Chinese, cheap and good.

29 Aug

Made in China. You know what images this conjours up. Just like Made in Korea in the ’80’s and Made in Japan in the ’60’s. I get this all the time in the Solar industry; “I don’t want Chinese made panels” they say as if they have a clue. Well let’s take a look at Chinese made gear. First, Apple computers, iPads, iPhones and iPods are made in China. So are Toshiba. Canon, Nikon and Olympus cameras are made in China and so are their lenses. Olympus Zuiko lenses are regarded as some of the best you can get. My early film Olympus SLRs and Zuikos were made in Japan but the digital gear is Chinese and guess what? They are better. The lenses are shorter, lighter, faster, sharper. In the Solar industry, of the top 10 highest rated panels in the world, eight are from China. Our company uses JA Solar monocrystalline panels and they are about the best you can get. Suntech might argue the point but they are Chinese as well.

This little rant came about because of coffee. You see, my last couple of paddle trips were coffee cruises on Lake Macquarie and because my Thermos died and I couldn’t be bothered taking my Trangia to boil water, I was hoping to stop near a cafe and buy a nice Flat White. Well, on each occasion Owen and Anne decided we’d go nowhere near a cafe so I was forced to put on a sad face and get them to make me a coffee from their own supplies. Fortunately, the generosity of this pair is never wanting nor is Owen’s usual offerings of advice. “Buy a bloody Thermos! Aldi have got them for $6”. OK, OK, so I went to Aldi a few days later. No Thermos there but soon picked up a cheapy elsewhere. What I really wanted was a gas burner that could make a cup of coffee without all the rigamarole of the Trangia, something like the MSR Whisperlite but without the stupid price. Of course, eBay is your friend here and a quick search pulled out dozens of tiny gas stoves for various prices. With no idea of whether they were going to be any good and all of them from Hong Kong or China, I shut my eyes and picked one at random. It cost $9 with free postage!! That’s nothing. How could I lose. Even if it were complete rubbish, I get a $9 lesson. It arrived today and it is pretty impressive.

No-name Chinese gas stove with piezo ignition.

This thing is tiny, very well made and comes in a handy orange box to stow in a coffee cup.


So where is the Whisperlite so superior? Why pay $69 for the MSR?


Note the flame. This flame is exactly the same one they use on the MSR. Now, I’m no rocket scientist but I’m pretty sure if I put a teapot on this thing, the water in it will boil and make a splendid cup of coffee in seconds. Piezo electric ignition, too. I’m sure there will be some among you who will be quick to tell me that the piezo ignition will probably fail after a few months in the real world of kayaking. Note the box of matches. I’ve got it covered. I should buy another five of these things before the Chinese middle class starts getting their stuff made in India. Hmm, Beijing Olympics, Delhi Commonwealth games? You be the judge.


Posted by on August 29, 2011 in Paddle Gear


6 responses to “Chinese, cheap and good.

  1. gnarlydog

    August 29, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Dang, this little item could make it in the “hall of cheap” we have going at work.
    My co-workers pride themselves in buying extremely cheap goods on eBay. The winner so far is an iPhone cable delivered for $2.95 while locally would cost $29.95.
    Back to the stove: it looks like a copy of a Japanese stove from Snow Peak.
    Looking at the images it appears that the stamped metal is slightly thinner… hey who cares. The stove works and it might even last.
    And since you mentioned it, this very PC I typing on is all made in China.
    While the Chinese products are never innovative but just copies of established designs the cost of manufacturing those goods is actually negligible.
    China’s cheap goods will only last a few more years to then shift production to India, Vietnam and other countries.
    Is it safe to say: “cheap, good: pick one” no longer applies? 🙂

  2. rjimlad

    August 29, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    I don’t think it’s safe to say that. There’s plenty of cheap junk out there and I guess China is still responsible for a lot of it. I’ve worked with technology all my life and have seen Chinese gear go from junk to the top of the heap. I agree there’s not a lot of technical innovation coming from China at the consumer level but their new tanks and jet fighters are pretty advanced and using their own tech. It might filter down eventually. However, at the moment I have 16 Chinese solar panels on my roof, a Chinese inverter, 6 Chinese Apples, Chinese cameras and even my beloved Volvos are now Chinese. Might be time to buy a Great Wall ute.

  3. corgimascorgimas

    August 30, 2011 at 1:02 am

    can you share a link to this stove on ebay????
    Good winds

  4. Owen Walton

    August 30, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    1.3 plus billion people can’t (always) be wrong!
    Oh and my cheapo Aldi thermos is still working OK.

  5. JohnA

    October 14, 2011 at 9:36 am

    If you really dig into the military hardware, I suspect that you’ll find a fair amount of classified US and European technology in their as well as a few of their own developments. They are good at copying and cutting corners but they’re also very good at intelligence gathering. China has a long history of espionage against their trading partners and they have no compunction about copying technology developed elsewhere for either military or commercial advantage. Patent ? What Patent ?

    I have no issues with the Chinese people or with buying Chinese manufactured goods but we would be naive to think that the Chinese government is not acting to forward their own agenda and powerbase in the long term. And they do think and plan in the very long term. That’s one big advantage to a government of this type, you don’t end up being ruled by a bunch of media obsessed twits who are incapable of, or completely disinterested in, thinking beyond their three year term.

    While politicians are paid to govern for the people and should pay attention to the values and desires of the society they are paid to govern, it’s also important to have leaders rather than followers of the opinion polls and endless focus groups. I want some leaders with a vision for our country and the backbone to make the hard decisions.

    The soap box is now back in the shed and I’m off to buy a cheap stove off ebay :).


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