China Trade-New Meaning to “Buyer Beware”
- 19 August 2007 by Author 0 Comments
China Trade-New Meaning to “Buyer Beware”
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 08/19/07
It seems safe to say that the Dragon still has a healthy respect for the Eagle. China has been dealt several blows to its reputation with U.S. consumers over the past few months, and their remedial efforts to correct those blunders should be somewhat encouraging to us, and yet also serve as a healthy reminder of the nature of Communist countries.
First there was the pet food fiasco. Chinese ingredients in U.S. made pet food a few months ago poisoned and killed a handful of pets around the country. This posed a concern, but appeared to be an anomaly with the U.S. consumption-driven exporter.
Since then, however, there have been a flood of tainted and poor Chinese products adversely shaping public perception of Chinese goods by global and especially U.S. consumers. Toothpaste laced with toxic substances; cough syrup unsafe due to more toxic ingredients; hundreds of thousands of tires recalled because of defects in the manufacturing process and nearly a million Fisher-Price children’s toys recalled because the paint on them had too much lead. And just this week news of an additional toy recall because of excessive lead in children’s toys. The Chinese have single-handedly added depth of meaning to the consumer truism, “buyer beware.”
I’m sure there are some among us who because of conspiratorial theories are convinced that China is doing this intentionally to kill us or hurt us. That is highly unlikely recognizing that we have literally bought their way into the 21st century by purchasing a huge percentage of their annual one-trillion dollar exports. The U.S. imports 40% of its goods from China. In other words, two out of every five products you purchase at the store have the “Made In China” label.
But the people in oriental countries have a high sense of honor. That was illustrated by the Chinese last month when they executed the former head of their Food and Drug Administration equivalent for accepting bribes to approve shady and shoddy products for export to the U.S. And the CEO of the toy company using lead-based paint in toys licensed under Mattel and Fisher-Price labels hung himself in a warehouse as a way to atone for his failure to the state.
With these series of export faux pas, China is facing a potential backlash by American consumers that should lead to a little more scrutiny of manufacturing labels. “Made in America” or anyplace but China may prove to the Chinese that we are consumers that cannot be taken for granted, and that we have much more control over their future than perhaps previously thought.
Milton Friedman, the brilliant Nobel laureate economist maintained that economic freedom must be accompanied by political freedom. He was convinced that as China becomes more of a free market economy, that political freedom would of necessity follow for the one-billion plus people in that Communist country. This has, and undoubtedly will continue to present challenges for that trading partner of ours as it deals with the economic growing pains of its massive quantity of exports and attempting to keep its people subjugated in proper Communistic fashion.
Just because they’re our trading partners doesn’t mean we should ever be complacent about the fact that they are Communists. Communism as an ideology is responsible for killing more people in recorded history than any other. It would be wise for us to keep in mind that hundreds of millions of people have been killed in the name of the state by communist countries over the past 90 years, with China’s Chairman Mao responsible for nearly 100 million of those atrocities himself. Communists do not recognize the intrinsic value of human life, but only seem to value it as a means to an end, and the end is “the state.” Even loss of life from their products would be viewed more as a public relations failure than a tragedy because of the lives lost from those products. Hence, the execution of their FDA chairman.
For consistency, we can’t help wonder at why the failed Communist Cuba policy is maintained after 50 years of failure. First established by the Kennedy administration, the U.S. has had in place an isolationist policy toward Cuba that was intended to force Castro into democratic reform. It obviously has not worked. It seems like Friedman’s economic theory should be extended to Cuba to bring about political freedom through economic reform.
Policies that work should be applied with consistency, especially those that ameliorate the quality of life for those subsisting under the oppression of Communism and yearning for liberty. And I, for one, will be watching “Made In…” labels more closely. I may pay a little more for a U.S. made product, but I have a great deal more confidence in U.S. manufactured products than I do Chinese counterparts. I’ll simply consider that little extra price premium as an insurance policy for a quality product produced in my own country where consumer protection is held as a highest priority.
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.