Is China-made Becoming the American Way?

Thanks to powerful marketing strategies, material items are popular among Americans, especially at a cheap price.  But who is paying the price for our consuming ways?

Targeted consumers are victims of American corporations that wish to maximize their profit margins by outsourcing higher-paying jobs.

Corporations like Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart, in nearly every city and town in America, prove to be a lifeline from China straight to the consumer. Popular brands like Adidas, Apple, Coach, Coco Cola, Disney, Mattel, Motorola, Nike, Samsung and Disney all manufacture products in China.

“Over the last 10 years, China has mounted the biggest challenge to the U.S. manufacturing sector ever seen, threatening producers of steel, chemicals, glass, paper, drugs and any number of other items with prices they cannot match,” Forbes.com warned. “China’s intensely mercantilist government is engaged in a global campaign to become the world’s dominant manufacturing nation, and no U.S. company on its own can hope to compete against state-subsidized Chinese enterprises.”

Labor standards in China factories are also a concern. In Chinese Apple manufacturing factories, suicide nets were installed to prevent workers from jumping to their deaths.  Read article here.

A factory in China displays suicide nets.

It appears the American way is to buy China-made. People assume they have no other choice than to buy products from China when in majority of cases, this is not true. Is it as easy as going down to your local Walmart? No.  It takes more time and energy to research information on a specific product. Craiglist.com and secondhand stores are wonderful resources for obtaining items that won’t impact other countries negatively.

To find USA-made products online click here.

China isn’t the only country with poor environmental and labor laws.  Major suppliers such as the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Brazil also have poor labor laws as do smaller countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia. This article is primarily focused on China due to its domination of the American market.

Reasons why Chinese products should be boycotted:

Economic influence – The United States currently has a $42 billion trade deficit with China.  Robert Scott, a trade and manufacturing expert at the Economic Policy Institute, estimates the U.S. trade deficit with China cost America 2.8 million jobs between 2001 and 2010.

Environment Concerns – Air pollution will become the biggest health threat in China unless the government takes greater steps to monitor and publicize the dangers of smog, the country’s leading respiratory disease specialist warned this year.  According to the Chinese Ministry of Health, industrial pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death. A 2007 New York Times article about China’s pollution problem pointed out China’s air pollution alone killed hundreds of thousands of citizens. The pollution has spread internationally and according to the Journal of Geophysical Research, the pollution even reaches Los Angeles.

Labor standards – Labor conditions like excessive overtime, low pay, long work hours, unsafe work environment and child labor exist ….Do you really want to wear that fabulous cocktail dress made in China wondering if the person that made it works in a horrific environment with unfair pay (or worse, a child) so you could look dazzling at a cocktail party?

Manufacturing – As more and more products are manufactured overseas; we lose the ability to make them in America. More manufacturing in America means more jobs.

Product Safety – China has been known for poor product safety including seafood containing traces of antifungal and antibiotic drugs potentially harmful to humans, a component in antifreeze found in toothpaste and toys made with lead that is lethal to children. China’s standards for labor environment and safety concerns are much more lenient then that of the United States. For a country that does not place importance on conservation concerns, why would you think they would put that concern into their products?

Religious freedom – While Tibetans seek to find a compromise to live collectively and peacefully, China is not interested.  For the last forty years, the Chinese government has adopted cruel and harsh methods to control the people of Tibet. “Tibetan people want complete independence, but the Chinese will never accept that,” said the Dalai Lama. “I think their last alternative is to make the Tibetan people a minority in their own homeland, and thus, the Tibetan voice would be ineffective.”

Trade –China is accused of manipulating currency markets to keep the yuan (aka the renminbi) undervalued, making merchandises produced in China cheaper and more competitive on the world market.

Attempting to live a lifestyle that doesn’t involve China-made products is possible, perhaps, with the exception of electronics (for now). With tools like Sourcemap.com, you can track where your favorite everyday products come from, what they are made, and how it has impacted people, the environment and economy.

As an obsessive label-reader, I’m attentive to the abundant merchandise produced by China; therefore, my consumption of “stuff” has gone WAY down.

Educating others on the harmful effects of buying from China brings about conscious buyers.  Becoming aware of how possessions we consume impact our world might change the way you think about spending.

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