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The dragon stumbles

A little while ago, I wrote about the wave of problems involving Communist China's exported consumer products to the United States. Well, it turns out that we shouldn't be so paranoid; it turns out they're poisoning people in Panama, too.

I discovered this story through Paul Hamilton at Wizbang Blue, who ascribed it to "corporate greed." I found that tremendously amusing.

The Communist Chinese company that passed off the poison -- like pretty much every other company in Communist China, and everything else in the country -- is owned by the government.

The real problem is not, as Hamilton asserted, "corporate greed." It's the confluence of government and corporations to the extreme, when the two are utterly indistinguishable. There IS no "private sector" involved here, just the government trying to create its own version of it without the troublesome element of actually letting it exist separate from the public sector.

The best description (and I'm no Sinologist, by any stretch of the imagination) is that Communist China is that they're pretty much where we were about a hundred years ago, and their biggest problem is that they won't learn from our mistakes -- and, consequently, are doomed to repeat many of them.

I don't think that's quite right. It's not that they won't learn from our mistakes, but that they can't.

The biggest force that brought about corporate responsibility in the United States was the people. Through a variety of methods -- the two most potent being unions, where the workers demanded and won better working conditions, and government regulation, brought about by the voters' demand of their politicians -- they forced reform and regulation on the unfettered titans of industry.

In Communist China, though, there is virtually no possibility of either force gathering much steam. The workers have no rights to form a union in opposition to the company, and elections are nonexistent.

Further, when the corporation is owned and operated by the state, any attempts to push reforms can be considered treason -- and charges of treason in Communist China tend to end with the government giving the accused's family a bill for the cost of the bullet they put in the accused's head.

(And, as rumors say, the accused's various vital organs being parceled out or sold on the black market.)

Hamilton ascribes the situation as the ultimate expression of "corporate greed." That might be the case in some situations, but here it's just the opposite -- the ultimate expression of big statism, when the government runs everything.

It's just more evidence that when you start getting to the extremes of politics, the opposites tend to resemble each other more and more. The political continuum, I've always thought, was best described by Ouroboros, the serpent swallowing its own tail. To bring up the classical example, during World War II the Axis powers consisted of Communists, Nazis, Fascists, and Imperialists -- and the arguments about whether Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo were "left-wing" or "right-wing" are largely irrelevant -- they were all dictators and their methods were largely interchangeable.

(Yes, Stalin later joined the Allies, but that wasn't so much political as a resurgence of the Russian/German historical emnity. At the outset, he had no problems allying himself with Hitler.)

That's a hell of a lot of words to simply say "Hamilton brought up a good story, but blew it when he resorted to his standard talking points instead of actually thinking about the issue." But the crux of the matter is very important: Communist China has spent literally decades building their economy on selling cheap stuff to the West, but now are having some critical problems in meeting some very basic standards -- mainly revolving around "don't kill your customers." And they are singularly ill-equipped to solve those problems.

As I said before, if I had stock in any company that made a large portion of its profits dependent on importing Communist Chinese goods, I'd be thinking strongly about selling it off. There is a huge crash coming, when people -- either on their own, or through their demands on their governments -- will start rejecting Communist Chinese consumer goods out of sheer self-defense. And I have no faith in the Communist tyrants of China to head that off.


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Comments (14)

You also have to look at th... (Below threshold)
hermie:

You also have to look at the Chinese government's failure to crack down on those who make counterfeit goods. Legitimate companies, not only in the US but in the rest of the world, lose millions and millions of dollars from Chinese factories that churn out cheap knockoffs of name brand products. As we have heard recently, these counterfeits are not only dangerous but potentially lethal as well.

Those countries whose businesses are damaged by these counterfeits, may decide to block any importation of Chinese made goods, until the government decides to stop enabling the counterfeiting.

JT, I am already there. I h... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

JT, I am already there. I have learned that Chinese products cannot be trusted. ww

There is a powerful force f... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

There is a powerful force for reform in China even without unions, private law suites and political pressure from the Chinese people. That force is the international free market.

China has tasted the prosperity of the free market, but tainted products are quickly undermining China's competitive advantage. Because of the publicity tainted products always generate, few people outside of China are going to buy Chinese products that enter or go on the body of people, pets, or domestic animals. Raw materials that go into such products are going to be more rigorously tested and rejected if China fails to enact the same kind of quality control regulations as are common in developed nations. It's the international consumer China must satisfy if it wants to continue to be prosperous in the free market.

JT - another example of "co... (Below threshold)
GeminiChuck:

JT - another example of "communist-corporate greed" is the extreme amounts of polution found when East European Communism collapsed - especially East Germany. The West was stunned at how little concern communists had for the environment. Today, there is a huge concern of what Chinese produced polution will soon do to the air in California, etc. The irony is amazing since it sure seems like the Greens want to drive us to a socialist/communist state. gc

The foundation of a healthy... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

The foundation of a healthy capitalistic system is trust. But it also is competition and we've abandoned that aspect, so whatcha gonna do.

The political continuum,... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:

The political continuum, I've always thought, was best described by Ouroboros, the serpent swallowing its own tail.

Actually, the political "left-right" continuum is the worst expression of politics ever conceived and should be relegated to the ash heap. Instead, give yourself a grid with two axes: a libertarian-totalitarian axis (how much power), and an equality-heirarchy axis (who gets the power). Ouroboros dissapears and you will actually know something about the political beliefs of a group based on their position.

GeminiChuck,You're... (Below threshold)
Mike:

GeminiChuck,

You're dead right. China has surpassed the US in total CO2 emissions and soil and groundwater pollution in China is reported to be devastating.

Traditionally, competition in free enterprise systems depends on quality, service, and price. These three characteristics are interdependent; you can't increase or decrease one without affecting all three.

China has opted for low prices, which means that their quality is low. Since they are a foreign manufacturer they have tried to factor service/customer satisfaction out of the equation, but consumer deaths, combined with American merchants like WalMart having to absorb losses due to exchange of defective goods, are going to force China to address both the quality and customer satisfaction associated with their products.

And regardless of the quality of their merchandise, China will pay a heavy price in lost sales if their products are repeatedly linked to environmental pollution, unsafe working conditions, and consumer deaths.

JSchuler, Heinlein noted th... (Below threshold)
Veeshir:

JSchuler, Heinlein noted that there were really two axes, those who want control over their fellow man and those who don't.

I would only add that the people who want more power want to use the gov't to achieve that, the ones who don't, want a gov't that will leave them alone.

Jay, dictatorship breeds co... (Below threshold)
Paul Hamilton:

Jay, dictatorship breeds corruption, and when the nation with the largest population in the world happens to be run by a dictator, the level of corruption is mind-boggling. It's obvious to me that the people running the show over there put a much higher significance on their personal enrichment than they do the good of their citizens. That's the only excuse for not cracking down on the folks over there who are deliberately killing people by the thousands with their poisonous products.

So make no mistake, there is a huge problem in China, and it would be bad enough if the only people these criminals were killing were their fellow Chinese. But in spite of overwhelming and ongoing evidence that you literally take your life in your hands with Chinese goods, corporations in other nations, including the US, continue to import from China.

And that is why I talk about corporate greed. We are enablers for these killers, as well as for the system of corruption which perpetuates the problem. If there was a manufacturer in the US or Europe which made goods of such deadly "quality," nobody would do business with them. And yet, our trade deficit with China grows every month. The appeal of huge profits is apparently just too much to resist, and if someone gets hurt or killed from the shoddy goods, it's cheaper to pay them off than to buy from sources who actually stand behind the stuff they produce.

So yeah, without the greed of the corporations who roll the dice with the lives of consumers every day when they buy from China, this wouldn't be an issue for us at all.

Mr. Hamilton (I can't call ... (Below threshold)

Mr. Hamilton (I can't call you "Paul," because of my colleague here), it boils down to a simple truth: you blame the buyers of the defective merchandise. I blame the makers and sellers.

To extend this principle, I also blame the terrorists in Iraq for the civilians they kill, not the US.

I blame criminals for the crimes they commit, not the guns they use.

It's a philosophical thing with me. Your position seems to be based on excusing the Chinese for their role, and shifting all the blame on those who trusted them. I don't buy that.

J.

I called them "criminals" w... (Below threshold)
Paul Hamilton:

I called them "criminals" who "deliberately kill thousands of people." I don't know how I can be more emphatic than that. But there is an element of responsibility for people who do business with them knowing the kind of people they are.

Oh, and one more thing. Do... (Below threshold)
Paul Hamilton:

Oh, and one more thing. Don't forget I implicated the government over there as well as just the manufacturers. So I think I have all the bases covered for their accountability.

For once, I gotta stick up ... (Below threshold)
Veeshir:

For once, I gotta stick up for Paul H. a little. He did blame the Chinese, but I also gotta not stick up for him. The Panamanians bought what they thought was good stuff.
Now, if they buy more from the Chinese and don't check it out, that's their fault. But for the first time? Nope, I don't blame them, they were just trying to keep costs down.

I found myself split on thi... (Below threshold)

I found myself split on this issue. On one hand, I'm deeply concerned about the huge wave of imports and the trade deficit. But then I bought a new Chinese made Coolster F5 motor scooter for way less than $800 wholesale, and I get 90 miles a gallon, and very reliable transportation that I can drive anywhere in the city that keeps right up with 30 mile per hour plus traffic, and I realize just how darn good some Chinese products actually are. A great value for the money. So I remain divided on this issue.

For up to thousands of dollars more, I could have bought an American or Japanese motorcycle or scooter. But the Coolster F5 is excellent 90 mile per gallon transportation in every way and enough room in the two trunks for groceries as well.




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