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The land of the setting sun?

For some time now (I think it was after I read Tom Clancy's "The Bear And The Dragon"), I've been keeping an eye on Communist China, and its role in the US economy. It's been partly out of concern, partly out of curiosity. So, so many of our consumer products are made there, and the significance of that has held a little fascination for me. It's both good and bad for both countries, and I am nowhere near knowledgeable enough on the subject to determine which is predominant.

But for good or ill, it is a fact that can not be denied or ignored.

Of late, it seems that it's been bad. Shoddy quality control and outright fraud have cost a lot of lives -- human and otherwise. It seems that not a week goes by without another announcement of another product made in Communist China that threatens our lives, safety, or way of life.

I wonder if a popular boycott of Communist Chinese products is coming -- if enough people get fed up with the seemingly-endless stories of bad goods coming here from abroad, they'll simply stop buying anything that comes marked "MADE IN CHINA."

And that might not be so easy. One writer, as an experiment, tried to do just that for a year -- and found it was harder than she could have imagined.

Extricating ourselves from our entanglement with Communist China looks to be an extremely difficult challenge, and one that gets more convoluted every day. It might already be past the point of no return, when the US economy (as well as a lot of other western nations' economies) are so tied up with Communist Chinese products that a sudden ending of that source could wreak grave economic harm on both sides.

But simply ignoring the situation -- while in the finest political traditions -- will not make the situation any better.

I don't have a simple cure for the problem. I don't know if one exists. Hell, I don't know if any cure -- simple or otherwise -- exists.

But dammit, we better start thinking about it, because the situation is not getting any better on its own.


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Comments (23)

Why not pick out one item t... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

Why not pick out one item that comes from China that would be easy to identify and get everyone to refuse to buy it.

I don't know,"ignoring the ... (Below threshold)

I don't know,"ignoring the situation" has gone swimmingly well(for elected officials) with SS,so don't expect anything there and boycots will only lead to horendous kinds of backlash, like the fact that the Dixie Chicks STILL won't just go away.(Are you ready for the next Commypalooza being headlined by a bunch of Chinese punk acts ? I think not.)

Ask not for whom the sun sets,it sets where and when and for whom the Chairman says it sets...For the cheapest price in town!

Jay, I've been thinking abo... (Below threshold)
Wanderlust:

Jay, I've been thinking about this issue for quite some time. I live in NZ now, and either here or in Australia, you simply cannot make it through any major consumer goods store anymore (either housewares, electronics, or DIY hardware) without running into goods manufactured in China. And it's not just cheap stores: before I left the US in 2002, I bought a leather jacket at Nordstrom Rack for $500 that I just recently found the "Made in China" tag.

However I don't see the threat as merely being economic (in that much of the Western world's manufacturing capability has atrophied as more and more consumer goods and textile goods are being sourced from China). Under your oft-quoted "professionals consider logistics" saying, consider the following:

At the start of WWII, the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto (who was a former student of Harvard back in the 1930's, no less) recognized that there was no way the Japanese military could win against the US in a protracted war because of the raw industrial might of the US manufacturing economy. Yamamoto's strategies at both Pearl Harbor and Midway were "all or nothing" gambits designed to decapitate the US Navy's ability to project force into the Pacific, so that by the time the US industrial giant awakened, he hoped that the US' historical penchant for isolationism would allow the Japanese to have hegemony over Asia.

Of course, history proved Yamamoto's worst fears, as the US simply out-produced both Japan and Germany, ship for ship, sub for sub, and airplane for airplane, many times over. The final straw was population quanta of the US, at that time (my guesstimate) well over 150 million strong - again, many times larger than Japan or Germany.

Fast forward to present day.

Raw numbers? It's now China that holds the advantage on both industrial and population fronts. God forbid, if the Chinese political machine is ever one day able to coordinate China's industrial and population resources anywhere close to the level of efficiency expressed in the US during WWII (assuming a conflict between the US and China doesn't go nuclear), it will be a long, hard fight.

Ironically, aside from long-standing Chinese geopolitical ambitions, I believe it will be an inability to manage food production and distribution for its own population that will one day push China outward, tempting it to estabish by force a "sphere of influence" in Asia similar to what the Japanese sought back in WWII.

All of this is to say that if we allow ourselves to focus solely on islamofascism as the current predominant political threat, we will be ill-prepared to deal with Chinese aggression that I believe is sure to come one day in the not too distant future. In DoD white papers published yearly since the mid-1990's, the Chinese see the US as their main military adversary. Meanwhile the Chinese are content to let the US get caught up in fighting wars against islamofascists around the globe, because it keeps our minds off China.

But that next war is already engaged today. Want proof? Ask yourself, what if China decided simply to restrain production of certain classes of consumer goods now and then, just to show the West how truly vulnerable to supply chain shocks that we are? Hell, they don't need to resort to poisoning us.

All they have to do one day is stop selling to us for a little while. Then, before we can re-invest in local manufacturing capacity, they begin selling to us again, and cheap - but arbitrarily reduce or halt supply.

We'll be dangling like puppets, and so will our economies.

Robert Kagan in Policy Revi... (Below threshold)
kim:

Robert Kagan in Policy Review, today.

Wanderlust, I concur with y... (Below threshold)
Matt:

Wanderlust, I concur with your post. The next big threat for us is China. Some analysts are of the opinion that China has already started economic warfare with us, and we are once again, behind the power curve. I think conflict with China will be inevitable but will likely take place as small unit actions, proxy-wars, and interdiction of shipping lanes/routes. China needs to secure the routes it uses to import raw materials better before they can become very antagonistic.

Personally I try to limit purchase from China as much as possible. I won't knowingly purchas firearms made in China (they manufacture for several U.S. companies) and NEVER purchas or consume food products that I can discern were produced/packaged in China. I just don't trust their quality control. I also won't buy cast iron made in China, it is truly an inferior product (to porous) and possibly contains lead.

China is a Ponzi scheme wai... (Below threshold)

China is a Ponzi scheme waiting to fail. They have to sell more and more to feed their growth and to allow a significant part of their GNP to be diverted to military purchases and to infrastructure upgrades. I've projected a national collapse in less than a decade, but that is not the immediate danger.

In an effort to feed the scheme, Free China is very much at risk. Their currancy reserves would wipe out the internal debt that is the major burden carried by China at this moment. Their established infrastructure and manufacturing capital would leap China's abilities a couple of decades.

As for resources, China claims all of the lands and nations surrounding it to one degree or another. The Russian Far East would be a near term goal, but the island nations to the east are also sitting atop potential oil reserves.

http://northshorejournal.org/index.php/category/china/

I do like the Chinese respo... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

I do like the Chinese response -- shoot the FDA chief, then command the market to have confidence in Chinese goods again.

--|PW|--

Pebble Bed Nuclear Power. ... (Below threshold)
kim:

Pebble Bed Nuclear Power. Learn it. Live it.
===========================

The "Land of the Rising Sun... (Below threshold)
mantis:

The "Land of the Rising Sun" is Japan, Jay, not China.

So it's a good thing he did... (Below threshold)
Veeshir:

So it's a good thing he didn't call China "The land of the Rising Sun" then isn't it mantis?

Oh, and please explain the point I'm too stupid to understand on the "Fact or Fiction" thread. Or was there no point and you just hoped your juvenile put-down would make me slink away?

How is saving $5 on a toast... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

How is saving $5 on a toaster going to compare to the trillions in military spending against an industrially updated and upgraded China?

And right now any profit a US company makes by selling goods there must stay in the Chinese Economy. So the only thing China offers is discounts on labor intensive products and huge trade deficit. Unilateral Free Trade has a price. Unfortunately when we get the check it will be too late to do anything about it.

We've fulfilled the Communist Proverb of selling them the rope to hang us with.

So it's a good thing he ... (Below threshold)
mantis:

So it's a good thing he didn't call China "The land of the Rising Sun" then isn't it mantis?

No, he called it the Land of the Setting Sun, an obvious allusion to the name of Japan. Japan (or more accurately, Nippon) literally means "the sun's origin" or loosely "rising sun." The Chinese name for China, Zhōngguó (pronounced Jong Guo), means "middle nation" or "middle state" (mistranslated by missionaries as "middle kingdom").

Apparently Jay thinks Asian countries are interchangeable. Considering his last post about China, it's pretty clear he knows very little about those countries. His title is more evidence of that.

I'm done spelling everything out for you, Veeshir. If you don't understand something I write, too bad.

Mantis, Jay made a referenc... (Below threshold)

Mantis, Jay made a reference that you now decide you need to debunk - regardless of whether or not Jay was trying to make the particular reference you claim.

And you dared to claim that media myth busters was misguided? Oh, the irony.

Mantis, Jay made a refer... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Mantis, Jay made a reference that you now decide you need to debunk - regardless of whether or not Jay was trying to make the particular reference you claim.

You honestly believe he could have been alluding to something other than Japan? Credulous.

And you dared to claim that media myth busters was misguided?

I dared? The gall!

Btw, I didn't say they were misguided; I said they aren't even performing the stated purpose of their wiki. There are plenty of media myths out there to debunk.

Oh, the irony.

You don't know the meaning of the word.

Quiz: What's the difference between a one-off comment disputing a claim and/or choice of words, and creating a website devoted exclusively to the purpose authoritatively debunking "myths that take hold as a result of inaccurate or irresponsible media reports."

Take your time.

Actually, mantis, I based i... (Below threshold)

Actually, mantis, I based it on Japan's nickname, because from Japan, the sun sets on China. Also, an allusion to the possible "sunset" of China's commercial success.

Not my best title, but I didn't think it was as bad as all that.

J.

Also, an allusion to the... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Also, an allusion to the possible "sunset" of China's commercial success.

I got the sunset reference, I just didn't understand why you would allude to Japan's name.

Actually, mantis, I based it on Japan's nickname, because from Japan, the sun sets on China.

Pretty awkward and easy to mistake if you ask me. But of course you are correct, China does lie west of Japan. What does Japan have to do with this again?

Well, both countries got fo... (Below threshold)

Well, both countries got footholds in the US market by going cheap, but Japan sustained it by moving upmarket. China seems content to stay at the bottom and "own" that segment -- and it's turning out incredibly bad for them.

I guess the connection was clearer in my own mind. If I introduce the Japan comparison, I probably should have elaborated it a bit more.

J.

"I got the sunset reference... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

"I got the sunset reference"-sure you did.

Mantis, I know the definiti... (Below threshold)

Mantis, I know the definition of irony. And it definitely applies to the series of comments you've made.

Not to mention that "self-parody" runs a close second.

I've looked into the China ... (Below threshold)
Mark:

I've looked into the China situation for a while now, and its clear that China's economy is a very shaky house of cards. There is a huge amount of non-performing internal debt because most factories in China are forced to sell their products at a loss in order to keep up cash flow. It is true that China has huge reserves of foreign currency, but this is a sign that the only profits they find are in exports and masks the fiscal problems that are building.

In truth China is in danger of having the same economic flu that Japan had, without the established high-end exports that can carry them through.

Expect the current problems of tainted and flawed products from China to increase in the near future until most retailers stop carrying Chinese products because the liability dangers will be just too high.

Mark, although it would cau... (Below threshold)
Wanderlust:

Mark, although it would cause the West a significant bit of short-term pain, a collapse of China's economy a la the Japanese "asian flu" of the 1990's, IMHO, would be a good thing for the West in the long term.

jpm100's comment about profits remaining in China are also on target: right now, China is driving the commodities market for several minerals, including iron. The "devil's bargain" mining companies have struck with China mandates those companies literally falling over themselves to source significant amounts of their supply chain spending from China.

Keep in mind that even though there are several "big name" Western firms operating in China (e.g., Siemens China, ABB China, etc.), these operations are majority owned - and controlled - by the Chinese. The manufacturing facilities are Chinese facilities, managed by the Western partner whose name lends the Chinese firm "street cred" in the West. And every order for large equipment placed in China means that the ability of the Western world to manufacture that equipment atrophies a little bit more, until the Western firm can no longer support the home country's manufacturing operation due to ongoing financial losses.

Bottom line, there really *is* a "cost to the savings" that, over the long term, will make the West become increasingly dependent on the Chinese manufacturing base. And on the day that dependence cannot be easily reversed, the Chinese earn the position of calling the shots.

Think about that the next time your employer buys a major piece of equipment from China (or India, for that matter)...

India is indeed at least as... (Below threshold)
epador:

India is indeed at least as much as a threat, with service or cerebrally based competition as China is to manufactured goods.

Don't worry...this thing wi... (Below threshold)
moseby:

Don't worry...this thing with China will have a "happy ending".




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