China Wants to Boost Its Ballpoint Pen Game
This month, at a seminar in Beijing, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that Chinese pens felt "rough" compared to those made in Japan, Germany and Switzerland, and added that China's manufacturers should focus on innovating their technologies.
According to Marketplace, this wasn't the first time Chinese officials, namely Li, complained about the quality of China's ballpoint pens. Last year, the state-run television outlet CCTV broadcasted an hour-long program on the topic, where three CEOs from successful Chinese manufacturers answered questions regarding the country's pen output.
Qiu Zhiming, president of the BEIFA Group Co., Zhejiang, China, said at the event that the pens' stainless steel balls and their casings are imported from Japan, Germany or Switzerland. He added that only Switzerland has machines with the required precision to make high-quality ballpoint pen tips.
Jim McGregor, chairman of the greater China region of of APCO Worldwide, an international communications and consulting agency, told Marketplace that he thinks Li is sending a message to Chinese manufacturers that making cheap pens is no longer acceptable.
Huang Xingua, president of Shanghai-based Platinum Pen, added that he believes many manufacturers make products for Chinese consumers, who he said are focused more on price than quality.
"We click the pens that'll be sold in China only once, because Chinese consumers are more price-conscious," he told Marketplace. "The pens that'll be exported to Japan? We click them twice. They'll pay 20 cents more for a better pen."
He added that thanks to Li's demand for higher-quality writing instruments, manufacturers can change their focus from quantity to quality.
"In the past, the government praised the big companies that export the most and have the biggest profits," Huang told Marketplace. "They seldom praise the companies that truly make good quality pens."