I heard yesterday on Marketplace that China's now the No. 4 U.S. economy in the world, knocking Great Britain out of its spot; it's expected to unseat the U.S. as No. 1 within the next 30 years. We are, of course, currently helping this along by enthusiastically buying cheap goods made in China.
The thing is, it's kind of hard not to buy items made in China; they're everywhere. I just checked my own desk: my calculator, water bottle, headphones and tiki mug were all made in China. Only my calendar, reference books and purse were made in the U.S.
"A Year Without 'Made in China'" (CSM, Dec 20, 05) talks about one family's struggle to avoid China-made goods for a year, and makes this astute point:
The funny thing about China's ascent is that we, as a nation, could shut the whole thing down in a week. Jump-start a "Just Say No to Chinese Products Week," and the empire will collapse amid the chaos of overloaded cargo ships in Long Beach harbor. I doubt we could pull it off. Americans may be famously patriotic, but look closely, and you'll see who makes the flag magnets on their car bumpers.
Plus, as the story points out, skipping China-made goods sharply limits the array of goods available to you and it jacks up the price you will pay for what's available. A nation of shoppers trained to think of price and selection first will not go easily into a shopping-on-principles mode.
For a smaller look at the pervasiveness of made-in-China goods (some estimates have it at 25% of all U.S. imports), listen to Marketplace's Nov 16, 05, report "A Day Without China."
And for a related look at the mutual back-scratching between Wal-Mart and China, listen to "China and Wal-Mart" and check out the Frontline report "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?" The report documents the shift in power from American manufacturers to one American retailer, and explains how Wal-Mart's pushed manufacturers to shift jobs overseas or face not being stocked in the store. Given a choice between losing American jobs via poor sales or losing them via exporting production, many companies opt for the latter.
I am curious as to how many Wal-Mart customers in regions crippled by manufacturing shutdowns have made the connection between the retailer they visit and the jobs their area has lost.