Aug 20 2007

Red Storm Rising!! China bashing picks up steam…

Made in China: News & Videos about Made in China – CNN.com

[youtube SxzP7kJwtrU nolink]

Thanks to James Hannam from my IB Econ class for providing the link to the site above. CNN jumps on the China bashing bandwagon and does its part to trump up fears of the danger posed by the “Wild West” of China’s manufacturing sector. This site has a wealth of anti-Chinese features including videos, quizzes, investigative reports and so on. Here’s the headlines warning us to be afraid of Chinese imports:

Given the tendency of media to dramatize and blow out of proportion certain issues for the sake of entertainment and to feed the American appetite for scandal, the full blown anti-Chinese campaign is no real surprise. Americans’ own insecurity about the strength (or should I say weakness) of their manufacturing sector surely fuels the Sino-bashing trend that seems to be dominating the media. All this will provide political fodder for lots of nationalistic, pro-America “protect American jobs” rhetoric in the upcoming presidential race too, I’m sure.

What I would challenge you, my students and readers, to ask is: who’s really at fault here? Are Chinese factory owners, whose sole purpose is to make a profit, really to be trusted to uphold standards of product quality and safety that America’s highly industrial economy took over a century to put in place? China only started industrializing in a modern way less than 30 years ago, and much of the development has been spearheaded and overseen by, yes, American firms. The sourcing of manufacturing to third party factories in recent years is a sign of the growing entrepreneurial spirit of China’s new generations of capitalists. Weak regulation by Chinese authorities is a sign not of corruption or malice on the behalf of Chinese producers, but of American consumer’s expectation that goods from China will get cheaper and cheaper.

American consumers seem to have forgotten an old adage, “you get what you pay for”. Just today, in my principles course, we talked about how you don’t always get what you pay for (i.e. diamonds). But in the case of cheap Chinese products, it would appear today that perhaps this adage holds true. Americans take for granted that products like seafood maybe aren’t supposed to be cheap! The freezers of Costco and Wal-Mart are filled with giant bags of shrimp, frozen fish, and other cheap seafoods that we have grown to expect to be there. If Americans want guarantees of their products’ safety, they should look for quality rather than quantity. Try eating locally if you fear the safety of imported food products.

Ultimately, the harm caused by Chinese products will be minimized not only by more and more government regulation, but also by consumers who change their buying patterns to reflect an appreciation for quality and safety over quantity and cheapness. Consumers who demand quality should vote with their pocket books, not rely on government to protect them from the dangers of the “Red Storm” Lou Dobbs warns us of. Markets contain the perfect mechanism for improving the quality and safety of products coming from China, and that’s the power of consumer sovereignty and strength to influence producer behavior through their buying behaviors.

Students, debate and discuss!

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About the author:  Jason Welker teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Economics at Zurich International School in Switzerland. In addition to publishing various online resources for economics students and teachers, Jason developed the online version of the Economics course for the IB and is has authored two Economics textbooks: Pearson Baccalaureate’s Economics for the IB Diploma and REA’s AP Macroeconomics Crash Course. Jason is a native of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and is a passionate adventurer, who considers himself a skier / mountain biker who teaches Economics in his free time. He and his wife keep a ski chalet in the mountains of Northern Idaho, which now that they live in the Swiss Alps gets far too little use. Read more posts by this author

14 responses so far

14 Responses to “Red Storm Rising!! China bashing picks up steam…”

  1. Calvin Luon 21 Aug 2007 at 12:12 pm

    I've heard a lot of rumor about Chinese made products when I was interning in the states. The most famous is the toxic toothpaste. The Americans are so worried that they just stop buying anything that's made in china, no matter if there’s problem or not. There were concerns from the company I was working in because all their products are made in China.

    What I think is that although China is economically strong, but its system is not well designed because they were booming so fast that there weren’t enough time for them to update their system. This enable to survival of those factory that were poorly run. China still has a long way to go before they can make their product quality guaranteed.

    China can be the Dominating force in the world, but not until they perfected their system and educates the mass population.

  2. Phoebe Suenon 21 Aug 2007 at 6:49 pm

    This "Red Storm" that Lou Dobbs came up with is deceiving. I believe that many Americans, especially corporates that are competing with Chinese production companies not only fear the chance of collapsing, but the fear that China's economy, with its burgeoning resources and exports, would soon exceed the US. The fear created by the "Red Storm" that is sqeeping among the US population isn't only fear, but it has turn into nationalism, or even racism that still continues. I really wonder why Lou Dobbs chose to describe this incident as "The Red Storm," is it because that China was still communism, and he was trying to create nationalism in the US so that Chinese products would be boycotted in order to avoid unemployments?

    Also, I completely agree with the author of this article. People should be reminded that it's not only China's responsiblity for this storm. When US populations expects the price of Chinese goods to lower and lower, then accordingly, the quality of goods would also lower since Chinese coporations would need to use a cheaper substance (that could be harmful) to replace the expensive one, which guarantees health.

  3. Marco Garofaloon 22 Aug 2007 at 5:29 pm

    I like how he uses the word "dismal" to describe China's safety record.

  4. serenatuon 22 Aug 2007 at 11:05 pm

    I agree with what the author's saying in this article. China did not cause this storm; it's the Americans who want lower prices on products, although we learn in class that we don't always get what we pay for, it's still obvious that if you pay cheap price for something that's not supposed to be cheap, you get a lower quality of the product. It's ture that China is booming economically, but the products they made are not quality guaranteed. China has a really good hardware system, but it takes for them to develop their software, which is to educate their people.

  5. Nicole Wongon 23 Aug 2007 at 10:58 pm

    Although it could be true about the toxic toothpaste and the such, I think that the American media is blowing the issue out of proportion. Sure, these products should not be sold anymore, but does that mean that all Chinese products are poisonous and undependable? Are American products any more dependable and is the American market as innocent as it is made out to be?

  6. KatherineYangon 24 Aug 2007 at 10:50 am

    Everyone's really made a good point that Americans really cannot just point fingers at the Chinese for their poor quality. After all, the economy depends on both consumers and producers. If the consumers (Americans) want cheeper products, then naturally the producers(China) will provide them at the cost of quality, especially since most of the products are shipped out of the country.

    The "Red Storm" idea of it is really just another jab at communism, at least that's my opinion. I do understand that parts of America still consider China's communism to be detrimental to it's citizens because it's "oppressive" or whatever. But it's an "each to his own (spiderman lol)" situation, there are good and bad points in each and China seems to have become quite used to communism anyway. Oh, and could this also stem from US animosity at China's growing economy?

    I will say that there are very many things China has to work on, but from what I know, they've already began taking steps, so it's just a matter of keeping to it. And in the world we live in now, China will definetely continue to increase it's quality overall so it can compete with countries like the US.

  7. mina.songon 24 Aug 2007 at 10:03 pm

    China really should now realize the quality of their own product by receving all the recalls. Not only America but also other countries should band the products from China so that China would realize the work of open marketing. To improve their economy, china should more produce products that households want and like.

  8. optional.xuon 24 Aug 2007 at 11:47 pm

    I've read alot about lead paint used in toys being a danger for little children and it always makes me wonder about the reality of Chinese-enforced safety regulations and such. The short cuts taken by Chinese factories in making non-dependable products or unsafe products only detracts from the credibility of the region, not only the company. International investors will be more wary only making competition harder for Chinese companies.

    China should be taking more precautions not to mess up their status as such a key production area.

  9. Jeff Yeon 26 Aug 2007 at 1:07 am

    I agree with Phoebe. I feel that America's distaste with Chinese products is less because of the quality of the products, than their fear of China's rapidly growing economy. I also dislike how one of the female anchors stated that China couldn't "really prove that they were serious beyond executing someone", as if China was just kidding around when they put one of their government heads to death. I believe that it is as much the American consumer's fault for faulty products, as it is China's, because even though many consumers complain about what they buy, they still buy it anyway, and thus, China keeps producing.

  10. Kristie Chungon 28 Aug 2007 at 8:51 pm

    I think China is not the only one at fault for producing bad quality goods. American consumers want cheap products, and in order to satisfy this, China will sacrifice the quality of its products, and produce goods using cheaper materials. As stated, "you get what you pay for" definitely applies in this case. American consumers should not expect the goods that they pay very cheap prices for to be of top-notch quality. It only makes sense that there is a reason prices for goods produced in China are lower than that of those produced elsewhere. Furthermore, even though American consumers are complaining about the poor-quality goods, they still continue to purchase them. Thus, it leads to China to keep producing these faulty goods.

  11. Tim Chuon 28 Aug 2007 at 9:28 pm

    Did anyone else here think that the video is a bit bias? I mean, here are a bunch of Americans, blaming yet another countries for products that they bought themselves. And seriously, has anyone even heard of that brand of toothpaste? There's probably a reason why people in the states haven't died yet…because no one uses stuff like that. And the doll? Oh no! One doll out of thousands may be a choking hazard! oh my god the children… And the fact that Lou Dobbs always refers to China as Red China is a more than enough evidence to me that he is clearly biased about what he is saying. Plus, "no serious measures"? THEY EXECUTED A DUDE! but yeah…

    China all the way

  12. Dana Yeonon 28 Aug 2007 at 11:41 pm

    I have watched a special documentary program on CNN a few months back. Titled "Made in China," this program investigated the poor qualities in which products are made in China and what the Chinese Government is doing to counteract this scandal, or more accurately, the truth. Consequently, while watching the program, I was eager to learn about what the Chinese Government is actually doing with the situation it is facing right now especially because I live in China, but quite bluntly CNN made no mention of direct or even a feasible method of overcoming this obstacle which may lead to no countries importing Chinese-made goods, though highly improbable. On the contrary, the program highlighted on how not all containers could be inspected at U.S. ports and how the importation of poor goods was inevitable. While most Chinese entrepreneurs eager to make profits focus more on quantity more than quality, I see this motive as completely wrong. It is not even a self-defense measure by saying that one should get what they paid for. It is without a doubt that the companies should be responsible for their products: it is an honor code rule. If they are going to make products of ultimately the poorest quality, I suggest they don't make it. Furthermore, if they are going to make products of higher qualities, I suggest they put higher price tags on them. I have a real-life example of how a bad- quality Chinese product can not only lead to dissatisfaction among consumers but even death. It seems like I'm pouring false information to exaggerate my point, but what I'm about to say is completely true. My dad's colleague died this August in Beijing after visiting a hospital named Vista. Vista is renowned to be a hospital that treats westerners, and is thus of higher reputation among hospitals in Beijing that treats the “international community.” However, when my dad’s colleague went there last August to get a simple injection to improve his health (he wasn’t even sick; he just wanted to be more healthy), he died only after 30 minutes. It had turned out that the injection did not contain what it said to contain, but truly toxic chemicals. How can this be justified? It is apparent that Chinese should manufacture higher-quality products and put higher price tags, or not make them at all.

    Extra: examine how the Vista clinic is described on the Beijing’s City Weekend site and the apparent irony of it with the atrocities happening inside it.
    http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/listings/he

  13. Christina Huon 29 Aug 2007 at 12:15 am

    I completely agree with what Tim says. China is not completely to blame for its faulty exports. The consumers are just as much, if not more, responsible for any malfunctioning products. This video was completely biased. What I have learned from living in an all-white community for 10 years is that people are unbelievably narrow-minded. The comments from the two regular civilians were so biased. Has it ever occurred to Barbara that cars made in China are not the only ones that malfunction? Or to Paul that maybe everything on sale was made in China because nearly every product sold in the US is made in China?

    They should stop listening to such biased "news casts" and take a class like AP Econ.

  14. Christina Huon 29 Aug 2007 at 12:25 am

    EDIT: *The consumers are just as much, if not more, responsible for any malfunctioning products because they CHOOSE to buy the products. Americans voluntarily take out their wallets and hand bills to the cashier so they can have the products that China produces. And by purchasing these items, they're implying that they're content with the quality, price, etc, or else they wouldn't be buying it.

    And Americans should keep in mind: there are other cultures, such as China, where choking hazard precautions, FDAs, and social security do not exist.