Wednesday, December 05, 2012

China and the science of materials

I think I have just encountered a new low in the quality of Chinese design and manufacturing. 

I have complained before about the extraordinary brittleness of most plastic made in this country, rendering items like ice-cube trays and washing-up bowls effectively a one-use only deal because they break so easily. Well, here is an especially egregious example. A few days ago, I bought a pack of eight fruit yoghurts. The supposedly perforated or weakened joints connecting the pots are in fact much stronger than the plastic forming the rest of the pots. Indeed, even the adhesive holding the foil lids on to the tops of the pots is stronger than the body of the pots! Such that when you try to separate two of the pots or to remove one of the lids from a pot, you tend to inadvertently tear the pot in half instead - and thus dump gloops of yoghurt on your kitchen floor. I would not have thought it possible to create something this CRAPPY, but.... this is China.

Maybe it's something to do with the weather. The seemingly robust and well weather-proofed windowframes in the elevator lobby on my landing have suddenly revealed themselves to be hopelessly corroded inside. The one most often opened (by a couple of my elderly neighbours who like to smoke out there) has just had its door-handle latch completely break away from the frame, leaving the window uncloseable.

The building management, with the half-assedness that is unfortunately so characteristic of this country, have sought to remedy this problem by.... sealing the window with sticky tape. Needless to say, this is not a very effective fix. Particularly when there's a north wind blowing in at 20 miles an hour. If they don't fix it properly soon (you know, replace the window with a new one), the temperature in that lobby is going to be sub-zero, and we could get snow accumulating in there.

By strange coincidence (well, probably not such a coincidence: the same crappy windowframes have been used throughout the building), the handle has just broken off my kitchen window in exactly similar fashion. My only consolation is that the window is now jammed shut, rather than left permanently open. Ah, China.


JES said...

Not right away, of course, but a few years down the road, I hope I get to ask you if, in looking back, you felt nostalgic/wistful about anything in China. You generally seem to be a no-regrets kind of fellow, so I wouldn't be surprised if the answer is "No." Still, I can't help wondering what it might be.

Froog said...

The living is easy here. I shall miss being able to get a meal and a beer in a streetside restaurant for just a few bucks. Although, in fact, I already miss that, because cheap restaurants are much thinner on the ground in Beijing these days, and they're not as cheap as they used to be.

There was a vibrancy, and a supportiveness amongst the expat population here when it was still relatively compact 8 or 10 years ago, which is becoming diluted now that there are such huge numbers of foreigners flooding into the country. I made a lot of very good friends here; but most of them have now left again.

Do you remember this post (10 Things To Love About Beijing) or this one (What I like about Chinese culture)?

Froog said...

Oh god, I had another encounter of this sort yesterday: a litre bottle of Coke which was almost impossible to open because the cap was fused solid to the safety collar (if that's what you call the little ring the cap is attached to - usually by a band of plastic frills that are easy-to-break). I eventually had to hack the cap off with a cleaver.

This raises disturbing corollary questions: Was this a fake bottle of Coke? Or is even the Coca-Cola company incapable of maintaining any meaningful quality control in China??