Confused Japanese consumers want an answer: Where is P.R.C.?

By Scott R Dixon

In today’s globalized economy, it’s perfectly normal to be wearing shoes made in Malaysia, listening to an American pop star on a Korean smartphone while driving a German car fitted with Japanese tires. But how many times have you taken a good look to find out where those new jeans or those headphones you got for Christmas were really made?

Recently Japanese consumers have been discovering that some of their products are from “P.R.C.,” a country they had never heard of, and would like some answers on what appears to be a legal gray zone in product labeling regulations.

A linguistic loophole of sorts has been allowing some products produced in China to be labeled in English as “Made in P.R.C.” Referring to China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China, the label is accused by some consumer advocates as being misleading. They say it’s a disingenuous attempt to rebrand the country after a series of food scandals tainted the image of Chinese-made goods around the world.

Typically in Japan, goods from China are labeled 中国産 ("chugokusan"), literally meaning “produce of China”. But some Chinese manufacturers seem to be piggybacking off the more commonly seen wording for products in Japan from the United States of America — Made in U.S.A. These Chinese manufacturers could argue that, just like “U.S.A.,” they have every right to use the abbreviation of their country’s official name, in English, when identifying where their products come from.

The practice of using the English abbreviation of a country’s official name is not unheard of, like these tires from Taiwan stamped with its formal name — Republic of China.

According to Harumi Hori, a corporate lawyer in Tokyo, the proliferation of goods with the “Made in P.R.C.” really started sometime after January 2008 when frozen packaged gyoza dumplings from China were recalled amidst a food poisoning scare. The “new” label may have been made to appeal to Japanese consumers who were starting to avoid all products coming out of China.

Although safety regulators in Japan require food manufacturers to clearly label the country of origins of all food in Japanese, other products do not fall under the same regulation. And since P.R.C. is just as legitimate an abbreviation as U.S.A., regulators are hesitant to call the “Made in P.R.C.” label “misleading.” Hori and other consumer advocates would like labeling regulations to be equal across all industries, requiring Japanese to be used when identifying which country made the product in a customer’s hands.

The confusion about the label has caused a number of products on online shopping sites, such as Yahoo! Shopping or Amazon Japan, to be labeled “Made in China,” but “Made in P.R.C.” on the actual physical package and vice versa. When contacted by the Japanese economic newspaper Sankei Shimbun, a company spokespersons said that there are no regulations prohibiting such labeling. The Japanese online retailer Rakuten said that it is the responsibility of the manufacturers themselves to identify where the product is made.

The Consumer Affairs Agency of Japan, which regulates the labeling of products, has said that while consumers may have a “low degree of familiarity” with the term P.R.C., the phrase does not appear to be in violation of the rule that prohibits misleading wording about a product’s origin. Consumers trying to avoid Chinese-made goods are now trying to increase awareness that a product made in “P.R.C.” is actually from China.

Are Japanese consumers overreacting to something they should have perhaps learned in middle school social studies class? Or are Chinese manufacturers just trolling the China haters? Without a clear judgement from regulators on whether product labels can use the abbreviation of a country’s formal, but not as commonly known, name, the “Made in P.R.C.” label seems like it is here to stay.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News

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China = PRC Taiwan = ROC

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I can't believe that this is an issue. a simple internet search reveals the "secret"

2 ( +8 / -6 )

Oh, the little things confuse a literate citizen of a leading industrial country.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Don't know about China, but I used to own a jacket purchased in Japan labelled (in Japanese) 朝鮮民主主義共和国産 (Made in the Korean People's Democratic Republic). Apparently it was produced in one of those special export zones, and was very warm and good value for money. Such exports have become rarities in Japan but when it comes to cold-weather gear, I've got to give them credit for making pretty good stuff.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Haha too funny I guess some Japanese REALLY are easily confused LOL!!!!

0 ( +6 / -6 )

A similar thing happened after the war with American troops stationed in Japan. They refused to buy locally-made clothing due to its perceived inferior quality.

Some enterprising chap established a sweatshop/factory in the town of Usa, Oita prefecture. All the garments were clearly labelled "MADE IN USA".

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Deceptive marketing, pure and simple. I'm sure some of you laughing at this would be perfectly fine with deceptively labeled items using the name of a country in a language you don't speak.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

CNN always feels the need to explain to its US readers that the "DPRK" really means "North Korea".

2 ( +3 / -1 )

More island / bubble ignorance. Seriously, if you don't bother to learn about your neighbors, how will you ever have progress?

1 ( +6 / -5 )

For my uncle and me, PRC means People Republic of California.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

a recent poll of young Japanese, 52% said they didnt know the significance of August 15. !? some didnt even realise Japan had fought a war with America!?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

People's Republic of Chiba.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Fake controversy. If consumers want to know, they can easily find out. Or has the Galapagos effect rendered japanese electronic devices so devoid of functions that it does not have an abbreviation dictionary function?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I once bought a jacket in a Japanese store with the label reading "Made in DPRK." ( Democratic People's Republic of Korea / North Korea ). But I didn't see the label until after I'd bought it. If I had, I don't think I would have bought it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Product (not produce) of China. So what? They will more than likely still buy it if it's cheaply priced.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This is the most specious non-issue.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What the Japanese should do when exporting Food and goods that over 4 Million plus Chinese import every quarter from Japan, is for Japan to re-label their products from "Made in Japan" to "Made in E.O.J." - Empire of Japan.

That should sit well with the Chinese and Koreans that continue to drag World War 2 around like it just happened 7 years ago.

BTW, when has ever a Communist Country ever administered itself as a "Republic"?

The Roman Empire was more democratic than Communist China.

just saying...

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Pandabelle: "Deceptive marketing, pure and simple."

Only to the easily deceived, and insecure. This is just an excuse to gripe at China, plain and simple, and Japan is certainly in NO position to be complaining about 'misleading labeling', given it is pretty much the capital of the world for mislabeling scandals (that they are caught for). What right to they have to dictate what the PRC (that's China, by the way) puts on their labels in English? It's not deceptive or misleading one bit given that PRC is the official name for China. Now, if they bought cat meat from a company called "Pure Beef" and sold it to Japan saying, "We use only Pure Beef in our products" THAT would be intentionally misleading, though it's not a lie, but saying the products were made in the PRC is not. It's the fault of the people who are confused that they're confused, plain and simple.

lucabrasi: "Some enterprising chap established a sweatshop/factory in the town of Usa, Oita prefecture. All the garments were clearly labelled "MADE IN USA"."

Argh! You stole the anecdote I always use! It's a cute story, and they still have signs "Welcome to USA" in English around the station and thereabouts.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

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