I probably will get a lot of disagreement on this but the Chinese machines are not to be confused with cheap junk Chinese hand tools. While the Chinese imports are definitely not the same quality of the "old iron" they are nevertheless very much an adequate alternative for a home shop. Grizzly gunsmith lathes sell so fast they are back-ordered for months and the Grizzly, Enco, Birmingham, etc imported lathes all have a decent reputation and in most cases are a much better buy than an old worn out industrial machine. Buying a really good old American or European lathe at a decent price is still the best way to go IF you can find a good one at a decent price which is becoming increasingly harder to do. The Chinese imports from 12"x36" on up are not what some people seem to think they are and in spite of the "urban legends" you will not spend all your time hunting parts for the things, they actually are dependable and there are literally thousands and thousands of them out there and most folks who own them are quite happy with them. I have a 14"x40" import that I bought new after spending a small fortune in both time and money trying to resurrect and old South Bend which I finally did only to realize the capacity was just simply to small for my needs. I bought the Chinese 14"x40" to use until I could find a "decent" machine but I was pleasantly surprised and stopped looking, I have been running this thing daily for 4 years now with zero problems and it is as accurate as I could hope for. My story is common and a look at one of the import lathe groups on Yahoo will reveal just how common (and mis-understood) these machines really are. The point about all this is don't discount the import lathes/mills on the basis of "Chinese is only junk" because there are some really good machines available at very attractive prices, these are ready to run and are a lot better than some people realize.
From the 12"x36" and larger machines they are decent but the smaller machines however are a different story and they seem to be built with the usual Chinese lack of quality and those machines are generally junk, from 12" on up they seem to be built to much better standards. Stories abound about good deals on old iron being bought at really good prices and people will say to stay away from Chinese as if you could just run out and pick out the used American/European machine to fit your needs. The truth is they are not as plentiful as most want to think and finding just what you need is more a matter of luck than anything else, good used machinery that does not not need rebuilding to bring back to spec is getting very hard to find these days as home machining is becoming a VERY popular hobby, ironically mostly due to the Chinese imports making it affordable. Because of this good used machinery gets snapped up in a hurry and a machine that makes a good gunsmithing lathe usually will boil down to three choices, buying a very expensive "good" industrial lathe, buying worn out iron at Chinese or higher prices or buying a Chinese machine ready to run. If a GOOD "old iron" machine that fits your needs can be found at an affordable price then by all means go that route but good luck finding one.