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China and Walmart

For those who missed it, Instapundit is having a go at the Chinese authorities and…Walmart. November 7th is the anniversary of arrest of Liu Di by plain-clothes police. No charges have been made and she has not been heard of for the past year. Petitions have been started, in China, with people putting their real names to them and being arrested for that themselves. This is the story:

Until the authorities tracked her down a year ago Friday, she (Liu Di) was one of the most famous Internet web masters in China. A third-year psychology student at Beijing Normal University, Ms. Liu formed an artists club, wrote absurdist essays in the style of dissident Eastern-bloc writers of the 1970s, and ran a popular web-posting site. Admirers cite her originality and humor: In one essay Liu ironically suggests all club members go to the streets to sell Marxist literature and preach Lenin’s theory, like “real Communists.” In another, she suggests everyone tell no lies for 24 hours. In a series of “confessions” she says that China’s repressive national-security laws are not good for the security of the nation.

But since Nov. 7, 2002, when plain-clothes police made a secret arrest, Liu has not been heard from. No charges have been filed; her family and friends may not visit her, sources say; and, in a well-known silencing tactic, authorities warn that it will not go well for her if foreign media are informed of her case.

It is largely the attention of the Western media and public that keeps dissidents afloat and their oppressor in some sort of check. Those who are visible beyond the barrier erected between the oppressed and the outside world tend to fare marginally better. At least they get publicity for their sacrifice and if the campaigning on their behalf is persistent enough, they may even get out of whatever hell-hole communist officials put them in. The thousands (in China probably an order of magnitude larger) ‘small’ human tragedies go unnoticed just as they did in communist Russia and Eastern Europe.

Looking back at the Cold War days it seems incomprehensible that such horrors could be tolerated next door to Western civilisation and capitalist liberal democracies. Marxism and communism – top candidates for the most barbaric and inhuman ideologies – have absolutely no redeeming features, whether in practise or in theory. Not only they create a living hell for ‘ordinary people’ but they bring destruction to those who perpetrate it. Communism, time and again, produces monstrous regimes that like Saturn devour their own offspring.

And for those who believe that letting China ‘evolve’ out of its totalitarianism is the best way forward, this conclusion is not an optimistic one.

…the Chinese security and police are regularly told to crack down. There may be exceptions, as when the daughter or son of a high party member or rich family gets in trouble; or when there are excesses of youth.

But these are exceptions. The rest – labor activists, upstart college students, journalists, writers, intellectuals, professors, dissidents, religious believers with too much spunk, those who stand out in a too-public fashion or attract too much attention – are warned, or arrested. In this reading of China, free expression is not improving in the short- and midterm.

Despite some changes of style, more arrests are taking place, and ordinary Chinese are still strictly censoring themselves.

It is the pressure from the outside that can have the greatest impact on what happens in totalitarian regimes. Glenn Reynolds thinks that challenging Walmart is a way to increase it. Well, that’s good enough for me.


34 comments to China and Walmart

  • Antoine Clarke

    Walmart caved in to that Michael Moore person (if we can trust anything in Bowling for Columbine). I haven’t shopped at ASDA since, nor am I likely to do so now. That’s another £4,000 voting for freedom.

  • jk

    I am always torn on this one. The human rights abuses supercede economic concerns. Yet, is a boycott of Chinese goods — even if effective — likely to promote freedom more than increased wealth and interaction with foreign partners.

    I see free trade providing more hoe for freedom.

  • The problem here is that China just passed Mexico as the USA’s second biggest trading partner. There is a huge constituency, the business community, which will oppose any sanctioning or even criticism of China. During the Cold War trade with Russia was minimal, so there were few forces with any muscle trying to hush up human rights criticism. The Republicans, generally hawkish, are also the voice of the business community. They won’t push hard on this. If ever there was a role for a morally sane Left, it is here. They should be raising Hell about human rights abuses in China. I suppose they minimize their criticism of China because they think it is “belligerent” to do so, and perhaps because they see China as somehow “socialistic” or otherwise superior.

    As to whether free trade and interaction with foreigners is better than criticism and sanctions, I vote for the latter. The Chinese business community is dominated by politically connected Red Princes. These people have “interacted” plenty with the USA. They visit here, many were educated here. These people want to develop the country economically and stay in the saddle and keep the lid on any dissent or even open competition which would eat into the economic rents they extract from their privileged positions. If they are made to pay a cost for their repressive practices, they may respond. If not, they will continue their oligarchic rule, benefitting from open trade with the USA, and suffering no criticism at home (where it is squelched) or abroad (where self-interest or moral obtuseness are at work). They should understand that the political consensus favoring open trade with China is fragile and that their abusive conduct plays into the hands of anti-trade elements here in the USA. That threat may get some attention and response. Merely engagng in ongoing trade, and hoping that political liberty will somehow spontaneously arise because some American made products are for sale, is not going to be an effective way to push the liberalization of China.

  • The Kid

    Perhaps one way of getting the point across is to avoid, as much as one can, Chinese goods at Wal-Mart or any other outlet. Wal-Mart does carry items not made in China. Check the label and go for goods from some other godforsaken place that is trying to raise its living standards. You might have to do without some toys, garden implements, and sports equipment because China is the only source, but you should be able to find higher priced equivalents at other stores.

  • I vote for the former.

    Our focus here should be on your average Chinese Joe’s quality of life. There is no question that the current semi-free exchange of goods and services has vastly improved the standard of living of hundreds of millions of Chinese.

    Yes, there are arbitrary jailings and crackdowns. The fact remains that most Chinese keep their heads down and work. Political freedom is important, but material wealth usually comes first.

    That’s been true in South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. And given the indigenous protest in Hong Kong, it may be true in China as well.

    Another point: Rocking the boat from the outside will NOT endear us to the average Chinese. The CCP has promoted a strain of virulent ultranationalism; any kind of external condemnation/sanction of China for human rights reasons will be translated by the state owned media as Yankee imperialism. In other words, it may well be counterproductive, as they are much more likely to listen to internal criticism (such as that from Hong Kong this summer) than external.

  • oleolehy

    I missed it, if noted, China garners ( I understand), some 75-80% from production profits and enters them in the in the military column and hence huge improvements there. Future problems for us.

  • Aaron

    I think any boycott of Chinese goods would simply be used by the CCP to demonstrate how some wicked foreigners want to ‘keep China down.’ (Like Korea they have a real inferiority complex.) n Already, they use patriotism to keep themselves in power.

    Meanwhile, if there is no boycott, the middle class is growing and they are getting ANGRY at corruption, etc.

    There will be an overthrow within the next 10 years or the CCP will reform itself and create a multiparty system. My bet is on overthrow.

  • Jeremy

    Isn’t it hard to find a store that doesn’t sell stuff made in China? I’m not sure why Wal-Mart was singled out…

  • Glenn’s initial posting stated that “I don’t think I care to buy any more Chinese goods while this sort of thing [such as the arrest of Liu Di] goes on…” I wrote to him asking how long he or his American readers could go without purchasing something made in China, and he responded by conceding this would indeed be difficult but that if he were a buyer from Wal-Mart he could make an impact. I responded by saying that Wal-Mart’s operation in China was so big that I thought that even a buyer would make a negligible difference. I sent an email outlining the company’s operation in China to make my point: Wal-Mart has purchasing contracts with thousands of Chinese factories (I’ve heard 5,000 from some sources, and it’s certainly more than 2,000), and its 300 permanent buyers in China purchase over US$12 billion of locally-made goods. To put this in context, Wal-Mart imports more from China than either Britain or Russia.

    There are several reasons why I asked Glenn how long he could hold out against Chinese-made goods. The first is that I’ve spent four years here in Hong Kong researching factory conditions, labour law, workplace standards, codes of conduct, the impact on labour of foreign direct investment, and so on across Asia (first for an NGO – the Asia Monitor Resource Centre, and now for the Southeast Asia Research Centre at City University of Hong Kong). On the basis of observing first hand just how much is produced in the Pearl River Delta (the triangle formed by Hong Kong/Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Macau/Zhuhai), I genuinely wondered how long a consumer in North America could avoid purchasing products made in China. My guess was not for long. I would genuinely like to hear views from people in the UK, Europe or North America. But here are some reasons why I think it would be difficult.

    A couple of years ago, Alice Kwan (then with HKCIC) and I wrote a chapter on the Chinese toy industry. CIC was in those days involved in researching conditions in toy factories that supplied for Mattel, Disney, McDonald’s, and so on. We stated in our article that there are around 6,000 toy manufacturers in China. Discounting computer games, it’s actually pretty hard to buy a toy these days that’s not made in China (particularly for toys at the cheaper end of the market). The same is true to a lesser degree for sports shoes, garments and electronics.

    However, my point here isn’t just that it’s hard to avoid purchasing goods made in China for American or European companies (Mattel, HP, Nike, Gap, Ikea, etc), but that Chinese companies themselves are investing overseas at a rapidly increasing rate. An article I wrote at the end of 2002 on Chinese investment in the Cambodian garment sector quoted from UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2002 that the “top 12 Chinese TNCs, mainly State-owned enterprises [SOEs], now control over US$30 billion in foreign assets with over 20,000 foreign employees and US$33 billion in foreign sales.” There are now Chinese products made in the US, so even buying ‘Made in America’ may in fact mean ‘made by a Chinese-owned manufacturing plant in America’. A good example of this is Haier. Haier is a Qingdao-based home appliance manufacturer, though it’s diversified into dozens of other areas as well. (Qingdao – Tsingtao – is famous for its beer and is a coastal city north of Shanghai). If you live in America and own a compact refrigerator or a wine cellar there’s a two in one chance that it’s a Haier. And it wasn’t made in China: it was made in America. Haier owns a large plant in Camden, South Carolina. The town has even named a street after the company: Haier boulevard.

    Given all this, I just don’t know how long an average consumer could go without buying Chinese goods (whether it’s from China or made by a Chinese company overseas).

    But my second reason for emailing Glenn was with regard to boycotts. I’m fully aware that one of the reasons companies like Nike came to the negotiating table on labour practices in the first place was the threat of boycotts and the bad publicity arising from exposures of poor working conditions. I don’t want to get sidetracked by the issue of whether those conditions are poor or not (that’s irrelevant for the purposes of my point here), but the point is that boycotts or threats of boycotts played some role. So Glenn’s thinking is rational at one level: putting pressure on Wal-Mart may lead to positive changes. But the perception of boycotts in the US or Europe from Asia over the last half decade or so has been fairly negative. After all, a truly successful boycott would necessarily lead to job losses; for every 1,800 pairs of Nike sports shoes that go unsold due to consumer action, 600 workers lose a day’s work on a production line. If 50,000 consumers who would normally have purchased Nike shoes refuse to do on the grounds of poor workplace standards, 600 workers are out of work for a month. On the other side of the coin, most activist consumers probably don’t defer purchase of sports shoes indefinitely and eventually buy something (let’s say Reebok). So perhaps what Nike loses Reebok gains (and thus the factories contracted by Reebok hire more workers). Of course it never works like this, but given than Reebok and Nike shoes are often made in the same plants (though not always) it may be more likely than in other cases.

    The ancillary point with regard to boycotts (effectiveness aside) is how many consumers actually purchase products on the basis of fair working conditions. How many readers purchased more than one good in the last month on the basis of whether the people who made it are treated fairly (even if ‘fairly’ here were to simply mean that workers were paid a legally defined minimum wage on time – ie., not in arrears, worked the maximum hours and overtime stipulated under national labour law (40 regular hours per week and 36 hours OT per month in China), and the workplace complied with Chinese health and safety regulations, which are well up to the task of protecting workers)? How many readers made all their purchases on this basis?

    It’s hard to make generalisations on these issues. I personally believe that judgements need to be made on a case by case study. Each factory is different. The relationships between buyers and suppliers are complex and range from very close to virtually non-existent. There are Chinese factories that make their counterparts in the West look positively Dickensian. There are others that maim and kill. The rapid rise in commentary on Chinese workplace conditions – in the US in particular over the perception that Americans are losing jobs to Chinese – has led to some fairly sloppy generalising aimed at shoring up local agendas and with very little concern for Chinese or other workers.

  • bear, the (one each)

    Walmart SHOULD be singled out, with their “bringing it home” campaign. They are now enough of a powerhouse in retail that they dictate the standards, the packaging, and everything else.

  • I want to respond to some of the comments here.

    The Kid: “Check the label and go for goods from some other godforsaken place that is trying to raise its living standards. You might have to do without some toys, garden implements, and sports equipment because China is the only source…”

    Some Chinese companies contracting to brand names (like Reebok, Mattel, etc) have raised standards already. China has a good labour law but it’s poorly implemented. It also has good health and safety regulations, hindered by the same problem. This doesn’t mean people aren’t trying. If you’re interested, contact me and I’ll send you an article I’ve just written on changes in Chinese OHS regulations (overall pessimistic but with glimmers of hope). I also think you’ll find that China makes more than low-end manufacturing items. Chances are that your Nokia phone, HP printer and optical frames were made in China.

    Godlesscapitalist: “Rocking the boat from the outside will NOT endear us to the average Chinese.”

    Point taken, but it’s not necessarily true. There are different ways to make points. When I was at AMRC we were involved in OHS training in Chinese factories, and Reebok has pushed two trade union elections in Chinese factories. Yes, some resent these projects, but others don’t. It’s not cut and dried. However, I think you’d be right if smaller projects were supplanted by massive programs run by the US State Department. But at the moment that’s not the case. I should say, however, that Chinese managers do resent foreign buyers handing out codes of conduct with little or no help at implementing them.

    oleolehy: “I missed it, if noted, China garners ( I understand), some 75-80% from production profits and enters them in the in the military column and hence huge improvements there.”

    I have never heard such a thing and would like to see your source. Given that most Chinese firms don’t pay tax, I’m not sure how the government garners 75-80% of profits. How would the Chinese state collect this? It just doesn’t make sense to me, but I’m willing to stand corrected.

  • mmarckey

    As a former Wal-Mart International employee, and a current resident of China, I am amazed and saddened to see so much misinformation passed off as if it were actually true.

    Free trade, and free markets are the seeds of Democracy. Don’t worry too much about China, the Chinese are more than capable of taking care of themselves. China (and the Chinese) are no different than the rest of us – they “have the government that they deserve.” Historically, there have been relatively few exceptions to this rule.

    I see freedom growing in China, and while they are nowhere near the level that we enjoy in the U.S.A., they have experienced a great leap forward (regarding personal freedom). There is no reason to think that this growth will stop. On the contrary, I have reason to believe that China will continue to mature into the largest democracy the world has ever seen.

    The fact that it will do so on its own timetable is irrelevant. Communism only survives in the darkness – whether in Eastern Europe, Asia, or the Caribbean.

    Wherever communism has been confronted through an open exchange (the free movement of people), it quickly withers and dies, often without a single shot being fired. Likewise, whenever we’ve allowed communism to be combined with isolationism, it has survived – often tragically.

    Do you really want to help? Open your home to a Chinese foreign exchange student.

  • Shawn

    The reality is that China is a communist country in name only. Virtually no vestige of actual Marxism remains, except the silly slogans and symbols. China today is closer to Chile under Pinochet than to the old Soviet Union. I’m generally as hawkish on foriegn policy issues as you can get, but isolating China economically and confronting her with agressive military force would be counter-productive. Isolating Cuba economically has kept Fidel in power more than anything else. So I do think we should continue to trade with China. At the same time however, we should also take a harder line on three issues. First, while I generally dislike government interference in free trade, the U.S should not allow strategically important military industries to locate in China, and we shoiuld cease any exporting of military technology to China. Second, we should make it clear that the occupation of Tibet is unacceptable and will never be acceptable. And third, we should make it clear that no Chinese interference in Taiwan will be accepted. The issue of independence must be left to the democratic will of the Taiwanese people alone, and if any attempt to force Taiwan into line by the PLA is made it will be met with force in return.

    Anyway, thats my humble opinion. But I’m not the President.

    Yet. 😉

  • TomP

    I think boycotting Chinese-manufactured products is a great idea in principle and I do avoid Chinese-made goods to the extent I can. The problem is often in finding non-Chinese products to buy, since so many American companies now do their manufacturing there. When I bought a power drill from Home Depot the year before last, every brand they were selling (there were three or four) was made in China, even the ones with American brand names. At that point, what are you supposed to do? The problem may already be beyond the point where a boycott is practical.

  • Roland Mar

    I am an American of Chinese ancestry. I REMEMBER Tiananmen. It is as simple as that. Many of those survivors who were arrested are in the Laogai, the Chinese equivalent of the Gulag. The Laogai is one of the major industrial combines producing goods for export to the United States. [See Hongda “Harry” Wu’s book LAOGAI] Morally, I find it repugnant that I might benefit from the slave labor of a Chinese patriot, of a fellow son or daughter of Han who stood up for freedom. Since June 4, 1989 neither I nor my family have knowingly purchased Chinese goods. My children have grown up reflexively checking labels, and like their parents they will pay more for non-PRC produced goods. I am very proud of them.

    As far as military threats from the purchases: 1) our military is becoming dependent on Chinese produced computer components. 2) many of the export companies are in fact subsidiaries of PLA owned companies. The money supports the modernization of the PLA. 3) The trade with US companies leads to one way transfers of technology to the Chinese military. Chinese ICBM’s would not be reliable enough to constitute a threat, if not for information transferred to the PLA by Loral Corp. 4) We have seen the result of Chinese cash, gleaned from their trade surpluses, being transferred to finance American political campaigns. Mind you, the problem is not limited to just one party. Democrats prefer their bribes in small unmarked bills. Republicans prefer them in the form of long term contracts. In either case, the cost to our country is too dear.

    We are fighting a multi-front world war; against Wahabi Islam, against the death throes of failed communist states, and against the forces of transnational socialism as exemplified by the UN and EU. It can be noted that wherever we encounter armed resistance, the weapons are made, sold, or designed by China. Yet, we look the other way.

    A previous writer mentioned Taiwan. Is there anyone who seriously believes that the United States would risk any kind of conflict with China to protect Taiwan from invasion? To do so would risk the American supply of cheap consumer goods.

  • Roland: “many of the export companies are in fact subsidiaries of PLA owned companies. The money supports the modernization of the PLA.”

    What’s your source for this, Roland? It’s true that the PLA has investments in many sectors (not just manufacturing and export companies), but I’m not sure that ‘many’ tells us very much. About 30% of Chinese exports originate in TVEs (of which there are more than 20 million). The PRD accounts for around 35% of exports (and from that number we can discount TVEs). There is PLA investment in the PRD, but it’s surely overwhelmed by Taiwanese, Korean and Hong Kong FDI (some of which may be PLA in origin but only a small proportion, surely).

    “The Laogai is one of the major industrial combines producing goods for export to the United States.”

    I’m not denying that exports for the US are produced in the laogai, but to suggest that it constituates a major industrial combine is to deny the massive output of the Yangzi Delta and the PRD (accounting for around 65% of all exports). Neither area contains laogai that could account for a large proportion of exports. Could workers in laogai produce goods to the same extent that the 10,000 factories situated in Shenzhen can (with access to technology and excellent infrastructure, massive investment, and so on)? Could you please send me some sources (and I’ve read Wu’s work) that supports these claims.

  • Kathy Livingston

    For over a year now my husband and I have not purchased any Chinese-made goods because we have no way of knowing which ones are manufactured by prisoners and which are not, and there’s a good chance that especially the low end stuff is. When we need something, such as computer equipment, that isn’t made anywhere else, we buy it secondhand. It certainly can be done.

  • Kathy: “…and there’s a good chance that especially the low end stuff is [made by prison labour].”

    I acknowledge you and your husband taking a stand on something you believe in.

    I have one question and several comments.

    First, are you – or in fact any of us – in a position to know what’s made in China? For instance, about 90% of the worlds optical frames are made there. However, if frames made in Shenzhen are exported to France where they’re then daubed with a trendy pink splash of paint, the French company can legally – under French law – attach a “Made in France” sticker. This goes for lots of products. The basic work is done in China but is finished elsewhere; the latter location being the place of origin on the label. An associated problem is that even fairly simple products like a shirt might require goods from half a dozen countries or more – cotton grown in Xinjiang (China), woven in Henan (China), dyed in Korea, buttons produced in Indonesia, cotton thread from India, and then put together in factories in Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh. What country is on the label? It will most probably be the one in which the garment is stitched, but what then of the conditions on the cotton fields in Xinjiang – a province in which the Chinese state is quelling a Muslim separatist movement? Or in the button factory in Indonesia (owned by Koreans)? Logistics and supply chain management has made this whole process faster, cheaper and more efficient than ever before. And products are much more difficult to track. I know because I worked for an organisation for three years that tried to do it.

    With regard to you statement that there’s a good chance that low end manufactured goods are made by prison labour; I would actually say that the reverse is true. Anita Chan refers to factory workers in China as bonded labour, but there’s a distinction between that and the workers to whom you’re referring. As I mentioned above, the sheer weight of goods coming out of the Yangzi River Delta and the Pearl River Delta regions is beyond description. Goods manufactured in prisons would hardly make a dent in this huge volume. This is not to say that prison labour should then be ignored, but I think that relatively little is made in such conditions. However, a good deal of manufactured goods are made in conditions that might mirror prison life in many ways, and not just in China (Bangladesh and Sri Lanka immediately spring to mind with regard to garments as places where working conditions are worse than China in some regards). I’ve translated extracts from Chinese factory rule books, for instance, and if you’re interested in seeing what that means feel free to contact me and I’ll send them to you.

    As I said in the first posting I made in this thread, I’m actually interested in how people could avoid buying Chinese made goods. It would be interesting – from my point of view, anyway – for someone to actually do an inventory of your purchases (people with extensive knowledge of supply chains in various sectors) to see how successful you’ve been. My own practical experience in this field suggests it’s incredibly difficult.

  • pauldow

    >>Jeremy posted on November 7, 2003 03:45 AM …I’m not sure why Wal-Mart was singled out…<< Wal-Mart is by far, the biggest consumer of Chineese products. An article in Forbes magazine this week mentioned "Wal-Mart now consumes 10% of China's exports to the U.S. and 1% of China's GDP." Reference: http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2003/1110/047_print.html

    Since China’s 2002 GDP was 1.232 trillion USD, according to http://www.worldbank.org/data/countrydata/aag/chn_aag.pdf, Walmart consumes 12.32 billion in Chineese products annually.

    That’s a huge impact on their economy.

  • There are several reasons to boycott Walmart. For example, Walmart limits benefits to full-time employees – and subcontracts out everythng possible or limits workers to part-time hours. This shifts the burden of health care (to take one benefit as an example) on to society as a whole and on to other companies that do provide benefits. Walmart in essence free-rides on the current system just as China free-rides on the free-trade system. China and Walmart were meant for each other.

    It is hard NOT to buy Chinese products because so much is made in China. However Chinese goods are much poorer quality than Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, and European goods (with the last there is then the issue of France – no one ever said consumerism was going to be easy). For nearly every product that China makes, I can think of a better quality product made in another country. Of course it costs more, but the old adage still applies: You get what you pay for.

    China’s human rights record is abysmal. It views the USA as an enemy and continues to protect the nightmare occurring in North Korea, making American foreign policy more difficult to run. It is helping to wreck the American middle class by being the number two outsourcing destination for services. And it makes crappy products.

    Sure it is hard to avoid Chinese products, but do so and take responsibility for your actions.

  • Tim

    Yes, of course communism may wither and die with too much contact with the west, but that’s not true of totalitarianism. As Shawn pointed out, China is no longer (much of) a “communist” country — no one gets put in jail for buying and selling things per se. But it is still a totalitarian state.

    And those can be quite resistant to change, even in contact with the “outside”. Did Iraq “wither and die” through free trade? No. How about Libya? No. How about the Shah’s Iran? No. Afghanistan? No. Milsovec’s Yugoslavia? No.

    The ideology may fall, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it has to take the one-party system with it.

  • Ken

    “A previous writer mentioned Taiwan. Is there anyone who seriously believes that the United States would risk any kind of conflict with China to protect Taiwan from invasion? To do so would risk the American supply of cheap consumer goods.”

    That and nuclear attack, which is probably a greater concern 🙂

    Besides, don’t we get cheap consumer goods from Taiwan, too?

    “There are several reasons to boycott Walmart. For example, Walmart limits benefits to full-time employees – and subcontracts out everythng possible or limits workers to part-time hours.”

    Good. If everyone was paid straight cash, without “benefits”, and bought their own health insurance policies, we’d all be a lot better off.

    “This shifts the burden of health care (to take one benefit as an example) on to society as a whole and on to other companies that do provide benefits.”

    No it doesn’t. It “shifts the burden of health care” on to the employees. Actually, it doesn’t even do that, as they’d get paid less cash if they were getting “benefits”.

  • DC

    In my experience, the best way to help the people of China is to continue trade with China. See my comments here:



  • You’d think crashing into an American aircraft in international airspace and taking Americans as hostages would settle this issue. Frankly I haven’t heard them apologize or heard that they’d changed their hostile stance.

    That said why shouldn’t I support a boycott of products that come from a country with an evil regime (millions of dead can’t be wrong) that has been openly hostile to the US?

    I’ve heard the argument made that a boycott would hurt change there and would hurt the non-slave industries. What the same people fail to say is that supporting decent production supports the laogai and gives more power to the people who are in charge.


  • One more point. Forget what’s best for China.
    What’s best for the US and its allies?
    Does more and freer trade garauntee that China will become a friend to the West?
    If not, then why do we want to help strengthen a hostile nation that want’s a larger nuclear aresenal for the sole purpose of aiming it at the US.

    Seriously, without security committments from China why should we help to strengthen them at our own expense?


  • mmarckey

    Roland Mar: “A previous writer mentioned Taiwan. Is there anyone who seriously believes that the United States would risk any kind of conflict with China to protect Taiwan from invasion? To do so would risk the American supply of cheap consumer goods.”

    AND YET, CHINA DOESN’T SIMPLY INVADE TAIWAN. So, why is that? Could it be that as they join the “family” of nations they are indeed learning?

    The whole point of engaging China, (and others), is that our interests become their interests, and vice-versa. This sharing of interests provides the economic self-interest that is necessary to prevent war, etc… Examining China’s evolving response to the SARS epidemic last Spring, one can see a good example of how engagement can pull China in line with International standards.

    NEWS FLASH!!! China aspires to be #1. Is this a bad thing? I think not. The simple, liberal philosophy – that all issues be viewed through a “zero-sum game” lens – should be rejected. In Economics, most of us have already discovered that we can indeed bake a bigger cake – thus allowing all parties involved to have a bigger piece. The same applies to world politics – the world can be big enough to support more than one “world leader”, growth is a real possibility.

    In fact, most of us would appauld a democracy that tolerates (encourages?) a variety of ideas – all competing to be #1. Why should it be any different with world leadership? If China can compete on this level, we all win.

    China is changing – radically, and, in many ways, at the speed of light. YES, there are many obstacles in their way, but they are confronting them, beginning with those that they deem to be the most important. Is this any different than our own history? Didn’t we horribly – immorally – enslave the blacks? Didn’t our forefathers choose to ignore this – for the time being – while they pressed on with the more important issues of the day? (Saving that battle for another time.)

    Sitting in the comfort of your own home, in the midst of the greatest wealth the world has ever seen, it’s easy to condemn the Chinese for their shortcomings. Perhaps it’s even healthy (for the Chinese), I certainly think it is. However, the task of changing a society of 1.5 billion people, 80% – more or less – of whom are poorly educated, is incredibly complex. In other words, criticize to your hearts content – but please try and be a little more honest in your evaluations of what is going on, relative to what has happened historically.

    I’ll say it again, the seeds of democracy are a free-market, and property ownership. China has both, so the question that remains is not whether or not they will become a “free” society, but when. This question is theirs alone to answer.

    Of course, we do try and influence the process, and as such, we have a legitimate role to play. Boycotting Chinese products is one way to make a point, but is it really the best way? Engaging China has brought about rapid change (remember the aforementioned seeds), not only for today, but guaranteed for tomorrow. (“You reap what you sew.”)

  • mmarckey

    President Bush (earlier this week): “Our commitment to democracy is tested in China. That nation now has a sliver, a fragment of liberty. Yet, China’s people will eventually want their liberty pure and whole. China has discovered that economic freedom leads to national wealth. China’s leaders will also discover that freedom is indivisible — that social and religious freedom is also essential to national greatness and national dignity. Eventually, men and women who are allowed to control their own wealth will insist on controlling their own lives and their own country.”

    The same history that has already shown Reagan to have been right about Communism and the Soviet Union will show Bush to be right about China and democracy.

  • “The whole point of engaging China, (and others), is that our interests become their interests, and vice-versa.”

    You should qualify this statement. It is not always true, and is historically demonstrable as not always working this way. France and the USA today is a good example as are Germany and the USSR back in the ’30s.

    “This sharing of interests provides the economic self-interest that is necessary to prevent war, etc…”

    Again it CAN provode what you describe, but history also shows that it can be a pre-cursor to invasion and war.

    We can’t predict how relations will change or what will change them. History has shown that in less than a year a country can go from being the number one trading partner of a country to having that countries tanks cross over and invade. History has also shown that countries can go from being heated enemies to friendly allies.

    I guess my point is that, in regards to China, it is their actions and rhetoric that matter, not whether we feel we should punish or reward them for actions we find heinous.

    We can choose to boycott them because of the things we find heinous, or we can continue to trade with them letting them know that we tacitly approve of their actions. Despite what we say about it, so long as we reward or fail to condemn their actions then we are guilty of supporting those actions.

    It’s interesting to read people arguing that we support China and reward their actions in hope of changing those actions.


  • Dean

    Dear Kai,
    it is your statement that needs to be “qualified”. The relationship between France and the United States is a perfect example of my point. See, we all agree, (Frenchmen and Americans alike) that we’re very different. YET, despite our differences, there is no danger of either of us engaging the other in anything remotely similar to war. Why? Because, no matter how much we disagree, even on important issues, we both would lose much more by going to war than we ever would by suffering each others shortcomings, or differences of opinions.

    That was my point, and I stand by it.

    I am interested in what the rest of you think. Do you agree with Kai, or after reading my rebuttal, do you agree with me. Don’t forget, post WHY?

  • “Because, no matter how much we disagree, even on important issues, we both would lose much more by going to war than we ever would by suffering each others shortcomings, or differences of opinions.”
    “That was my point, and I stand by it.”

    I’m sure that’s what both the French and the Soviets thought at one time.

    Truth is, in regards to France, there is no chance of us going to war, but that hasn’t stopped France from working against America’s interests and making our actions toward Iraq more difficult and more dangerous. I doubt anyone could have predicted France’s perfidy in the regards ten years ago. In the late 1950’s did anyone predict that France would leave NATO? I doubt anyone predicted (certainly I didn’t) China’s actions regarding our airmen so recently.

    Consider that we don’t know what China will do in five years. Hopefully they will become more free and less hostile to the US. That’s my hope, but it would be foolish for us to put all our eggs in that basket; history is replete with examples of how badly that can go.


  • mmarckey

    Do you know why China treated our Airmen so badly? When we accidently bombed their embassy in Yugoslavia (I think it was 1999), our response was horrible. We really contaminated the relationship. Instead of taking immediate responsiblility, we did a lot of nothing for 5 days, and finally realized that we needed to set the record straight. Of course, by then, the collateral damage was done. Our apologizes looked (felt) insincere, and probably were.

    Sure, China wants to be number one. Who doesn’t? But, like us, they’re not interested in conquering the world (militarily) to achieve it.

  • Jim

    I traveled to China last week.Chinese isn’t hostile to the US and they are free in their country. If you go there, you will understand.

  • If you have interestd in doing business with China. I would like to introduce some small manufacturing factories in China to you.


  • gp

    I came across this site by accident I work for Hallmark Cards and the key word arround the company is producing some of our product in Asia. I was curious where in Asia we were sending product to be produced because the country is never mentioned. Hallmarks treats this subject like someone that conceals crazy Aunt gertrude thats nuts and the family don’t want the people next door to find out.
    Hallmark supplys Walmart with thier greeting cards and walmart required Hallmark to put a sticker on the back of the card to tell the public how much the customer was saving. Then about 3 month’s ago our manufacturing facility quit doing this when asked why we were told that Walmart didn’t require it any more. Then about a week ago I was talking with a department head about the work load next year and was told that part of it was being shifted to Asia.
    I went on the internet to find out where that plant may be and I found out it was in Shenzhen in the Peoples Republic of China. The work is being contracted out to a company called Starlite Holding Limited who’s headquarters as far as I can discern is in Hong Kong. While I was surfing the internet I came across an article in the Washington Post that told about the same process that we had done for cards now being done for less then 4 dollars a day in China after we were told that Walmart didn’t require this anymore. Also I found alot of companys that Walmart done buisness with also had work done by the same holding company in China. I also found a web site that Walmart had sponsered a trade fair for the same holding company in China.