The life of a consumer in China is akin to walking blind through a minefield; always fearful that your next purchase may contain hidden dangers. If you enter the words “product safety China” into Google, it will return more than 150 million results. Seldom does a day pass in China without product safety issues making headlines in the news and on social media. Yet, while consumers in China are more aware than ever that each purchase decision is fraught with potential hidden dangers, they are left feeling hopeless, lacking an independent expert reference to identify safe, quality products.
I speak from firsthand experience as a local consumer, coming to China in 1996 and making it my home in 1998. The first 14 years of my career were spent in manufacturing, working for major producers either directly or as a management consultant. I have worked with the automotive, home appliance, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), electronics, and food industries spending time in production facilities throughout China addressing product quality issues.
In the summer of 2009, my Chinese wife was pregnant with our first child. As with many new couples in China, that meant purchasing and renovating an apartment, buying our first car, and stocking up on baby stuff; all products with huge potential health and safety risks to our unborn child. We did extensive research in Chinese and were unable to find any independent expert sources of information we could rely upon to identify safe, quality products. Speaking with friends and family, we realized that we were not alone. We conducted market research in five major Chinese cities and confirmed that consumers across the country were struggling with the same issues and frustrations.
Born and raised in the United States, I grew up with Consumer Reports and the invaluable contribution to American consumers of independent expert advice on products and services. Knowing there was a better way, my wife and I agreed that consumers in China deserved such a service, and together started MingJian.
Registered on World Consumer Rights Day, March 15, 2010, MingJian (消费明鉴) is a social enterprise dedicated to helping consumers in China make informed purchase decisions and get the best value for their money by providing independent, expert research and testing of products. Our test results and buying advice are disseminated online via our website and our soon-to-be-released mobile app and print publication. In the same spirit as Consumer Reports, we act exclusively in the consumer interest, independent of manufacturers, and do not accept advertisements. All of the products are purchased at authorized retailers by “mystery shoppers” (consumers just like you) and subjected to rigorous scientific testing in laboratories.
We initially started testing baby products and have since expanded coverage to include electronics and personal care. We not only identify the best products and value, but also inform consumers about dangerous or poor performing products they should avoid. For example, we have tested children’s car seats that broke free from their mount and flew through the vehicle in crash tests and uncovered a compact underwater camera whose screen cracked under pressure.
To date, we have tested more than 2,500 products across dozens of product categories. To ensure that we provide consumers in China with the highest level of testing available globally, we partnered with the world’s leading consumer organizations to conduct joint comparative testing. MingJian is the China member of International Consumer Research and Testing (ICRT), the only independent international organization for consumer research and testing with members, including Consumer Reports, found across 36 countries. ICRT brings together the combined expertise of nearly 6,000 comparative testing professionals, with all products tested in top laboratories in Europe and the United States.
Expert comparative testing has three primary social impacts. First and foremost, is the improvement in the lives of consumers, as the increased transparency of product performance directs consumers to safe, quality products. Consumer selection raises the overall level of product quality and safety as manufacturers respond to market forces and unsafe products are avoided. As the world’s largest manufacturer of consumer products, the improvements in product quality and safety in China benefit the lives of consumers globally, wherever Chinese products are sold.
Second are the positive environmental impacts. Tests for hazardous materials are an integral part of our testing methodology, including many types of known carcinogenic materials. Downgrading products containing hazardous substances has led manufacturers to phase out their use in production, even ahead of new regulations.
Third are the incremental jobs created for manufacturers of high-quality products. Independent objective testing of product performance increases demand for safe, healthy, quality goods and services. This both creates new export opportunities for Chinese manufacturers in global markets as well as increasing the import opportunities of high quality global products into the China market.