Best Chinese fountain pens
The topic of inexpensive Chinese fountain pencils comes up regularly on reddit, as I’m sure it does at FPN/FP Geeks, blogs, plus in the minds of those who have seemed available for pens and noticed that the Chinese companies basically incredibly low priced. The conversation lifted the typical questions you might have about Baoer, Hero and Jinhao: just how can they make them so inexpensively? Definitely, the product quality isn’t all that but for $2, sent with a converter towards home, it is a fairly amazing price. Specially when you appear at something like a Pilot Metropolitan ($18, no converter, no delivery) or Lamy Safari ($30, no converter, no shipping). Therefore today, I thought it could be interesting to own a review of the way the Chinese makers do whatever they do, whether its lasting, and exactly what that might indicate money for hard times regarding the FP market.
Once you browse around sites like e-bay, you’ll know what I’m speaing frankly about. There’s an enormous number of Chinese water feature pen styles and models, through the most basic designs to people with sophisticated barrel designs and styles, and for the most component all of them are phenomenally inexpensive. To my knowledge, they are all steel-nibbed (and somewhat hit-and-miss with regards to nib quality), cartridge-converter pencils. Some offer for under US$1.50 (once more, including a converter and delivery), almost all into the $3-5 range, and some tend to be more. These prices are, of course, shockingly low.
The standard description is merely that Chinese manufacturers are making FPs such vast volumes that product costs are really low: make one pen and it also could cost you $30 or $50 or something. Make 10, 000 and you could easily get the costs down to $1 or $2 a unit. That is called scale economies inside econ jargon, therefore’s very typical in manufacturing, specifically for which you have some large upfront costs – say, creating the pen, installing a production run, spending employees to turn up-and result in the thing. When you produce a large run of pens, those upfront costs can be spread out; the more you produce, the more they get spread out and the lower your costs become. So if the Chinese makers tend to be making a massive quantity of pencils, it makes sense they can obtain expenses pretty low.
This explanation works well with lots of people but I don’t think it is the entire story. We don’t believe it's wrong – indeed, I think it is an essential part of this tale – however it’s overlooking an even more important factor, something which distinguishes the Chinese makers from many other individuals on the planet: subsidies.
A subsidy is some sort of financial assistance through the federal government for a specific company or industry. The explosive growth in Chinese production within the last few years happens to be underpinned by a massive number of subsidies – one guide from 2012 advertised that 90% of most publicly-listed Chinese businesses received federal government assistance* while another from 2013 claimed that direct subsidies from 1985-2005 were worth a lot more than US$300bn**.
Direct subsidies will be the simplest to know and generally go to upstream organizations – not the pen manufacturers themselves, however the businesses that offer the raw inputs fancy electrical energy or steel. Whenever these companies are independently possessed, subsidies may take the type of direct federal government repayments; if they are owned because of the government (State-Owned Enterprises, or SOEs), they frequently offer their products or services really below price, deliberately running baffled so that the downstream corporations (particularly pen makers) can have reduced costs. The primary sectors which take advantage of this would be the power companies, metallic manufacturers, and shipping businesses. Although I’m sure the us government didn’t set out to increase the Chinese FP business, the truth that it utilizes each of these inputs means it gets a huge boost. The subsidies push-down the expense of their particular inputs while making it less expensive to produce pens, indicating they can be offered at a lower price and capture more of the market. Should they had to pay the actual expenses of manufacturing, there’s not a way these pencils would-be because low priced since they are.
Indirect subsidies are more complicated nonetheless they have a similar effect of reducing an FP’s manufacturing cost. The 2 main indirect subsidies tend to be money manipulation and discount loans from government-owned banks. Currency manipulation arises when you look at the news occasionally – the usa used to consistently criticise China for intentionally undervaluing its money (it has been less noisy thereon forward lately). Maintaining their trade price low designed that Chinese exports had been artificially cheap – these days they have been perhaps 20% cheaper than they would be if the yuan wasn't subject to manipulation.
Once you place this collectively, it means that Chinese pen makers enjoy considerable advantages from their particular government’s commercial policy that allows all of them in order to prevent spending complete production expense. The loan to determine a factory is discounted, the metallic when it comes to factory is reduced, the electrical energy the factory utilizes is discounted, the metal and metal utilized in the pen is discounted, the delivery to purchasers is reduced, as well as the forex is reduced. Without a few of these advantages, it's unbelievable that you might pick-up a Jinhao from your letterbox for less than $2.
We don’t understand the degree to which these exact things tend to be subsidised but we can do some fast, standard computations. A Jinhao 159 costs US$4 from e-bay, with shipping. We realize delivery is subsidised from Asia toward United States, although return journey would cost $9.50 (First Class Global with USPS). We also understand the currency is undervalued by perhaps 20percent. Place these specific things collectively and delivered cost of the 159 could be around $16. begin the removal of various other subsidies hence pricing is gonna get even greater. It’s a surprising quantity initially, but less then when you consider the Pilot Metropolitan: it's a low-cost, mass-produced pen made by among the big and most efficient pen makers on earth. It beggars belief that a Chinese producer could go into the marketplace and get their prices reduced in only a few many years; the real cost of production would need to be more pricey than Pilot. It’s just less expensive due to the subsidy system.
It’s an easy task to deduce that is a great thing: jobs are increasingly being created and folks have the ability to buy material cheaper than they are able to usually. It could even be creating brand new pen aficionados just who can’t afford more expensive pens. But you will find losers too, including the brands who will be selling entry-level pens but don’t take advantage of federal government support.
The greatest losers, but tend to be Chinese taxpayers and residents, that are the individuals financing the subsidy system. Despite huge growth, Asia nevertheless struggles with poverty – according to the World Bank Poverty & Equity Database (2011 numbers), 6.3 million people subsist on under US$1.25/day plus than 800 million go on less than $5/day – yet they are funding a huge subsidy program that allows relatively affluent Westerners to acquire inexpensive water feature pencils (amongst, demonstrably, a huge number of other items). This really is a wealth transfer from bad Chinese to rich People in the us, British, Australians, Canadians, etc and is – at the least in my opinion – a fairly depressing state of affairs. You can find arguments about industrial development and job creation but I’m however to see any persuading proof that subsidies work in today's, organised, efficient nation – aside from a chaotic state marred by corruption and nepotism.