Buying Chinese Goods
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jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Buying Chinese Goods on 03/04/2011 08:10:32 MST Print View

Maybe this topic has exhausted itself already

I try not to buy Chinese goods because they have a huge trade imbalance and I worry that the products will be contaminated by toxins or be of poor quality.

But, I just bought a scale for $8 so I'm hypocritical. So far it works better than the $40 kitchen scale I also have.

I don't like supporting "sweat shops" but I'm not sure about that, I would like to hear the other side.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Buying Chinese Goods on 03/04/2011 08:11:37 MST Print View

this topic has exhausted itself already

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Buying Chinese Goods on 03/04/2011 08:46:26 MST Print View

There is very little in my immediate field of view here at my desk that wasn't made offshore. The Romans had outright slave labor, we have the Third World. I can console myself that 99% of it is recycled (second hand goods), but there is still a swath of human misery and ecological destruction tied to these products.

China is the 800 pound gorilla, but there are many other countries that provide cheap labor for our products. It's bad enough for a Chinese company to treat their workers poorly; I think it is downright immoral for a US company to take advantage of workers that way. Putting pressure on those companies via exposure in the press, lobbying our legislators, and voting with our wallets are the ways to stop it.

There is a long way to go in the US as well. Safety standards are very uneven, the 40 hour week is a myth in many industries, discrimination and union-busting continue. Millions work without heath care and receive wages that can't sustain a single person, let alone a family.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Re: Buying Chinese Goods on 03/04/2011 08:55:34 MST Print View

Have you visited the manufacturing side of Asia? Generally, poor people are pretty stoked to have jobs making us stuff.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Re: Buying Chinese Goods on 03/04/2011 09:06:17 MST Print View

I guess it's not an exhausted topic after all.

"Generally, poor people are pretty stoked to have jobs making us stuff."

That's good to know.
I was beginning to worry that many jobs with no overtime pay, long hours, poor health/safety conditions, low wages, and threatening/intimidating behavior on the part of owners/bosses could perhaps have a detrimental effect on the lives of workers.

Knowing they enjoy doing what they do makes me feel better.

Kenneth Cowan
(zeros) - F

Locale: California
The Mac plant suicides on 03/04/2011 09:08:21 MST Print View

also come to mind.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Problem is Buying Chinese -- Or the Buying Itself?? on 03/04/2011 09:50:41 MST Print View

2010 US trade deficit - $498 billion
2010 US federal government - $13,500 billion ($13.5 trillion)

Is our problem buying too much from China? Or are we simply buying / consuming / borrowing too much, period!?! On average, we have some of the highest incomes in the world!! And yet, many of us find ourselves borrowing on top of even that -- from government bonds to private consumer credit card debts, etc. -- to consume even more! On a more personal level -- how many of us have multiple shelters, multiple packs, multiple jackets of all kinds, etc. -- and that's just ONE of our hobbies!! And some of us fancy ourselves living "simply" (yes, some of you actually do, but I daresay most of us don't).

US politicians moan about China's unfair manipulation of its currency. To me, China is a cheater in this respect; however, that has almost NOTHING to do with our addictive, runaway consumption!! The real victims here are Cambodian or Vietnamese or Honduran manufacturers -- who could have grabbed from China a bigger role in feeding the existing US addiction if there were no Chinese currency manipulation!!

That we over consume and we over borrow to feed that consumption are problems of our own making -- something our politicians -- and many of us -- would rather overlook.

Edited by ben2world on 03/04/2011 09:55:27 MST.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
But When Buying Anyway - Should We Be Supportng Those Sweatshops? on 03/04/2011 10:22:59 MST Print View

Taiwan's" economic miracle" preceded China's by 20 years. Back in the late '60's, my dad saved and saved and when he accumulated enough, we all moved from Hong Kong to Taiwan -- so dad can stop being somebody else's factory manager -- and build his own sweater factory (sweatshop) instead. Taiwan had a cheap labor pool back then -- much like China today.

Let's get one thing straight. With our standard of living today, you and I WOULD NOT wish to work in a sweater factory. No, it wasn't a cruel or dangerous place -- but it was hot, kind of dirty, plus long hours of work 8 minimum, but often 10 and sometimes 12.

Exploitation? Well, for the teeming thousands, a job in the city with a low but regular paycheck -- plus room and board -- was a heck of a lot better than subsistence farming on tiny plots of land. Back in the '60s, bicycle manufacturing was considered "high tech" and anyone foolish enough to pay "American wages and benefits" to basically unskilled or semi-skilled workers would quickly price himself or herself straight out of the market! Within Taiwan, it was simply supply and demand. And on the outside, Taiwan must compete with the rest of the world too. Charge too high a price, and American/European companies will switch instantly to South Korea...

But the first generation workers sent money home to their villages -- and Taiwan became less poor with each passing year with textile and other exports. Education and infrastructure improved. In just 10 years, workers were sufficiently skilled that new electronics factories sprung up. Labor became increasingly scarce.

Dad steadily increased workers' wagers. Air conditioning was installed in the entire factory (except for the inferno ironing department) -- including the dormitory. Meals improved in quality. Extra-curricular activities were put in -- plus free bus rides for the workers to return to their villages during Chinese New Year. Was dad a saint? No, dad was neither saint nor devil. He had to do all this because labor was getting scarce -- and other factories were also doing the same. So basically, business was always tough -- but there was also an economic tide that lifted most everybody up.

My proud moment? When Bush senior "screwed" China and announced sale of F16's to Taiwan in the late 80's -- to help generate jobs for America. Wow! My little island nation -- now a factor even in American elections! Back in the 60's, there was no way Taiwan could afford to buy American military jets -- no way at all.

SO, what about boycotting "junk" from sweatshops because their labor standards are so far, far below ours? As above, we need to spend within our means. We also need to support our own industries. However, as Economics 101 will tell us, each country has its own comparative advantage. America's forte is not in making sweaters and backpacks anymore. So, unless a particular company is especially egregious in ill treating its workers (there are bad bosses everywhere) -- I wouldn't worry about buying imports at all. Everybody benefits. Proof? Even China is facing labor shortages today -- forcing employers to do what they have to do when supply is scarce -- increase pay and benefits!! China too is being forced to "go up the value added ladder" -- they are now finding it hard to compete with Vietnam and Bangladesh -- the next countries to come up.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Buying Chinese Goods on 03/04/2011 10:41:10 MST Print View

I avoid buying Chinese goods (whenever possible) because I have found most products to be inferior. I also do not wish to support their political/social system.

Ben is right about the trade imbalance. We are consuming more than we produce.

If Chinese workers are abused, then they should quit their jobs and find a new ones. Seems pretty simple to me. That is what I did in the past, when I was treated poorly.

Is socialism/communism failing? What happened "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need?" Why has China allowed non-State owned business to operate? Marx and Mao must be spinning in their graves.

Why are the people leaving the State owned farms and getting jobs at the sweat shops?

What happens when the State decides to nationalize the assets of the foreign companies? Good thing the foreign companies cannot own land.

With all this foreign abuse, life spans must be decreasing and child mortality rates increasing.

Are the sweat shops increasing the number of people below the poverty line? Decreasing the per capita income? Gosh, they will never be able to afford a TV, iPhone, or a car. But that is okay, they do not desire those things... they desire the common good and it is immoral to want stuff for yourself.

Hopefully the Chinese people will not abandon traditional Chinese medicine for modern Western medicine. The West is a bad influence.

Next thing you know, the Chinese people are going to have to pay for their own health care!!

And the next, next thing you know, the Chinese are going to dump their bicycles and ox-carts for automobiles and pollute their air. Of course they won't pollute their air, the State is there to protect them. Social planning at its best.

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Low cost gear making on 03/04/2011 10:45:19 MST Print View

Quality is a big concern considering the increasing amount of non-performing gear I need to return/exchange. I need gear that fits 6ft + and more new items are sized M/L - doesn't cut it for my spine size (note: spine size has nothing to do with height).

Now, certainly if the Chinese can sew cheaper than the US using American brand names (same with Eastern Europe and German/Italian brand names being used on light "boots" from the former Warsaw Pact nations, btw) with the same quality associated with brands, then it's a plus. Econ 101 to paraphrase Ben. Plus more of the gear seems to be used by Asian hikers, which is a double plus.

Design and quality have become an issue as the big manufacturers seem to be coasting on their brand names, at least when my joy at recieving gear in the mail has been followed by increasing disappointment. At least here in the States, there's some recourse and therefore more QC. Also customization is sweet...

Edited by hknewman on 03/04/2011 10:49:56 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: But When Buying Anyway - Should We Be Supportng Those Sweatshops? on 03/04/2011 10:46:34 MST Print View

Come on Ben, are you suggesting that Capitalism worked to the benefit of the workers? Blasphemy!

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Buying Chinese Goods on 03/04/2011 10:55:27 MST Print View

Some thoughts after reading Nick's post...

I avoid buying Chinese goods (whenever possible) because I have found most products to be inferior. I also do not wish to support their political/social system.

It's a big country. Some stuff is good, others are junk. I pick and choose -- but will generally avoid foodstuff. Can't always tell the quality by looking. Just too scary.


If Chinese workers are abused, then they should quit their jobs and find a new ones. Seems pretty simple to me. That is what I did in the past, when I was treated poorly.

Most all countries joining the economic system has to start at the bottom -- just like new hires who are unskilled and poorly educated. I think we should be mindful that in England as well as in our own country -- the initial wealth was generated NOT by 'consultants and lawyers' -- but by poor people including poor immigrants who toiled long and hard. We enjoy the fruits of their labor even today. While enjoying our standard of living today, we should not forget the Pennsylvanian mines that employed boys or New York sweat shop that employed sewing girls by their thousands.


Is socialism/communism failing?... With all this foreign abuse, life spans must be decreasing and child mortality rates increasing.

Seems to me you haven't visited China? In many ways, it is more capitalistic -- closer to Diickensian than Obaman!! And that simply reflects China's stage of industrial and economic development. We were ourselves "diickensian" in the late 1800's when we were the fastest developing and biggest manufacturing country back then!


Are the sweat shops increasing the number of people below the poverty line? Decreasing the per capita income? Gosh, they will never be able to afford a TV, iPhone, or a car. But that is okay, they do not desire those things... they desire the common good and it is immoral to want stuff for yourself.

You need to visit China and see for yourself.


Hopefully the Chinese people will not abandon traditional Chinese medicine for modern Western medicine. The West is a bad influence.

You need to watch this short video about China's traditional medicine in today's world.


Next thing you know, the Chinese people are going to have to pay for their own health care!!

They do. Reading your post, I think you need to visit the place and update your notions of China and its "communist" society by a couple of decades. Sick in China? God help you if you have no money -- because the government certainly won't!! Welcome to capitalism -- good, bad, and ugly.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Buying Chinese Goods on 03/04/2011 11:30:42 MST Print View

Hi Ben -

They are rhetorical questions... I know the answers :)

I really enjoyed your story. It communicates what we can accomplish on our own. Unfortunately here in the US, too many people do not want to earn their way, they want someone to take care of them. They want to be entitled instead of being accountable for their own life.

As far as traveling, I still have much to see in Calif, Az, and Nevada. Not to mention Ore, Wa, Montana, and Idaho. Not enough years left in my life to get it all done.

Clint Hewitt
(WalkSoftly33) - F

Locale: New England
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn Takers and Leavers on 03/04/2011 11:34:22 MST Print View

Consumption is built into the system, It is not that politicians or individuals do not want to to "look at it" But that we have become used to having amenities. Social conditioning has led us to believe bigger better faster. (or smaller and lighter here on BPL) Looking for new and improved instead of just good enough or just being. Constantly searching outside our selves for fulfillment, marketing and consumption have feed into this and enhanced it. If the production of goods using cheap labor is not in china it is somewhere else. We are not going to just give up the things we have become used to. Far from "not looking at it" we have charged our government to keep consumption going and to enhance it. I.e the economy

I cant help but think of a recent book I read, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

In it he describes Takers and Leavers, we are all basically Takers, In the sense that we are no longer part of the world but believe that we are its rulers and controllers, not subject to natural laws and cycles. This has created an imbalance, I think every action has an equal and opposite reaction, probably not in our life times but at some point balance will be restored, question is will we (humans) be a part of it?

Here is a short video I came across that relates to this issue. About where we came from where we are and the possibilities for where we can go.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFlwGOt5WDA

I like the cartoon illustrations, funny stuff.

I think the backpacking community or at least part of it, is a reaction to this issue. People want to get out connect with nature and be a part of it and/or get away from the rat race. Gear is a big part of backpacking and is essential to a great/ safe trip, like stated above how many packs, sleeping bags etc. do we all own. Like most here I want the lightest gear to enhance my time outside, and like even more people I want to pay as little as possible because my bank account is far from bottemless. Its our choice to buy or not buy gear just as it is an individual in chinas choice to work at a factory, goverments and other pressures make people do alot of things, but there is always a choice.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: Buying Chinese Goods on 03/04/2011 11:38:47 MST Print View

"Unfortunately here in the US, too many people do not want to earn their way, they want someone to take care of them. They want to be entitled instead of being accountable for their own life."

Nick, we are in complete agreement here. I would broaden it a bit, though, to include companies and corporations. Too often the "they want someone to take care of them - no personal responsibility" meme is targeted at low income and some middle income people, but the wealthy and corporations are just as guilty -- from excessive tax breaks to special rules and regulations that favor them.

The 'no personal responsibility' mantra is, unfortunately, rampant throughout the classes and throughout our country. We've become a sad caricature of what we pretend to be in this country, and what we portray ourselves to be to outsiders.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Buying Chinese Goods on 03/04/2011 12:10:07 MST Print View

The author I most respect for "telling it like it is "in China is Peter Neville Hadley who runs The Oriental List a very good free discussion about China. Just today he suggested a book which is new to me and which I immediately ordered at the library after reading the reviews at Amazon. The book is Paul Midler's 'Poorly Made in China' and it details what it is like to actually deal with business in China. Having bargained my way throughout China I find the Chinese to be the toughest bargainers I've ever met. The quality of goods in markets ranges from the the occasional "real" item like a Land's End sweater that somehow escaped the factory to complete fakes including batteries that barely worked or a calculator with solar cells that were in fact just decorations. I myself had North Face bags which were of great quality in the first year that I bought them . By the end of the year the "same" bags had zippers which disintegrated in a few days. Just as there are 17 hells in Chinese Religion there are levels of quality ranging from pure art to poison.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Personal Responsibility and the shifting of blame on 03/04/2011 13:03:08 MST Print View

"Limited liability is a concept whereby a person's financial liability is limited to a fixed sum, most commonly the value of a person's investment in a company or partnership with limited liability. In other words, if a company with limited liability is sued, then the plaintiffs are suing the company, not its owners or investors. A shareholder in a limited company is not personally liable for any of the debts of the company, other than for the value of their investment in that company."
ions.
Off of Wikipedia's definition of "Limited Liability" for corporations.


Seems to me that if anyone in this country is against personal responsibility it's the corporations and big business interests that underwrite our laws.

Seems to me the mantra of the day is "Socialize risk, Privatize profit."

But no, they're not to blame for the mess we're in...

We're to believe it's average, law-abiding, working-class Americans that put in 40+ hours/week, pay every penny of their taxes, do everything expected of them...but it is they that seek "entitlements" and overreach when they express the belief that it's reasonable to expect a certain standard of health care, retirement, schooling for their children, or general security in return for their contributions.

Edited by xnomanx on 03/04/2011 13:07:06 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Personal Responsibility and the shifting of blame on 03/04/2011 14:12:09 MST Print View

Craig,

Do not confuse LLC (Comany) and corporations. Two different animals. Also corporations and individuals in corporations can be held liable in civil and criminal courts.

We do agree on the fact that corporations 'kink' the system through lobbying, kickbacks, special favors, frachises, and the like. We need to eliminate this by reducing government first.

Every citizen is entitled to health care, retirement, schooling for their children, or general security by PAYING for it. It is not the function of government to provide or guarantee these items. The ONLY legitimate function of government is protection from foreign invadors and a police force to protect us from criminals.

My wife and I pay a good portion of our insurance and our employers pay the rest... they pay it because they want to attract good help. If they reduce it, then we are free to find another job and negotiate the benefits... it is not a basic human right. We are required to pay into SSI, even though we could get a greater return on our investment through other means. We have additional retirement plans that we fund ourselves.

The only basic human rights are life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

Robert Cowman
(rcowman) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Re: Re: Personal Responsibility and the shifting of blame on 03/04/2011 14:22:23 MST Print View

Don't worry about the sweatshops too much. China and Japan hold over 41% of the USA foreign debt. Soon "cheap Chinese goods" will be made in the USA...

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Personal Responsibility and the shifting of blame on 03/04/2011 15:08:58 MST Print View

The country is based on the Constitution, not the Declaration of Independence

"WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constituion for the United States of America"

Note that they capitalized Welfare indicating it's importance.

Promoting the general Welfare is one of the reasons for establishing the constitution.

It is perfectly appropriate that the government subsidize healthcare, retirement, and education.

Right wingers have taken that to the supreme court which confirmed that it's constituional.