Know anything about Chinese violins?

May 8, 2011 at 11:00 PM ·

I have been playing a violin bought of Ebay for about 2 years now and I really need a new one. My mum was talking to a violin teacher (not mine) who said that Chinese violins are good value. She said that if you pay $2000 for a Chinese violin the instrument will be of the same quality as if you paid $4000 for a German or French one. Does anyone know if this is true?

I want a violin that will last me the rest of my life and will get me through a Bachelor of Music at Uni. However I don't ever expect to be a famous soloist and I am a student so I do have a bit of a budget. Is there anything I should know? What should I be looking for? And how much should I be expecting to spend?

Replies (90)

May 9, 2011 at 12:58 AM ·

Some of the instruments made in China are a good value, but many are not.  If you look very carefully, and have help from a luthier or a very experienced teacher who really knows how to evaluate violins, you might find a good one for the money.  Don't limit yourself, though- take your time and just try to find the best instrument you can for the money you have, wherever it's from.

May 9, 2011 at 01:00 AM ·

 Having seen some Chinese violins in the $1500-2000 range recently, I have to admit they are a great value. They have really mastered varnishing/antiquing (better than the Germans have EVER accomplished), and the sound is quite good (although Its hard to say what they will sound like in 10 years).

 

Toms' right though, you have to look around. They're not all equal.

May 9, 2011 at 02:27 AM ·

Chinese violins do run a gamut. The best ones are the equal to most of the best contemporary violins made anywhere else. I have several Chinese instruments. I'm selling 2 in the 2-3K range that are very good student instruments or good 2nd fiddles for a pro for outdoor use, etc. I have a Chinese ornamneted copy of the "Hellier" Strad that sounds good and looks gorgeous - not for sale! Then I have a plainer-looking, but better-sounding violin made by Peter Lam, originally from Hong-Kong, but made in New York, which I will sell. That won't come cheap, but I'll give the best price I can, if anyone is interested.

May 9, 2011 at 03:23 AM ·

 Please don't think that just because you are on a budget that you need to go for a Chinese instrument! Take a look around this site! http://www.violinslover.com/ You can get a Maestro violin for $1,500US, less if you have your own bow! I have the Gliga Gems 2 and I LOVE it! I have had numerous people try it and give me their opinion, and everyone loves it! The luthier that I took it to, to get setup, told me that it is a VERY well made instrument!

IMO, you would be better off getting a solid Romanian instrument then taking your chances on a Chinese one. 

Just my two cents.

Tammy

May 9, 2011 at 03:32 AM ·

Tammy: Why do you think Romanian violins are inherently better than Chinese violins?

Katisha:  When you check out violins in the shop, try as many as you can in all price ranges, and base your decision on the best sound/playability/workmanship (depending on your priority) that you can afford, regardless of the origin.

May 9, 2011 at 09:04 AM ·

 Tammy: most of the supposed to be "Romanian violins" are indeed chinese ones, bought in the white and varnished in Romania.

May 9, 2011 at 09:44 AM ·

 Hi Katisha,

I'm thinking that you don't have a lot in the way of violin sellers in Innisfail.  Simmers Violins in Brisbane seem to be a reputable and well recognised shop with probably good information.  Could you do a weekend trip or something and get the opportunity to play your heart out on a stack of theirs and anyone else's so you can compare.

I have a chinese Yita violin, sight unseen off ebay, just for me to test out the dimensions really.   I got it via auction, not buy it now, and it cost, all up, with me adding eudoxa strings, new aubert bridge fitted by luthier, & planetary perfection geared pegs - $200.00.  but it certainly doesn't sound like crap, its really easy to play also.

My luthier, from whom I purchased a Slovakian instrument for $3500 was stunned - as he said, the european wood in the yita would have cost him at least $400.00, that was only the plates and ribs.  And no construction.  He didn't like 'the look' of the instrument but examined it and said there was nothing wrong with the construction.  and that it would be impossible for a 'regular' maker to compete at that price.  this yita is one of the middle range a T19, they aslo do a better range.  If nothing else, the company appears to be very serious about its customer relations, but of course you have no way of trying it out first to see if you like it. unless you go to Shanghai and visit the factory (another vcom member did that, he played last year in the community orchestra I'm in, good violin).

Now, I much prefer the look and the sound of the Slovakian, but I rdon't believe that it is X dollars better than the Yita.  I am presently doing Grade 8 AMEB studies, and the instrument is well able to handle it, any problems are mine not it.  

So, yes chinese instruments can be as good, their luthiers do really appear to know what they are doing.  Most of the instruments you'll find new in the 'advanced student' range in Aus are going to be Chinese, whether their names sound like it or not.  I have met up with the Gliga's also, but unlike others I didn't like them they sounded flat ( as in unlively) or something.

May 10, 2011 at 12:26 PM ·

I recently bought a chinese baroque violin.  The luthier slipped it in there with the others I was trying and didn't tell me that it was chinese otherwise he knew I wouldn't touch it.  It turns out it was the best of the bunch and it came in at 1/4 the price I was willing to spend.  Other pros can't believe how good it sounds either.  I'm happy with my purchase although it's not the best violin in the world and will probably buy an even better one in the long run.  They're worth taking a chance on but I would suggest that you have a pro test it out for you rather than committing to it on your own opinion, especially if you want it to last through university.

May 10, 2011 at 01:03 PM ·

 this chinese violin talk reminds me very much of the asian car imports.  when the japanese first came to the states with little sporty models, no one takes them seriously.  then the japanese dominated higher end with quality, such as lexus.  

then came the korean cars.  one brand is currently leading the customer satisfaction, putting the germans and the japanese in check.   i still cannot see myself driving in a hyundae, but their high marks in quality is the best answer to my bias.

competition is good because consumers are the ones to benefit from it. that is the way it should be in a global economy.  if i am a non chinese maker, i will be worried because there will be worse pricing pressure down the road.  i have to make a decision; if i stay, i have to make it better and cheaper.  my preaching of the good old days will fall on deaf ears.  

no one starts a business to self destroy so the it is to chinese makers' interest to improve with time.  

May 10, 2011 at 07:35 PM ·

 al ku wrote: "if i am a non chinese maker, i will be worried because there will be worse pricing pressure down the road.  i have to make a decision; if i stay, i have to make it better and cheaper."

Hummm....  ... first, there is a difference betwen a Chinese maker working in China and a Chinese maker working in the free world.  If the Chinese maker is working in a first world country (and there are many in this situation) he will pay lots of taxes, a lot for living, for food, services, etc. and, eventually, the prices of his instruments will be about the same of the market in the free world. And it seems this is already the case.

As far as makers living in China, I don't have information about the level of training and the access to good instruments and players they have there, but the offer may be very very scarce.  In order to make good instruments you have to have a close contact with good musicians, good instruments, good strings, good supplies, and all these things eventually depends on tradition, and China is a very "new country" in terms of violin making. There are no decent Chinese strings in the market, for instance.  And, as far as I know, top players living in the free world are playing non Chinese instruments.

You have mentioned Japanese sports cars. Well, I think that European and North American sports cars are comparatevely much more expensive now than they were 30 years ago, the competition made them more expensive, more exclusive. Most of our clothes are made in factories today but if you need a custom made suit you will pay much more for it than 30 years ago. The same for good mechanic watches, the good ones are much more expensive now than 30 years ago.  

So, basic products may get cheaper with competition, but top, sophisticated products may get much more expensive, and that will be the case with bench made violins.  But I may be wrong.

www.manfio.com
 

May 10, 2011 at 08:04 PM ·

Hi all,

I have a chinese violin (a Wang), and I am satisified.

However, I am not sure it's a good idea to talk about "chinese violins" in general. China is a very big country, with a lot of people (of course!), and therefore a lot of violin makers! And as in France, Germany or Italy, if some of them make good violins, not all of them. So, I think that the advice "buy a chinese violin" is risky if you don't know exactly what you're doing and who made the violin!

But on this forum, as well as other website, you will find a lot of infos about good chinese violin makers, such as: Zhu, Cao, Wang,...

I think that you should better ask something like: "Is a Zhu 909 a good violin for the price?"

Sylvain

May 10, 2011 at 08:33 PM ·

@ Luis Claudio Manfio,

I agree; there will always be more options clustered around a more common mass, and a narrowing field at the higher end. Better violins in the advancing and advanced arena do not necessarily affect those at the top.

@ Sylvain,

Excellent point! There are some good Chinese fiddles out there, but there are also a lot of cheap fiddles and a lot of VSOs.
NOTE: a VSO is a Violin Shaped Object; looks like a violin, but plays like kite string on a cigar box.

 

I think there are some good Chinese violins, I have one that I think is very good for the price. If I had the opportunity to buy one from a number of American makers, or one with good provence, I would do so in a heartbeat; until then, my budget dictates Chinese. I did not take anything away from an American or European maker with this purchase, because it was this or nothing. I would have stayed with my old fiddle. I think what the Chinese are bringing into the market with their better fiddles is actually more players able to play on a reasonable instrument, and this will probably cause a resultant INCREASE in the better fiddles by domestic makers.

May 10, 2011 at 08:42 PM ·

Yes, eventually high end instruments will get more expensive... A maker living in Italy in the 60 would sell a violin to England and would live 6 months with the money, this scenario is gone....  Many makers that are considered top makers today were considered just middle makers when they were alive and they would not survive todays market, makers like Rocca (he was declared legally poor), Scarampella, most of the Milanese, Napolitan, etc.  would not survive in today's market. 

www.manfio.com  

May 10, 2011 at 11:19 PM ·

 luis, you are a fine maker, more viola maker than violin maker as i understand.  if you say you do not feel pricing pressure from mid tier instruments from china (i consider yours higher end), then i just have to take your word for it.  

marina as i understand is a fine player with super training and therefore i presume super ears.  in a blinded testing, she picked out a chinese instrument.   i don't know about the pricing but i venture to guess it is in the thousands, not tens of thousands.  

if i am looking at this scene as an investor playing with monopoly money,  i speculate a setup where one day chinese made violins priced in the thousands will compete head to head against violins in the tens of thousands.    i don't think this match up will affect strads and others in the untouchable class, but my feeling is that it will affect others below the top top tier.

as we all know, people like you and burgess are rare...you make a living purely on making your own new violins.  others will mix self making and selling some existing models from others.

in that setup, i see the entrepreneur offering a range, including chinese violins which can probably move faster due to the pricing.  IF the chinese mid tier quality improves,  then the market share will change in that direction.   if players like marina decides that a good sounding violin can be acquired at x dollars, then the market for similar sounding violins priced at 10x will shrink quickly, aka, they will sit on the shelves much longer.

i think the violin knowledge and training is a very fluid situation given the global economy.  ideas can be acquired very easily.  the bottom line is that the labor cost is still significantly cheaper in china and the infrastructure inside china is pro business.  

many asian countries' national soccer teams are coached by top coaches from the west.  japan for example in the recent past is coached by a great brazilian (zico?)

what is stopping the chinese businessmen of violins of paying some italian artisans to live and teach in china?

May 11, 2011 at 12:06 AM ·

May 11, 2011 at 02:13 PM ·

The latest figures I've seen show that over 600,000 violins each year come into the US directly or indirectly from China. So when one talks about Chinese violin quality, it runs quite a range. There are very small shops in China where two or three makers might produce violins that are excellent in most ways, but I suspect the discussion here is really focused more on the low end of the market.

At the very bottom are ebay specials, which are basically throw-aways. In other words, when it is time to put on new fingerboards, pegs, bridges, etc., it is cheaper to buy a new one than to repair the original.

In the next few levels up, Chinese violins can look very impressive on the outside for the price. It's only when you take the top off that the true story is revealed. Uneven graduations, clunky liners, poorly-fitting blocks, soundposts in name only, and bass bars like fallen timbers are the norm. Neck settings are often the most problematic point I see. It is a repairman's nightmare.

If you get a good violin in this range, it is probably because the American importer has removed and replaced the pegs and fingerboard. The top will be regraduated (and sometimes the back), and the bass bar trimmed or replaced if needed. The work of a reputable shop can be extensive, and often the growing reputation of Chinese violins is due to the extra work done here or sometimes in Europe.

This game will end soon if the dollar keeps weakening against the Yuan and if inflation or labor costs in China continue to rise (as they have been). In that case, the bargain violin becomes less of a bargain and the factories will have to produce instruments of higher quality if they want to stay in business.

May 11, 2011 at 02:33 PM ·

 robert, i am not sure where you got the 600k figure, but i appreciate hard fact like that and trust your source.

in contrast,  when you go into talking about a better sounding violin from china probably got regraduated by an american shop,  it is a very bold statement but i do not see you back it up with any stats.  there is a difference between predominantly regraduated vs predominantly untouched.   we need to get a better sense before we can appreciate the generalization.

i think it is sad that american shops have to open up chinese violins to do addn work. HAS THE PRIDE GONE WITH THE WIND?  the chinese violins being inferior is not my point, but the american shops being unable to make the products from scratch anymore and later complaining about the whole thing is.   

i think it is sad that some american businessmen (now probably more chinese businessmen learn the same trick and start selling more directly into the usa) can buy container loads of crappy violins and dump into the american consumer market.  the american businessmen went into china and sourced the products and agreed on price and quality before the shipment came over.  they decidedly buy crap because they believe most americans will fall for it.   for every person coming to v.com to complain, one thousand others will be sold and the crappiness accepted because it is cheap.  

it is also sad that no one in america can do anything about it.  no one in america will even attempt or be logistically capable of mass producing cheap violins.    

challenge for the good luthiers: taking into consideration of labor and materials, give us some idea what 99 dollars can buy violin wise from your hands.  15 mins into shaving the wood? :)  

May 11, 2011 at 02:53 PM ·

Here in South Florida, $99 will buy you a 45 minute massage or a nice dinner in a fancy restaurant provided you don't choose a too expensive bottle of wine. I freak out at even the possibility of being about to buy a fiddle for that price. NOT SAYING THAT ANYONE SHOULD GO OUT AND DO IT!!! 

May 11, 2011 at 02:56 PM ·

dude, after seeing your demo, i might just as well go out to buy one! :)

but black varnish is the deal breaker.  I want emperor yellow or china red or something:>)

May 11, 2011 at 03:11 PM ·

al ku wrote: "i still cannot see myself driving in a hyundae..." Neither could I, until I drove one last year. They've come a long way since the 80's!

Same thing with Chinese fiddles. It seems like after the free market opened up and the Chinese government was no longer involved in running the shops, they were forced to be competitive and step up the quality. My spare instrument is an Otto Benjamin (which I found out is made by Eastman, in China). It's an OK fiddle. Compared to the '26 Roth, it's considerably unrefined, but the price difference is also huge. I think the Chinese instruments represent a decent value in their respective markets, much like the German shop fiddles of yesteryear.

May 11, 2011 at 04:10 PM ·

if we can get back to the point of the question.  I reside in Shanghai, and am the proud father of a promising student. Having tried about 100 local violins here over the years, and been to shops to observe the crafting, I have few observations.  Firstly, you get what you pay for.  Nobody will sell a violin for less than market value.  Anything good fetches a good price.  Build quality can be excellent, but sound is another matter.  Secondly, nobody at the conservatory here plays a Chinese made violin. Thirdly, I have never seen a used Chinese violin appreciate in price.  need I say more?  I have posted previously about the build quality and the different woods, in case anyone wishes to search for these posts. Where Chinese tends not to cut the mustard is in the G and D strings.  The G always seems to crack the sound, and so far I have not found any to have a rich G.  The A and E can be sweet. Projection is also weak, generally. FWIW.

 

May 11, 2011 at 05:54 PM ·

" Where Chinese tends not to cut the mustard is in the G and D strings.  The G always seems to crack the sound, and so far I have not found any to have a rich G."

is that unique to chinese violins?  if not, ron, you may need to qualify it because even i myself have seen many lower quality violins that have issues with G string that are not made in china.  in fact, any one of the four strings for that matter. even in italian violins!  imagine my disbelief when an italian violin does not have that, um, italian sound!

david, i agree with your take on things.  with a little open mindedness and common sense, why are things so self explanatory?   perhaps everything in life has a role or a place.  it is our responsibility to make them work for our needs.

May 11, 2011 at 08:51 PM ·

Interesting and unfortunate that Chinese people do not trust Chinese products.  Who can blame them with all the lying and cheating going on in China.  It is like the wild west right now, with lots of people doing anything they can to make lots of money. 

But, on the flip side, I'd like to share an experience I had a few weeks ago.  I was traveling in  China and met with a luthier in Hangzhou (just outside Shanghai).  He goes by the name Mr Yao.  About 20 years ago, Mr Yao purchased a large stock of aged European maple.  He has enough wood to make 1000 violins backs.  The wood for each back costs about $1000 each.  For the tops, Mr Yao finds spruce from ancient houses, hundreds of years old.  Needless to say, the wood he uses for his instruments is top notch.

He plans to make 1000 violins and donate them to talented musicians who otherwise would not be able to afford them.  I had the pleasure of playing one of his finished instruments and it was outstanding -- nice warm tone, even across the strings and quick response.  During my visit, I had my second fiddle, a Hirosho Kono.  He took one look at it, plucked the strings and said it needed adjustment.  He spend about 2 minutes adjusting the sound post and the bridge and really opened up the sound.  Mr Yao obviously has a keen understanding of violins and violin making and I would gladly buy one of his instruments if it was for sale.

BTW, Mr Yao is also a collector of fine instruments.  He has an amazing collection of old Italian, French and German instruments.  I would guess the total value might be $10M or more.  During my visit, I was able to play a Gagliano, a Landolfi, a Rocca, Poggi and others.  He also owns a Guarneri but it was on loan to a soloist, so I was not able to try it. 

I guess like anything, it is a mixed bag.  There are certainly cheap VSO's coming out of China, but there are also very knowledgeable people there with a great deal of skill and experience.

IMO, for the low end market (e.g., under $4K), Chinese is the way to go.  For such a labor intensive product, there is no way that US or European makers will be able to compete.  Then again, there is Hiroshi Kono, which is a Japanese product, finished in US, which is also a great value.  Might be worth a look, but the stock is much more limited than Chinese imports.

 

May 11, 2011 at 10:46 PM ·

 i don't mind reading sensible generalizations.  i don't mind believing case reports.  i just have problem taking generalizations derived from case reports seriously.

let's say talented chinese musicians inside chinese conservatories in fact do not play chinese made violins.  what is the point of stating such an observation?

that chinese people do not support chinese products?  but why should chinese people support chinese products if the products are not the most desirable in their opinions?  don't kids in conservatories in other countries follow the same idea of getting instruments that are the most desirable to them?   that old italians if possible?  

since when have the chinese made violins this good that we are even suggesting that conservatory kids should play on them???

 

May 12, 2011 at 03:09 PM ·

Al Ku-- Don't misunderstand. I am actually a supporter of low-price violins as an entry point for people who otherwise would be priced out of a musical instrument. Although imported violins can be a headache, the benefit outweighs the loss in the long term, imho. As a cultural or ethnic matter, I don't believe any nation anywhere in the world lacks skilled craftsmen. Price points on violins are usually made for economic reasons, not national ones.

With regard to the interior of Chinese imports, I speak from first-hand experience because I import New Family Instruments myself for exactly the reason I mentioned above, and I have to make the repairs myself. Likewise the information that most reputable importers do a lot of additional work on imported instruments comes from the horse's mouth (so to speak). I have had instruments that have made me marvel at the speed and skill of the worker or workers, and (with tears in my eyes), I have had some that are so bad it made more economic sense to throw them away.

I'll see if I can find a source for the number of violins that come in each year from China. It might be that my figure is actually low if you include violas, cellos, and basses

May 12, 2011 at 05:17 PM ·

 robert, the bottom line is that we agree on this " I am actually a supporter of low-price violins as an entry point for people who otherwise would be priced out of a musical instrument."  everything else is secondary.  get a violin into the hands of a kid and go from there.  when i got my kids their first bicycle i went to toy-r-us, not a specialty bike shop.  my older kid's golf team-20 plus kids-will come to our place for an end of year fried rice themed party next week, or is it fly lice:);  they will have the honor of using paper cups and plates!

in terms of quality control, if there is no qc in any factories anywhere in the world, the morning shift people will turn out products that are different from the night shift people.  meanwhile, you guys are dealing with china, a country with 1.3 billion people and many more ideas of how to conduct business.  everyone has his own greedometer:)

i believe in a free market-- the chinese violin market for export-- the market force will dictate the trend.  if a lot of people in the west continue to support junks, then more junks will be shipped over.  if more people demand better products, then time will change the quality.  not the strad quality, but interior work that you may approve in consideration of pricing and quality.  but chances are if the quality goes higher, the cost will be higher across the board; the american retail and end users will have to share that burden. 

May 12, 2011 at 06:02 PM ·

 perhaps some amateur or part time luthiers who want to see their instruments played?  i know there are some violin schools.  the students may want to sell the violins they made during the training...

but i doubt anyone in the usa is willing or financially justified to list newly made violins for couple hundred dollars or less.

how many hours on the average does it take to make a violin from start to finish?  

i googled around and saw some figures, 8-9 mons for the very first violin for some people.

couple hundred hours (150-200 hours).

lets take 150 and times 10 dollar per hour for labor: 1500 labor right there, not even talking about material.

May 12, 2011 at 07:06 PM ·

Robert hit the nail on the head some posts back.  It is the artificially weakened Renminbi that allows this game to continue.  The Chinese are an export economy, and make massive currency interventions in the market to keep their currency, and thus their products, cheap.  This dynamic will continue for some time, but it's not a game the Chinese will be able to keep up forever.  One day the chickens will come home to roost, and that will be an ugly day for China.  I might be old and gray by then, but they will not be able to perpetually manipulate their currency forever, IMO.

May 12, 2011 at 09:36 PM ·

Al Ku (and others)-- One source for some interesting numbers and observations on Chinese violins.

http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/epaper/2011-02/11/content_11983994.htm

May 13, 2011 at 01:05 AM ·

 thank you robert for that link,,,an informative read!

benedict, perhaps to attribute the china phenom solely to china's currency management is too simplistic.  also, i sense that you wish china to fail.  as if when china fails, then somehow the cheap violin problems will disappear.   i don't know your background but macroeconomics is a big topic.  i doubt robert,  you and your whole village can grasp it fully with all 4 limbs.  in other words, save the media rhetoric for another forum another day, please.

i teach my kids golf and they face competitors constantly.  one of the most important things i teach is that they never wish bad things happen to their competitors.  it is a lowly human behavior.  they have to do better--if they want to win-- than their competitors at their best.  

when china fails, cheap violins do not fall off the sky into people's laps.  as don was asking, if china violin import suddenly goes away tomorrow, 2 things will happen on the supply and demand curves. the supply curve will shift left indicating a dry-up supply; the demand curve will continue to rise and therefore shift right.  result: to maintain about 600k violins for the market, the price will shoot through the sky!  people will stop watching football and playing games and start making violins:)

then the parents and teachers will complain about not only the junky quality but also the higher price.  premium junk, haha.

May 13, 2011 at 03:11 PM ·

Let's look at this from the other side of the equation. America's economy since the end of World War II has been consumer-driven and based on the supposition that we like to buy many things at low prices rather than fewer things at higher prices. Constantly raising our national debt has been the principal means of accomplishing this, and not soon after the Korean War the great outsourcing exodus began which left practically the entire industrial heartland of our country to rust. How ironic is it, then, that the greatest percentage of our national debt is to China?

I don't blame the Chinese for sending very low-priced and often poorly made violins into the USA because that is basically what we asked them to do. Yes, one can argue that we do want higher quality, but most importers don't want to pay for it. There is a line, and I'm not sure where it lies exactly, when a violin is no longer a musical instrument or a learning tool, but rather a commodity item. The person who can bring in the most and sell it for the least generally is the one who profits under this scenario. The profit is financial; the loss is cultural. In this light, maybe we should ask how the Chinese violins are as good as they are when the downward pressure on prices is so strong.

As a hand-maker and small-fry importer, I am still amazed when someone asks why a $200 violin costs so much. We in the craft and those of you out there playing for a living are, for the most part, trying to work in a society where our skills are undervalued. Once these misconceptions are established in society, it is very difficult to reverse them.

May 13, 2011 at 03:20 PM ·

 Try this easy way in to Robert Spear's quoted link ......

The few Chinese violins I have seen have been great value for very little money. A music shop near me specialises in "correcting" minor constructional deficiencies before sale, after which they work rather well. 

May 13, 2011 at 03:47 PM ·

Don Roth-- Your question about who fills the void if low-end Chinese violins disappear is hard to answer. One possibility that is already present in the market is that the low-cost supplier (China) provides parts and sub-assemblies that are then assembled somewhere else (Romania, Czech Republic, Germany). A second scenario, also currently in play, is to have much of the work done on computer-numerically-controlled (CNC) routers. This is typical of the German approach, and it yields a much higher and uniform quality.

The downside for me is that I can order special instruments such as the soprano, mezzo, alto, and tenor violins from my Chinese supplier in very small quantities, say two, three, or four at a time. Were I to approach a German firm for the same, given the great amount of time and expense needed to set up a production line, my order would have to be in the hundreds. Out of the question for a small pay-as-you-go operation like mine.

While I have some complaints about our economic system, the fact is that usually if there is a demand out there, someone will come along to fill it.

May 13, 2011 at 05:24 PM ·

 "The profit is financial; the loss is cultural. In this light, maybe we should ask how the Chinese violins are as good as they are when the downward pressure on prices is so strong."

what cultural loss? are you trying to be poetic here, robert, or do you mean something else?   haven't we already established that the cheaper violins have allowed more kids to be exposed to violin study?  isn't that a cultural gain?  that thanks to the cheap violins some kids may choose violin over other junk music?   i picture some of you having had a large meal and while burping and caressing your protruding tummies thoughtfully wonder if the food can be more gourmet next time but at a lower price.  you pigs, shameless pigs!:)

chinese violins will get better as the producers become more sensitive to the market need.  in the article you have cited, that is exactly the sentiment, because they have practiced!   their production processes may also become more efficient, leading to lower cost and lower mark up.

i have traveled a bit in the past.  the american standard of living is second to none.  when a "native" american wants to complain, he should take a look around the world and get some perspectives.  

a playable violin for 99 dollars?  imagine some rental companies buy that violin and recycle it for couple years.  the chinese did 99% of the work, the american rental guys reap a windfall.  you guys put rockefeller to shame! in fact, i think rockefeller will be very troubled by what is going on: everyone is hopping on this gravy train with the slogan:  do little but complain a lot.  

ps.  robert, if you order couple violins at a time, do you think those chinese guys will take you seriously and care about the quality?  there is a human side to this equation, isn't it?

 

May 13, 2011 at 11:47 PM ·


al ku,

I dont know where you're getting any of that.  I was simply making an economic comment, and yes, any analysis of the "china phenom" as you call it, can be attributed to the currency.  And FWIW, I in fact couldn't care less about the production of Chinese violins, I do not consider the growth of the Chinese violin production a "problem", and in fact, I do own a Chinese violin.  But to completely disregard the economic factors that allow the environment to exist, is, IMO, simply shortsighted. 

May 14, 2011 at 01:18 AM ·

Some Chinese violins are quite good, even the ones from bigger companies like Snow Violins and Jay Haide. (Jay Haide makes especially good violas for the price! And a friend of mine saved up and bought the lowest model Snow viola for two grand, and it's actually one of the best sounding violas I've seen.)

As Raphael Klayman mentioned, Peter Lam is also a pretty good maker, and he's a really nice guy (but he doesn't speak too much English). His rehairs are also pretty great, especially when you consider their relatively low price.

My primary instrument is a Gliga Maestro, which will be serving me for a few more months (I recently commissioned a new violin from one of New York City's finest makers and restorers), and I feel that Gligas are also pretty good violins for the money, although it is true that many (if not most or even all) of them actually come from China.

I also have a shop-made violin from Shanghai that was pretty good when I tried it and bought it, but now it just sits in a pile of violin cases that I have in the corner of my room.

May 14, 2011 at 01:58 AM ·

My Peter Lam violin is quite good-sounding. Because I have so many, with 2 more on commission, I've decided to sell some of my collection - including the Lam. I must say that I was very disappointed that Peter refused to take his violin back on consignment. That's consignment, mind you. I wasn't asking him to buy it back, just try to sell it for me, and he would make some addtional money on it. That's just not standing by your work. He claimed that he had too many instruments. First of all, I know that not to be true. Secondly, a dealer with too many instruments?? Well, another dealer did agree to take it on consignment., so we'll see.

May 14, 2011 at 02:43 PM ·

Al Ku quotes: "The profit is financial; the loss is cultural. In this light, maybe we should ask how the Chinese violins are as good as they are when the downward pressure on prices is so strong."

I probably should have stated this differently, Al, but here's an analogy. Suppose it is generally accepted that certain works of art by certain painters and sculptors are masterpieces. Unfortunately, there are not enough to go around and their prices are too high. So an enterprising individual goes to another country where labor is cheap and hires hundreds and hundreds of artists and artisans to make the best copies they can. Pretty soon every house in the US has the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper hanging on a wall and a statue of David on the lawn. These objects are now commodities and ornaments to a false sophistication. They aren't understood or appreciated by most the people who display them. They are used to impress others who probably also lack the ability to appreciate them. This is the cultural loss I'm referring to. Were it otherwise one would think the state of the arts in this country would be much better than it is.

Al Ku quoted: "ps.  robert, if you order couple violins at a time, do you think those chinese guys will take you seriously and care about the quality?  there is a human side to this equation, isn't it?"

True enough! The seas are heavy for a minnow like me. But the very fact that some of the small Chinese factories are willing to give it a try is encouraging. I'd have a lot more leverage if I could order hundreds, and maybe in the future that day will come. Meanwhile, one uses this time to lay groundwork, plan for the future, and take his lumps!

May 14, 2011 at 03:18 PM ·

This is no doubt a dumb question...but here it is regardless:

When you discuss the "type" of violin, ie. Italian, Chinese...are we now only referring to the local of origin, or to the nationality of the maker?  So is a Peter Lam violin a Chinese violin or an American violin? 

May 14, 2011 at 04:25 PM ·

I think that it's a significant question. Peter Lam is from Hong Kong, but made my violin by himself in his home in New York. If that's considered to be any less than a legitimately handmade, non-commercial American-made violin, than it would be had it been made by someone in New York by someone originally from France or Spain or anywhere else, then I think that's pure prejudice.

May 14, 2011 at 05:23 PM ·

I was just helping my student to look for a decent step up violin from her sub $1000 violin. I asked around my violin trader friend if they have anything nice to offer. Came across a china made violin, highly attractive antiqued finish and golden honey color, european tonewood. It sound just as good - brilliantly powerful and strong without being harsh, with quite a thick sound overall. It was only $1500! Compare very well at least something in the $2000 range new german branded violin. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality it offered at this price range.

Bear in mind, although the price vs quality ratio is very good, it's still not a violin that'll suit a professional's need. For the price, it's unbeatable.

May 14, 2011 at 08:25 PM ·

Has anyone seen any Chinese violins, high-end or otherwise, at any of the auctions?

For example, at Bongartz, Bonhams, Bromptons, Christie's, Gardiner Houlgate, Sothebys, Tarisio (in alphabetical order)? One can spot some (partially) factory-made German/French violins and violas at these auctions for quite a reasonable price. If any of these China-made violins or violas are purchased in the $2K-10K range, can one hope to sell them at a decent price at auction a couple of years later and recoup the cost? The reason for focusing on auctions is because that is the fastest route to sell a violin/viola/bow.

The one question I ask myself before buying a violin/viola or a bow is: If I tire of this instrument and want to unload it, will I get my money, or a decent fraction of it, back?

As an example, I can purchase a 50s/60s/70s Ernst Heinrich Roth violin at any of these auctions in the $1500-$3000 range, play on it for a couple of years, turn around and sell it at auction for close to what I paid for it. Can the same be said about Chinese violins.

May 15, 2011 at 02:23 AM ·

Don, you have asked a couple of times about where student instruments came from before China and not gotten an answer.  I don't think "the U.S." is the answer for any period of history.  When I was first learning, in the early '70s, student instruments were almost entirely German.  Before that, German and Czech.

It was kind of like the situation now with Chinese instruments: some were better than others, and the best were really quite good.  I'm not sure the Germans ever mastered the unplayable VSO, though.

Yesterday at work, my boss, who's a history nut, was showing me a mail order catalog he had turned up from 1921.  Can't remember the name of the company, but it was in Chicago and they were enterprising enough to publish a catalog in Spanish and send it to New Mexico.  Anyway, among the shoes, underwear, and tools they were selling German violins.  Instrument, bow, and case for $15.  That would be the equivalent of about $150 now.  The more things change . . .

May 15, 2011 at 04:18 AM ·

VJ - I bought my beautiful, elegant, Chinese-made "Hellier" copy from a former teacher who got it from Tarisio. As far as re-selling, it depends on the market, the venue, and sometimes luck.

When it comes to auctions, contemporary violins - even Italian ones - are much more of a buyer's than a seller's market. IOW, an auction house - especially Tarisio - will be very conservative in evaluating a contemporary violin, and give it a very low reserve (the lowest price the seller gets - v. my blog for lots of detail). So a seller may not get much, but it's a good place for a buyer bargain-hunting for contemporary work.

They reminded me at Tarisio that even that crazy time when a Sam Z. fetched over $130,000 - at Tarisio -  was because it had belonged to Isaac Stern and two wealthy collectors got into a bidding war over it. If somebody - who isn't SOMEBODY! - pays Sam $50-60K for a violin and then flips it at an auction, chances are he will lose money. Chinese violins, all the more, are probably best re-sold to students.

May 15, 2011 at 10:10 AM ·

with this love and hate relationship with chinese violins, when i grow up i will make a movie about it! :)  i would like to take some suggestions on the title.  how about,,,,true false note? :)

funny that i am sort of defending chinese violins and yet i don't even own one right now.:)  just goes to show how righteous i can be. hehe.

robert, i wish you the best in your pursuits.  i hope your sincerity is met with the same from the chinese side.  i know through close contacts that be cautious is a good policy.

i am not surprised anymore what china can do these days since it is basically financing  america the beautiful.  then something made my jaw dropped once more.  my violin kid is currently in a golf event in pennysylvia (the sweetest town in america, guess where it is! )and i got to know a parent as we walked and watched.  we talked about kids and colleges.  when i told her that my older one is considering engineering, she told me to think again.  she is an executive in a large usa engineering firm.  currently,  their usa division is not hiring but their division in china cannot find enough engineers.  the trend is that they manage in usa but get the work done in china.  so what we are seeing with the violin industry (note i did not say, the violin art form:) is not unique.  china is everyone's workshop.  that, indeed, is a cultural shock.  traditions and custums, assuming for a second that america has had some, are giving away to value and bargain hunting.  the tipover is occurring so fast and readily that it does speak to the state of mind of everyone that is witnessing and participating in this paradigm shift.  it happened because we let it.

ps. henry kissinger has a write up in the weekend edition of the wall street journal titled the china challenge.  arguably, he is the first westerner to get to know china.  good read.

answer: hershey!!!  i have told my kid that the town smells like chocolate, but she is disappointed it is more like the sweet smell of cow dung:)   

May 15, 2011 at 12:11 PM ·

Lots of great responses here.

China has a strategy which works well for China. There are lots of people who need  employment in the unskilled or semi-skilled category, and high volume/ low price fits that need. It works better to build millions of $100 violins, and face little competition, than it does to try to build  $20,000 violins, for which the market is miniscule by comparison.

According to a resident I spoke to when I was in China, who is in the trade, and has written a couple of articles for Strad Magazine on the history of making in China and the violin factories: The violin factory workers think of themselves as factory workers, not violin makers. As in any other factory, they come from all over the country to put in some time making good wages (to them), hoping to go home after ten years or so with enough money saved to make a down payment on a house.

As far as being a Communist country, it's really more of a capitalist society now. The government has a lot of control, but its because the population thinks they're on the right track. One violinist there told me, "If we didn't see the value in what they're doing, hard as it makes things sometimes, we could take our country back in a heartbeat. And they know it."

May 15, 2011 at 01:32 PM ·

From Al : "funny that i am sort of defending chinese violins and yet i don't even own one right now.:)  just goes to show how righteous i can be. hehe"

Al - want to buy a couple of Chinese violins from me? ;-)

May 15, 2011 at 07:25 PM ·

@Don Roth

Great video!

@ Al Ku

Like someone opined, and I can't remember who,  manufacturing is going from the first world to the (so-called) third world (US/Europe---->China/Thailand/Malaysia/Indonesia) and the services industry, including hardware/software engineering/call-center support, from the US and Europe to India/the Philippines. Walk into any electronics store and it will be a miracle to find anything made in the US...extrapolate this to the industry/line of business of your choice.

What does this mean? If you're, for example, in the US, how can one stay one step ahead in this race? After all, it is the US that is the biggest consumer in the world and, as everyone knows, one needs vitamin M(oney) to make all those purchases. If your ability to earn well is diminished, it will adversely affect your buying power. Innovation appears to be a key factor in staying ahead.

May 15, 2011 at 07:28 PM ·

I have no idea about resale of Chinese violins generally.  I do know that when I purchased a Shan Jiang (jiangviolins.com/en/) for my daughter in 2006, the dealer told me that he would take it back any time as demand for that maker's violins was strong and he'd have no trouble reselling. .

May 16, 2011 at 02:32 AM ·

In the Rochester NY area we are fortunate to have a violin distributor for SHEN string instruments....    paulstrelau@frontiernet.net       His instruments are as fine a quality as I've seen or played...While SHEN has made a big name thru their wondrous and modestly priced string basses, the violins, particularly the SV1000 are spectacular.

I judge evaluation festivals for NYS and just this weekend heard a student perform Sarasate, and the upper G-string was full, mid-range well balanced, and the upper E-string was lovely, bright and delightful.....almost as good as the SHEN that I play !  I also play a 16" SHEN viola for quartet work....and Paul Strelau is a great guy.....You might wish to consider contacting him.

May 16, 2011 at 12:32 PM ·

 hello raephael,  unfortunately i am not in the market for another violin, but i trust your good musical taste and if i come across any students in my area that need good solid violins, i will pass the info on.

are you sure those are authentic chinese violins?  i would hate to get a fake one and turns out to be an italian! :)

 

May 16, 2011 at 12:56 PM ·

@al:  are you sure those are authentic chinese violins?  i would hate to get a fake one and turns out to be an italian! :)

LOL!

May 16, 2011 at 01:11 PM ·

Al - thanks, and I second the lol! But don't worry: if any of my Chinese violins for sale turn out to be Italian, just return  for a full refund! ;-)

May 16, 2011 at 07:21 PM ·

It might be possible to get a Chinese ping pong paddle that is a fake, but I think it will be a while before we have that problem with violins.  At any rate, I can attest to the high quality of Chinese made goods.  I was "made in Taiwan" and I am of superior quality :-)

May 16, 2011 at 07:28 PM ·

Smilely - I really want to take your word for it, but I'd feel more secure if you came with a dealer's certificate of authenticity, measurements, photos, provenance, etc.  I claim to be "made in Brooklyn, c.19-nobody's business"  also of high quality and good materials. I must admit that I don't have papers, but I might be able to get an insurance appraisal, if anyone is interested! ;-)

May 16, 2011 at 07:47 PM ·

Smiley, not trying to get into political debates here, but the vast majority of Taiwanese would disagree and many would be offended if you lump the "Made in Taiwan" goods into the "Made in China" category...

May 16, 2011 at 09:15 PM ·

@Al Ku

Lol! Headline: Chinese violin turns out to be Italian "sleeper" at auction! or  "Made as Antonius Stradivarius Cremated 1721" label gives the game away!

@JoyceL

Many Taiwanese manufacturers, especially in the electronics and semiconductor industries have moved their manufacturing to China. This includes TSMC [edit follows] and Foxconn / Hon Hai, the latter being the largest contract manufacturer in the world (makes all of Apple's products). A visit to Shenzhen, which I visited in 200x, will confirm this.

It's just a matter of time before "Made in China" becomes as respectable a brand as the Made in Japan/Korea ones.

In the meantime, how about the mundane?

Recycled buns, oranges, shoes, toothpaste, cough medicine, other medicines?

May 17, 2011 at 03:04 AM ·

 wow, vj, looks like you are really keep tabs on this! :)  shouldn't you be practicing your violin more? :)   i love the toothpaste story: the "poison" was actually listed on the ingredients!  too funny.  (in other words, if you don't go to school and study hard and fail to read the label carefully, it is your fault, haha)

in the world of commerce, it is full of filth.  and china is indeed at the forefront of money first, ethics,,,what ethics?  you see, if uncle sam has not taught china about capitalism, none of this stuff would have happened:)  one cannot recycle buns if there are no buns on the shelf to start with.

starting about 5-10 years ago, china made tea has been banned in my house by my wife.  meanwhile, friends still get us highly sought after top tier chinese tea as gifts.  i have a collection!  could be paranoia, but who knows.  

on smiley, i am pretty sure he is no italian, but to call him a fake chinese is just not right.  he is perhaps a composite :)

but seriously katisha, if you are really in the market for a solid violin, you should contact raphael since he has several for trial.  oh shocks, just realize you are in australia.

ps.  i think raphael should organize a chinese violin festival in nyc.  i will bring exquisite chinese tea.

May 17, 2011 at 03:40 AM ·

"It's just a matter of time before "Made in China" becomes as respectable a brand as the Made in Japan/Korea ones."

A travesty.

China is trouble with a capital C. We are selling our souls to them for cheap crap, all the while emboldening a regime which, if justice were to have any meaning, would have more sanctions put upon it than Cuba.

"Made in China" is not respectable any longer. Maybe before 1776. Not now. Not at all. And my computer is made in China. It makes me nauseated just thinking about it. My flash drives are Taiwanese (probably actually China, too!).

May 17, 2011 at 07:59 AM ·

> China is trouble with a capital C ......

Bill, stick to violin which you know a lot, but not China where you obviously know very little. This is not a place for political polemics. You must be quite old. You still carry  the cold war mentality with you.

Visit China one day. You will find capitalism and free enterprise live - in the little work shops making violins.

May 17, 2011 at 12:19 PM ·

@Al,

Why has your wife banned Chinese tea in your house?  I just came back from China with some of the best green tea I have ever tasted.  At over $1000 per pound, it had better be good.

@Bill,

Don't you mean "Trouble with a capital T?"  C'mon, if you are going to cut down China, at least get the quote right. 

BTW, my wife imports and sells Chinese goggles.  The quality is just as good as the big name brands, with the same quality materials, but the price is more affordable.  I wonder if some of the hatred towards China is actually misdirected envy.  One thing is clear, China is on track to kick butt in the next several decades and the western world will have a hard time keeping up.  To that, I say good for them.  There are many poor people in China and the living standard is way low compared to many other countries.  The Chinese people have endured their share of suffering in the past several centuries, with the Japanese invasion, and opium war, and self inflicted suffering through the cultural revolution.  It's about time they get things right and start reaping the rewards. 

May 17, 2011 at 12:36 PM ·

Hmmm...a Chinese violin festival.....

May 17, 2011 at 12:52 PM ·

smiley,  i think because of reports of prior incidents of contamination or fear of it.  which brings to the point of how difficult it is to rehab a reputation.  not sure if you still remember a chinese saying: once bitten by a snake, for ten years you will be wary of ropes.

but i think there is a bigger lesson to be learned here, as we are being squeezed by chinese tiger moms on the right and chinese imports on the left.  

we make use of all these and examine for our own deficiencies.  just like why we come to v.com to assess what is going on and find useful things to incorporate into our own violin learning.  

it is like stock trading.  we trade off bad ideas and acquire better, newer ones.  in a sense, neither america nor china is all good or bad.  we have to pick and choose, as always.

raphael, again, to remind you,,,authentic chinese violin festival...:)

May 17, 2011 at 02:15 PM ·

I have nothing against Chinese people, culture, or their efforts. I do have a problem with a regime which is antithetical to any reasonable conception of "free trade".

May 17, 2011 at 07:29 PM ·

@Bill,

I noticed you edited your post.  Good thing because it was pretty far off the mark.  Seems to me that you are suffering from a severe case of "sour grapes." 

Just so you know, a good friend of mine had a factory in China that employed 1800 people.  They imported their products to the US.  Then the US decided (somewhat arbitrarily) to impose 100% import tax on their products (see anti-dumping policies of the US).  That basically put the factory out of business overnight.  So they moved their factory to Viet Nam, where the US does not impose such arbitrary taxes and 1800 people in China are now looking for work.  The point is, countries do what they can to get a leg up on the rest of the world.  The US is no different.  I admire your patriotism, but make sure you know your facts before you criticize the rest of the world.

 

May 17, 2011 at 08:53 PM ·

While the degree to which China has (or has not) embraced Capitalism is at least debatable, the term "free enterprise" should not be associated with China.  Lets not get all crazy here people.

May 17, 2011 at 10:11 PM ·

@Benedict, Can you explain what you mean by your post?  Have you ever visited China?  There are a lot of wealthy people in China.  They didn't get that way by working for the government.

 

May 18, 2011 at 01:26 AM ·

Actually Smiley, I stand by what I said, involving poisons, pollution, etc. I just won't discuss it further here. Too many ostriches.

May 18, 2011 at 01:50 AM ·

Benedict, China probably had free enterprise back when most of the people in the world were still living in caves. China may have the oldest and most experienced commercial trading culture in the world.

 

May 18, 2011 at 05:23 AM ·

@Benedict, Can you explain what you mean by your post?  

Simply that the term "free enterprise", definitionally should not be associated with China's economic system.  It's wrong; like calling a viola a violin.

 

May 18, 2011 at 10:36 AM ·

 indeed.  questioning china to be a free enterprise is mind boggling.  

there is no absolutely "free" enterprise anywhere in this world. every system has its bounds and rules. just because you are a businessman in the usa does not mean you can freely sell materials to countries like iran or north korea, for instance.  you cannot operate a legal cocaine production plant in most parts of the world, not in the usa as far as i know :).  

what is odd to me is the myopic viewpoints held by some people accustomed to the ways and means of the usa, as if they are the gold standard for the rest of the world. they are not and this fact is getting more established with the decline of the american super power status. those folks clearly do not have a good understanding of international trade, let alone the evolution of the modern day china.  

although china is the biggest creditor of the usa, china itself is still dirt poor if you look at the livelihood of the majority of its people.  it is not in shape to compete squarely with more developed countries yet.  its policies and trading parameters have been established to protect this underserved mass of people, much like if you have a learning impaired kid, you may or may not want to put him into a classroom where everyone else is learning at a much faster speed.  and when you put the kid into a special ed class,  those who question china will step in to question you: how come your kid is getting special treatment and not facing fair competition like others...  china protects its people much like you protect your kid.  and you protect your kid the best way you can regardless of what others have to say.  and if your kid is not learning impaired and you insist putting him into a special ed class,  it is ok, too!  that is exactly what usa is doing trading with china. 

i don't think china forces trading onto others.  or forces those bad sounding violins into your hands, for that matter.   people who do biz with china are willing participants.  judging from the negative sentiments toward low end chinese violins, you would think some people in the usa have already set up shops to do it better.  of course i am just kidding because it will be a ridiculous proposition.  it will mean actually doing  some real work which many americans are getting tired of.   too much work for no money.  doing good with no reward.  after some consideration, lets still go with the china route.  we get it, we use it and then we get to bash it.  cheap entertainment at least!  the violin may or may not be worth the money, but the thrill of having something to bash is certainly worth the ticket.  there is a burning need to feel righteous and holy! :)

china is far from perfect, but america is getting used to it or getting dependent on it, like a dope user getting used to whatever pushed on by the dealer.   china has horrible human rights records.  can you imagine that they actually kill-bullets into cranium which explodes into bloody tiny pieces-those who have poisoned the milk powder? how cruel!  it will be so much nicer to be the said criminals in the usa.  make your money, let some people suffer (we understand it is nothing personal, that biz is biz), do some time if caught and come out and do it again.  why? because you have rights and your lawyers will find technicalities for you for your appeal.   you are innocent until you get caught again.   you can be guilty but with money, things can be interpreted differently.  so be yourself and rock on. freely enterprise yourselves.

ps.  i wonder if we are being too helpful to katisha, haha!  hello katisha, ni hao! :)  (means did you practice your scales today ?)

pss,,so far there is one piece of info in this whole thread that can stfu everyone concerned. it is to be found in robert's linked article.  the italians were asking the chinese factories to make violins for them. i rest my case.

 

May 18, 2011 at 11:37 AM ·

Xenophobia is alive and well on v.com.

May 18, 2011 at 12:01 PM ·

 i never expected anything less on v.com :)  perhaps it is a case of sino-phobia, or sinocheapoviolino phobia:)

May 18, 2011 at 12:32 PM ·

Hang on guys, I don't think you are being fair - just look at the latest dissident that was locked up recently.  

I think the real issue (reservation, fear, use your own term) is not economics but politics.  China is in a bizarre state currently with a 'communist' government running a 'free market', neither of which is the truth.  What scares is that without an open democratic governement and free judiciary China remains a very unpredictable place socially.  Granted there are many cases of abuse of both in the west but the principles of individual freedom are still supported, even by those that seem to be unable to see how they violate them.

May 18, 2011 at 12:51 PM ·

There's a lot I could say, but I really want to avoid politics as much as I can.

Meanwhile - "ni hao! :)  (means did you practice your scales today ?)" Ha - I thought it meant "Hello" - no wonder many Chinese people who were not musicians have looked at me funny! ;-)

May 18, 2011 at 01:17 PM ·

@Elise,

You are right, the US is much more predictable -- complete gridlock in Congress.  It may not be progress, but it IS predictable.  I think much of the fear stems from the fact that China is NOT gridlocked like the US and is now the 2nd largest economy, growing at a rate of 10% each year.  People look at that with fear, even hatred.  That is the definition of xenophobia.

May 18, 2011 at 01:20 PM ·

 raphael, i was just kidding there, of course you are right! :)

elise, you have made some good points, but the chinese system is very complicated.  it is like giving a whole book of paganini to a suzuki student:)

if we look country by country, china has changed the most in the past 30 years and it is still going quite strong, at least relatively.  if i remember correctly, china is lending about 40,000 dollars to the usa,,,,per second,  as we speak.  it is a truly weird sino-american relationship.  from dickens:  'Please, sir,' replied Oliver, 'I want some more.'

comparing with the soviets which failed because it put political reform ahead of economic reform, the chinese ruling party, for itself and arguably for its people, "correctly" put economic reform ahead of political reform. living standard and productivity have improved.   it is arguable whether people will agree with this, but i think china's rise has been good for the world as a whole.  but i do caution that china one day may become too powerful,,,

May 18, 2011 at 01:27 PM ·

Al - I know!

May 18, 2011 at 03:16 PM ·

Being deeply alarmed and concerned about poisonous medicines and food is not Sinophobic.

Seeing the US-China relationship as "we want it so we get it" is totally naiive.

In the US, we fought long and hard to pass progressive useful consumer protection legislation, health legislation, etc. Now, our government is in cahoots with powerful multinationals, allowing them to produce and or source materials from a country with beyond lax environmental and safety regulations, so that those companies can make more profits off of us. We don't increase the number of import inspectors and system to accommodate this change. We essentially throw away all of our hard-fought community safeguards so that some lucky powerful companies can make more money. That China is the major player in this is not coincidental. China has a political structure which is opaque to populist reform. It is very "sensitive" to its international image but it doesn't do anything about it. The amount of piracy, poisoning etc etc is staggering. I don't think the average American has even the slightest clue just how big--and outrageous--this is.

As David said, China has an ages old trading culture. This is true. But this is not the problem. It is how they trade with us that is important. And we--common folk in the US--are making a Faustian choice...

May 18, 2011 at 03:49 PM ·

 but bill, i don't want to get personal, but i read earlier that you have a computer with chinese made parts in it.  Have you tried to look around for computers without chinese parts?  Where do you draw the line?

i have a feeling that a lot of american participants in trading with china are quite happy but some american end users like bill want more out of china.  they will shout: china, you should be ashamed of yourself.  then they wash down the eggroll with a bowl of hot and sour soap.:)

before you know it,  they are  hungry again...

May 18, 2011 at 04:07 PM ·

Al,

 

I go out of my way to but non-Chinese parts. But computers? Not possible in any reasonable way.

I am more upset with our own stupidity--our unbelievable lemming mentality vis-a-vis our thoroughly corrupt political representation which looks the other way most of the time when Big Pharmacology hands it money.

 

The Sidewalk Chalk debacle some years back was so ironic. We have legislation requiring that every house purchaser be told about the hazards of lead paint etc. Some towns require remediation at great expense. And yet otherwise "intelligent" parents were buying "Crayola" or other chalk which was highly tainted with lead. Imagine!  And this does not stop. It just evolves. Next was lead in costume jewelry--for children. We passed legislation (imagine that!) and actually got on China's case about it (only because Big Pharma wasn't involved, I can assure you) and then, almost immediately, we find Cadmium showing up in Chinese made jewelry....

 

It Just Doesn't Stop. It is a Systemic Problem in China. Their government is incapable of dealing with rapid growth and at the same time dealing with consumer protection, copyright, patents etc.

 

Who knows what the hell is in that stinky varnish on Snow violins?

May 18, 2011 at 04:30 PM ·

then they wash down the eggroll with a bowl of hot and sour soap.:)

LOL.  With all the poison being served in China, you might be lucky if the only additive in your soup is soap. Sorry Al, couldn't resist picking on your spelling :-)

May 18, 2011 at 04:38 PM ·

 I am sure the Chinese violins vary in quality. Sweet and sour.

May 18, 2011 at 04:41 PM ·

bill,  i don't know the specifics but i know heavy metal is needed to stabilize the paint.  probably with lead it is cheaper, without lead it is more expensive.  you probably agree with me on this: without heavy fine and penalty on american importers for breaking laws and legislation to be enacted,  both american importers and chinese exporters will be happy with a cheaper alternative because of volume sales.  so usa should impose much tighter check points before consumer ready goods land on the shore.

just recently, my kids and i were smashing ping pong downstairs and we destroyed the very last one.  my wife went shopping and incidentally came across prepackaged ping pong balls in the supermarket isle.  (ping pong balls in supermarket should bring on the siren)

well, the balls are not round. i don't mind cheap violins sounding bad, but all ping pong balls have to be round!  the label says "recreational quality".  they bounce funny so we now play funny, getting a bigger work out.  it was imported by a pa company but of course made in china.

i can just hear the exchange:

china: we has 2 balls.  competition on the left  and recreational on the right.

america: which is cheaper.

china: recreational is cheaper.

america: recreational that is then!

---

smiley, you got me there:)  i might start drinking some chinese green tea with partially rinsed cups:)

May 18, 2011 at 04:51 PM ·

I think it is foolish to "fear" China, as some have said here.  Personally, I am with the minority of economists that believe that the Chinese economy is doomed to implode after continued massive growth for the next 5 or 10 or even 15 years. Both due to economic as well as social reasons.  I am well aware that that is a contrarian opinion, but if you truly peel the layers of the onion away, I believe the Chinese economy is a state-built house of cards.   An admittedly powerful engine, but one running on synthetic fuel. 

May 18, 2011 at 04:54 PM ·

Great.  Okay, maybe I should "fear" China, since both Bill and Al now have me worrying that there may be lead in my Chinese violin that I hold close to my face and lymph nodes for long periods of time. :(

May 18, 2011 at 04:56 PM ·

 let's worry about the chinese implosion in 5 or 10 or 15 years.  since we are in the midth of our own implosion, let's worry about how to help some americans put the next meal on the table.  

 

May 18, 2011 at 06:30 PM ·

Benedict, I wouldn't worry about lead.  Chinese violins are made from wood imported from Chernobyl.  If you don't have any kids, get started soon before it's too late.

Al, if I were you, I wouldn't recommend drinking Chinese tea.  90% of it is poisoned.  But, if you send it to me, I'll be happy to test it for you. :-)

 

May 18, 2011 at 06:35 PM ·

Have you noticed that Chinese businesses have been very late to embrace their own branding?  Why is that?   China is one giant job-shop. It seems totally different from Japan and Korea. The latter have since the beginning, developed their own branding Toyota, Sharp, Daewoo, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Sakae Ringo, Mitsuboshi, etc etc. Household words in the US (some of these brands are household words in certain market segments).

 

What Chinese brands can you think of?  Lenovo?  Great. Happy Dragon Tea Company? No, you buy from Mark Weddel in Boston....

May 18, 2011 at 06:41 PM ·

Here you go Bill:

10 Chinese brands set to take over US households by 2020

Thank goodness this thread is over.  Good riddance.  Maybe now we can talk about something productive like whether or not to use a shoulder rest :-)

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