For a brief time in my life, I managed a dollar store. It was pretty fun, but the pay was appropriately low, and I didn’t stay. But one thing that stuck with me was how much of our merchandise was from China.
China has become the new Japan, as Japan was in the 60s and 70s. In those days, “Made In Japan” was synonymous for “cheap,” in both senses of the word.
Japan, however, learned and grew and prospered. These days, “Made In Japan” has become a touchstone of quality in many fields. The same people who heard their parents curse at their rusting rattletrap Datsuns and Toyotas now proudly tool around in Infinitis and Lexuses.
China, however, could be making some very, very serious mistakes.
First up, they poisoned a whole bunch of American’s pets.
Then they poisoned American children.
Now, they are planning on sending a car to the US market that will kill its passengers even faster than poisoning.
I freely admit I’ve used very strong, even pejorative language here. I don’t think that any of these incidents were deliberate. But they are probably symptomatic.
Once is an accident. Twice could be a coincidence. But all three in such short order… to ignore that would be insane.
What we might be seeing could be the inevitable result of trying to use a command economy to feed a capitalistic demand. The Communist Chinese are not used to the notion that consumers can have a choice — and simple price advantage will not be enough in all cases. And the trust of a customer, once lost, is a cast-iron bitch to regain.
As I said, I don’t see any grand conspiracy here. Rather, just the opposite — these strike me as signs of a grand conspiracy becoming unraveled, falling apart under its own internal flaws.
But if I had stock in Family Dollar or Wal-Mart or any of a ton of other companies that have based their success on getting cheap goods from China, I’d be hoping like hell that they had a fallback plan ready in case a massive public rejection of Chinese goods — goods that, these days, seem to come with a hell of a higher price than indicated on the tag.
(Editor’s note: Sashi at Big Lizards has much more on this.)