CHA BU DUO or 差不多  

China… A funny old place!

My name is Jeff Crawshaw and I’m responsible for the Sourcing Allies China Office. I have been in China for around 15 years now and I still haven’t decided if I’m staying… Guess I might give it another 15 and see how I feel!

As an engineer by trade I am often blown away at how things are done in China, sometimes pleasantly and sometimes not!

It’s amazing what you learn and how quickly you learn it when you are shoved into an environment no matter how different it may be from the one you just left. It’s also quite shocking how quickly you will find yourself settling into different modes of thinking either as a survival thing or because “that’s how the locals do it!”

One phrase that I would say you could hear in any setting at any time (except my office as I have threatened the staff not to utter the phrase or even let those word into their minds or else face an unsavory end!!) is Cha Bu Duo.

This is my story about how Cha Bu Duo has an effect in every area of my life in China!

Working and living in china can be awesome or it can be the thing that drives you mad, but it is normally BOTH!

It’s just such an interesting place, and no I don’t mean “the beauty of the Chinese culture” – yeah yeah that all wore off in year two I think… Now I’m into year 15 or 16, I don’t remember, but it’s all the other stuff that’s interesting! It’s like living smack bang in the middle of a supersized industrial/cultural/economic revolution.

Some things are great and of course there are some things that I find hard to accept, after all it’s not MY culture.

No matter how much of a seasoned traveler you think you are, the reality is that some Chinese people do things in ways that westerners just find hard to grasp.

For example, Chinese people (I’m specifically talking about the people I meet in small – mid size factories here) are just great at improvising and I mean they are on a whole new level. They can make do with what they have, find solutions, and make changes in 2 minutes where a larger international company would have to submit paperwork in triplicate and get it passed up and down the corporate ladder before the design engineer even sees the proposal and then the idea might get passed. Then in 6 months or so it will be considered IF: The proposed idea doesn’t damage too many trees, otters, mole hills, earth worms, lay lines or offend Mrs. Smith down the road who complains about EVERYTHING that ever has or ever will be changed!

Can’t get ahold of 2mm thick steel? That’s ok we will just use 1.8mm… Same-same right? “Cha bu duo”.

And there you have it! THAT’S why the stuff you bought from China that looked fine on the website wasn’t right. Samples were great, but then again they were samples! I mean the customer is SURELY not STUPID enough to think that samples and production will be the same are they??


“Cha Bu Duo” happened! Literally “not far off”, “it’s about right”, “it’ll do”.

Somebody somewhere decided that “just ok” was enough. Somebody decided that 2mm and 1.8mm were the same, stainless steel and low carbon steel were the same, polypropylene and poly-Probably-something-else were interchangeable. I mean they are after all quite similar right? In the grand scheme of thing they are similar, so what’s the big deal?

Time revealed these little thought patterns to me bit by bit, after seeing the odd angry customer email I would think things like “How could something so simple go so wrong? How could that simple process go wrong?” There it was… Cha Bu Duo.  We said red but you sent us blue… Yep, Cha Bu Duo!

Now it has taken me a very long time to realize that these things cannot be changed quickly, if ever. I mean “Cha Bu Duo” IS a survival strategy really, it’s a resourceful attempt to get around a problem. Some companies may pay a person a huge salary to think of such creative problem solving, but to me and you (the customer) it’s a hindrance, it’s a cost, it’s a risk, it’s a nuisance.


You can find a team who understand these rules and KNOW what the REAL MEANING and THOUGHT behind the word (Cha Bu Duo) is. Probably most importantly you need to feel safe knowing that these guys know how to overcome and work WITH suppliers to pass on your mindset so you get what YOU want! They might be foreign, they may be Chinese, both have their advantages and flaws it just depends what you need.

Do you want a man on the other side of the world to know what you mean when you say “this exhaust pipe better look flawless as its going on my Harley back home”? Well then I know who I’d choose.

“Hey man, wow sweet exhaust, but strange matte finish… Ooohh what the… Is that a scratch???”


 “Wow sweet exhaust, I can see my face in it… What the heck, I need a shave I look scruffy!”


Sourcing Allies… Not Cha Bu Duo!  We Stop You Looking Scruffy! ( -: