In the 20 years that followed World War II, the phrase "Made In Japan" was transformed from a synonym for worthlessness into a mark of exceptional quality. More recently, Korea's reputation for quality has likewise turned around: The automaker Hyundai, for example, whose early U.S. offerings were memorably panned by one reviewer as "supremely shoddy," today ranks near the top in quality worldwide. Alas, Asia's real powerhouse, China, has not made similar gains in its culture of quality, despite the nearly three decades that have passed since the Opening in 1978 when Premier Deng Xiaoping led the country to open trade with the outside world. In the area of building products, most of the quality problems I noted in this space five years ago still persist. Items such as cabinet hardware, faucets, and bathroom accessories--many of them destined for your local home improvement center--are beautifully finished and packaged, yet after installation quickly corrode or fall apart. The locks...
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