Quality Materials, Parts. Poor exterior finish.
I have not yet fired a QBZ-95 or Type 97 but have held and fired a Norinco CQ-A select-fire M4. An acquaintance of mine has one. He says they are built well and are reliable. The only issue he has is that the finish on the barrel and bolt carrier group is not very good and being in a tropical country, if left without lube, the barrel exterior starts to show brown spots faster than Bushmaster AR barrels. Also, the polymer handguard has those miniscule excess "plastic lines" which were left unpolished from the plastic-injection manufacturing process. T97s appear to have these mild issues as well.
I see Norinco as a company run by shrewd leadership who use cheap labor to their advantage. For example, even with the escalating tensions here in the Philippines over those islands they claim, they still happily export their guns here (is that a good idea?).
In conclusion I'd say QBZs or T97s are good weapons built with good materials and parts. And because of the low-cost labor in China, they are low-cost when compared to other rifles as management passes the savings on to their consumers (to be competitive). However, the less-than-great exterior polish and finish makes them look cheap and poorly-built. I would call them low-cost (built with economy in mind) but "Cheap" (as in poorly built using poor-quality materials) is not how I see these guns. 1911 "Norincolt" owners can attest to this.
Last edited by freedash22; October 12, 2012 at 06:23 AM.