Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

The future of the Swiss Army Knife…

…appears to be in doubt.

The Swiss army, which is to order a fresh batch of 65,000 of the pocket knives with new specifications, has caused nationwide consternation by declaring that under World Trade Organisation rules, the tendering process must be opened to companies worldwide because of the high value of the contract.

China, which has been producing pirate copies of the knife for years, is thought to have the best chance of winning the contract, which is estimated at 1.7m Swiss francs (£695,000), followed by Taiwan and Bulgaria.

The issue has become one of the hottest political topics of the summer, with far-right politicians saying that national pride is at stake….

It is credited by everyone from balloonists and astronauts to surgeons and pilots with saving lives and is the official pocket knife for 16 armies around the world, including the US military.

It has also prompted many jokes, perceived as it is as the weapon of choice for the military of neutral Switzerland. The US comedian Robin Williams once quipped: “How can you trust an army that has a wine opener on its knife?”

I love my Swiss Army Knife, though thanks to regular travel and a measure of forgetfulness, I’m one of their better customers– I’ve had to throw away at least two of them in the last two years, right before getting into airport security lines.

[To the tune of Bryan Ferry, “The Right Stuff,” from the album “Bête Noire“.]


  1. Hi Alex,
    Love your blog! Would you like your Barbarians Led by Bill Gates book back? Write me at work if you would. I hope you’re feeling better, and that the Swiss get to keep their knives…

  2. The WTO, NAFTA, and CAFTA are terribly corrupt.

  3. Yes I agree there seems to be quite a lot of other brands of pocket knives that are giving the Swiss a run for their money.

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