Today, thousands of ships are criss-crossing the globe filled to the brim with products made in China.
Today, thousands of ships are criss-crossing the globe filled to the brim with products made in China. Alina Demidenko

Heirloom's origin no longer so exotic

Folks, one heirloom my mother is trying to fob off to her offspring is a large cabinet that was made in China before World War II.

It's hard to explain to young people today just how exotic something made in China was when I was a lad.

It wasn't that long ago China was a destination hardly anybody could get into and practically nobody could get out of.

The communist nation was hidden behind the Bamboo Curtain.

At the time, Russia lay behind the Iron Curtain while here in Australia we were riding on the sheep's back.

Anyway, back then, China's chief exports were propaganda and political refugees.

Half-starved folk who arrived on our shores with a couple of small bags, wide smiles on their dials and an extreme willingness to work 50 hours a day to show their gratitude. So, when visitors came to our home we would show them the cabinet made in China and they'd make the appropriate noises of appreciation.

Furniture from the Forbidden ex-Kingdom was a rarity. I don't know when things changed, but at some point in the past 20 years the words Made in China started replacing the words Made in Japan.

Try telling kids today that the term Made in Japan was seen by wily shoppers as code for cheap, unreliable garbage. Stuff that broke quicker than a cheap chair under a Sumo wrestler.

If you wanted merchandise of quality, that would last a lifetime, you bought Australian or British made products.

Sadly, Australian consumers didn't want slightly dearer Aussie-made transistor radios, stereos, TVs, cars, mowers or washing machines that lasted forever.

Today, even the Japanese are getting their stuff made in China. Thousands of ships are criss-crossing the globe filled to the brim with Chinese junk and, as a result, the value of Mum's genuine, antique Chinese cabinet has plummeted like a shot Peking duck.

Still, one way of increasing its value a hundredfold would be to print the words Made in Australia on it.

Which is what I'll do as soon as the stamp and ink arrives from China.


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