Xenophobia’s Role in the Anti – “Made in China” Dilemma
A reader of Managing the Dragon recently wrote this comment in response to a post about the connection between China’s cheap exports and the country’s environmental concerns:
‘And this current episode of “trade fiction” between the US and China at base reflects deeper American/Western paranoia over the rise of another Asian economic competitor that must be “managed”–as with the case of Japan in the 1980s. The concerns of US consumers over issues like product safety and environmentalism–whatever their sincerity–are informed by this broader dynamic, beyond the merits of the surface issues involved. The US corporate media (Lou Dobbs
et al.) has fanned these anti-China sentiments, as it did with respect to Japan a generation before. Thus, American rhetoric about product safety (and apparently environmentalism) is mostly a pretext used for US trade wars and economic protectionism. This is not unlike how the issue of Mad Cow Disease a few years ago was used by many nations to place restrictions on beef imports from their competitors. The USA and West want to remain the Big Dogs, and these “issues” are a reflection of this.’
To see the original post and this comment in its entirety click here.
The author makes no effort to hide the fact that he firmly believes that China’s capitalist reforms have done more harm than good and on that point as well as others, he and I fundamentally disagree. However, he raises the interesting notion that the dramatic increase in concern over poor Chinese products may just be a result of xenophobia and general concern in the West that China is amassing too much power and influence.
It is impossible to deny that many of the goods that have been blocked by United States consumer protection agencies or recalled by companies are potentially harmful. But, recent articles, such as this piece in the New York Times about lead in paint, highlight the fact that many of these poor products have been around for some time - it’s just that nobody has been paying close enough attention. What has changed is that several high profile incidents have triggered a significant consumer scare and this has in turn motivated the political machine as well as the press.
The above reader comment raises some important questions: Is the recent media and political explosion over low quality Chinese goods due to the fact that the Chinese goods being exported are actually lower in quality than they used to be? Or alternatively, is it simply because the United States is looking for an excuse to protoect American manufacturing and industry and close scrutiny is revealing an ever increasing number of targets?