by incentives and opportunities.


If only we could practice cha bu duo when paying as well :)


I guess you sort of can... there’s a specific market serving the most Cha Bu Duo watch replicas in the world (far as I can tell) and you do pay far, far less for a product that is so close to the original, even at a mechanical level, that takes an expert to differentiate


I hihgly recommend book Poorly made in China, which describes Chinese companies culture in regard to manufacturing products, I can confirm this applies everywhere across other companies even in IT by my 5+ years exprience living there.

https://www.pdfdrive.com/poorly-made-in-china-an-insiders-ac...


Mianzi is far from being Chinese. I suffer from it, and I'm sure a vast majority of people do too. It's probably a core issue in adult relationships where you exchange responsibilities for survival, thus often want to appear on top of whatever from the start to avoid looking dumb and stay relevant. Which means if you can't solve the issue .. you have to crack that false image. Social backpedaling is costly.


We have a similar expression in New Zealand: "she'll be right".

Expresses the belief that "whatever is wrong will right itself with time", which is considered to be either an optimistic or apathetic outlook.


Bad advice. You need to “get the factory pregnant”—force them into debt to take a promised order. Complaining isn’t leverage enough.


I sometimes wonder what kind of cultural difficulties Chinese companies face when they start operating in "The west"

Perhaps not getting the results they want because they don't phrase issues bluntly enough (pure speculation on my part)?


Most problems for conglomerates begin and end with product market fit. China has this issue much worse than other countries, because the protectionism in its home market means that there has been a lot of companies that offer totally different types of services, which aren't attractive to non-Chinese consumers.

(This isn't just a Chinese thing, Western companies often fail to enter China for much the same reason, Walmart China has struggled for years since Chinese consumers are not fundamentally interested in a big-box supermarket.)


Chinese consumers are not fundamentally interested in a big-box supermarket

are they really not interested, or are they just not used to it, and it takes time to become familiar?

china has a very homogeneous culture. foreign elements remain obviously foreign until they manage to adapt and become attractive.


Walmart has been there for decades now (since 1996) and has generally not done well.

In general, the big box format does not make a whole lot of sense for a country that primarily lives in apartments and thus doesn’t buy in bulk. Chinese mostly shop at wet markets and smaller supermarkets, or they do online grocery shopping.


Walmart may be doing poorly, but Carrefour(French version of Walmart) is doing much better. There are also local alternatives, so it's not the concept behind Walmart that doesn't work, it's Walmart itself that has failed.


Carrefour had lower retail market share than Walmart. It also sold 80% of its Chinese operations in 2019.

A big thing with Carrefour is that it also operates convenience stores, which are very much not big box stores, and which Walmart doesn‘t really do or do well. https://daxueconsulting.com/carrefour-in-china/


but they are still there, so they can't be doing that bad.

you are right of course. but it's not just the chinese. smaller supermarkets are the norm in germany and austria as well for example. bulk shopping doesn't happen there either. but coming from that culture, i see the primary benefit of the big-box format that they have a lot more variety and choice of products. and if there is one thing chinese like, it is seeing a wealth of options.


Eh, sales numbers and profits keep declining.

> Last year, Walmart dropped to China’s fourth-largest operator of hypermarkets, from second-largest a decade ago, according to market researcher Euromonitor International. Sales at all Chinese hypermarkets shrank an average 3% a year from 2016 through 2020, according to a report by management consultancy Bain & Co. and Kantar Worldpanel, a consumer research firm. Over the same period, the report said, e-commerce sales in China rose 32% a year on a compound basis.

As far as a wealth of options:

> Today, when Mr. Zhang needs household staples, he turns to Freshippo supermarkets, owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. He said he enjoys frequenting Freshippo because its offerings and layout are refreshed often. Part of the appeal is rapid home delivery. The supermarket can deliver orders in less than 30 minutes.

> "Going to a Walmart just isn’t exciting," said Mr. Zhang, a sales and marketing director. "They rarely change their layout or refresh their product offerings. You always know you’ll get the 330 ml. Coca-Cola there, but never the latest Cherry Coke flavor, or the popular fizzy drink trending on social media."

https://www.foxbusiness.com/retail/walmart-consumer-china.am...

At this point, Walmart China feels more like a “strategic” (read: FOMO) decision than anything that makes sense long-term.

> "It’s been a regular part of [Walmart’s] cadence to be there to understand what’s happening," Mr. Berke said. "Historically, it’s been, ‘This is the biggest retail market in the world and its growth has far outpaced any other. How can we participate, and be part of all that growth?’"


Interesting.

Do you know of any examples of such services that would only be attractive for Chinese customers?

I'd guess these would mostly not relate to physical products but services that somehow interact with Chinese bureaucracy?


I think a pretty good example would be WeChat.

There was a whole bunch of talk about how WeChat style super apps would take over the West. (WeChat in China is not just messaging, it’s payments, food delivery, ride hailing, ID, Facebook-style update sharer, Yelp, etc.)

Attempts to break into the US have been lackluster because US consumers do not want one mega-app. Facebook even tried doing this itself with Messenger and it fizzled out. In particular, people are not super interested in QR based WeChat pay; it’s a vendor locked system that arose out of a lack of sophisticated or common banking payments infrastructure, but in the US that’s not the case, and you’re more likely to see credit cards and people paying with smartphone wallets at payment terminals.


From my personal experience with wife (CN citizen) working recently for Chinese company I can tell you many of these companies not realize they are already outside China in very different enviroment, they still treat employees as if they were in China (pay low, expect unpaid overtime, think everyone is easily replacable), break labor code, etc. Wife just left one she just recently joined and told her not ever try Chinese company here in EU, it's just waste of time after my experiences with Chinese companies in China and this just confirming they are behaving same here.


I think this describes many products on Amazon, Alibaba, eBay shipped directly from China and also resold by US small businesses/online resellers. Sometimes it’s fine. Other times not.

I purchased replacement foot peg for my Suzuki. They look exactly the same, but are in fact maybe 90% smaller. Same proportion, but just smaller.

Not so good was an emergency/travel wrench for my rear axel which was 1mm bigger than the spec. That bolt is $35 and rounding it off and fracking up the whole axel is not acceptable.


Seems to me if you expected a specific item within a specific tolerance and received said item outside of that tolerance, you could then negotiate a lesser payment calculated by being a percentage equal to the difference in tolerance. So ultimately it would equal out by over engineering/over speccing the item to end up with a product within tolerance. Of course if they protest the price difference, well then... 'Cha Bu Duo', right?


5,8mm or 5,75mm bullet? 5,8mm or 5,9mm barrel? Recent video test of Chinese new QBZ-191 shows that something is wrong with the rifle and it won't even spin the bullet. Probably result of Cha Bu Duo

https://www.reddit.com/r/Chinesium/comments/wcrxad/brandnew_...


It's called simunitions / training rounds with underpowered powder loads. Notice the low penetration on the cinder blocks behind that would shatter using normal rounds that would also ricochet dangerously in enclosed CQC training spaces. Racist dummies at /r/chinesium thinks NORINCO doesn't know how to make a rifle when their decades of exports models that shoots fine.


My cynical take on this is that they are manufacturing in China to save as much money as possible, and the manufacturer, even though he is in China, still has small margins, since he is occupying this resource-constrained part of the market. So he tries to fulfill orders with less precision because its much faster and more likely to actually result in a profit.

That's not a cultural issue, that's because you are so cheap.

Similar to the way people will try to outsource software projects to India for ridiculously small budgets, then claim there is something wrong with Indian culture when they get software that barely works.

So, unfortunately, it seems as though the cheapest business people are also often the most racist.


>As far back as 1924, the Chinese philosopher, essayist and diplomat Hu Shih wrote a piece on “Cha Bu Duo” as a way of protesting against the attitude, which he felt was hurting China as a nation.

Fast, cheap, good. Pick two.

Deng wanted poor China to develop fast. So ChaBuDuo.

The Life of Mr. Cha Buduo was an essay on the inability to adapt to modernization. Modern Chinese ChaBuDuo culture is the maximal embrace of it for specific development goals. ChaBuDuo culture can be reigned in if the government really wanted to i.e. Chinese aviation safety used to be dismal, now it's one of the safest in the world. Same with high speed rail safety after the very public Wenzhou train crash (2022 bad year for both though).

People need to understand: good enough + Chinese population means = enough occasional, actually good outcomes to reach global competitiveness in ways that matter, fast. Central government wants to incentivize innovation and research -> so huge Chinese population starts spamming garbage to ChaBuDuo tier patents and research papers. Occasionally the system produces 1 good patent or paper out of 100. But volume is so high that 1/100 is good enough to be near competitive. Refine quality to 2/100 to reach parity. Refine to 3/100 and China becomes industrial leader. It's not hard to go from 1-3/100 in a short span of time when you have a massive labour force spamming its way into maturity. This is how China went from having poor academic research capacity into leading research many key fields in the last few years. Chabuduo manufacturing with Chinese population means plastic hangers to iPhones in 10 years. Chabuduo construction means enviable transportation systems, tier1 cities from fishing villages, and ghost cities that eventually gets filled by the hundreds of millions still waiting to be urbanized. Perfect is the enemy of fast developement. So China ChaBuDuos until there's enough base to focus on "quality development".

On the matter of PRC chabuduo manufacturing - as others have stated, there are now plenty of fast + good options in China, it just won't be cheap. Ultimately it's a testament of Chinese supply chain and industrial prowess to have so much fast + cheap options, a lever most countries don't even have. One assumes there's some sort of competitive / quality advantage for western firms that survived outsourcing. Though sometimes it's market distortions like guaranteed government contracts in which case it's not even pick two categories, but pick one - usually good, but slow and expensive. One category I follow is gun optics, how fast Chinese companies like Holosun are closing in on the field while EOTECH fat on gov contracts have been stagnating for years, with drama of delivering defective sights. A few Chinese iterations and they might be neither good, nor cheap, nor fast. Incidentally, the source of geopolitical anxiety over Made in China 2025 / PRC establishing indigenous high tech industries.

Finally, consider how much chabuduo shit there are in western domestic service economy, one sector where there's options at every price point and generally, you get what you pay for. Everyone chabudos, China just has a massive industrial and manufacturing base that can chabuduo with making widgets as well.


This attitude can be found anywhere in the world.


As someone who has lived several years in China, it most definitely cannot be found. In some places maybe, but not anywhere or at least not in the same magnitude.

This article may simplify it too much and fail to explain it properly but the "cha bu duo" really is part of every single thing in every day life within Chinese society. It's how people cook their food, it's how delivery services function, it's the promises that are given to other people and it's also how the manufacturing works etc. And it's definitely much more common in China than elsewhere. Also it's not always a negative thing, although most western people would definitely think it is in most cases.


So in other parts of the world services are subpar and people lie to you about how they put in all that effort or blame someone else, then you foolishly forgive them for trying but failing due to incompetence or bad luck.

When the services are equally subpar but people are actually honest about not giving a fly and just making a living, you feel that that country doesn’t have the right attitude.

It’s funny how communication/presentation matters. Consumers want providers to at least pretend they like them and gave a 100% for their money.


No, it can't be found to such extent almost anywhere in Europe (it's quite rare), maybe in in (lazy/poor) South Europe, but it's prevalent in Southeast Asia to same/similar extent as in China, by my experiences Laos is beating even in China in chabuduo approach to everything, which is reason why they are developing at such pace compared to their neighbors.


Ever renovated a house? These people only ever aim for good enough.

To someone with any standards regarding materials and construction, most IKEA products are basically crap.

Hairdressers, chefs, drivers, 95% of the world don’t operate in an exact sciences mode. We can get mad at all of them for not having enough responsibility and passion for their craft.


Yes, they just last month installed new pipes for my AC instead of faulty pumps (never ever use AC to pump water from AC, lived in many places, this is only time i had problem with AC thanks to effin pumps, year ago 1/3 died, this june 3/3 died including the new one, I guess it had to be overvoltage), despite my very laidback approach to look/design they took their time* to make it look nicer than required, but it was still below estimated price and they didn't realy waste any time under my supervision.

* Solution to "good enough" issue is called _pay per hour_ instead _pay per task/project_. Hourly payment motivates worker to make it perfect without rushing, task payment motivates him to finish ASAP regardless of delivered quality. Obviously there are exemptions, but it sums up chabuduo approach. Obviously in poor countries (e.g. China) with low hourly pay it won't make that much difference.


For example, most of the software industry…


Isn't this exactly the same approach as the majority of the Software industry ?


What is hard to understand about "minimum standards". It's a floor not a "get close to"


Yeah, we invented them for much the same reason as minimum wages and environmental law.

You shouldn't be surprised when you specifically go out of your way to find the cheapest factory to avoid paying non-slave wages that ignores what little laws for protection of workers and nearby residents that china has that they also ignore your spec.




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