China will spend about $125 billion this year for defense.
The U.S. will spend about $725 or so.
In fact, U.S. military expenditures amount to more than three times as much as China and Russia *combined*.
So much for the military threat. Let’s move on to the economy. China’s GDP will total about $3.5 trillion this year. U.S. GDP will total about $17 billion. Bear in mind that economic productivity is dvidied across all of the people who contribute to the economy. Divide the U.S. GDP by 300 million. Divide the China GDP by 1,100 million. Pretty pathetic, actually.
Now let’s talk a little about consumer protection. The Chinese began embracing capitalism about fifteen years ago, but only in a substantive way in the past eight or ten years. America during the 1800’s was mainly agricultural. Capitalist industry really started to get cranked up at the turn of tthe 20th century. With industrialization came all sorts of nasty excesses: child labor, unsafe working conditions, unsafe products (I doubt any of us would care to eat meat processed in the Chicago packing houses of 1915). As a result of the excesses and abuses, we eventually passed all sorts of consumer, labor and environmental laws. But it took us nearly 70 years to get a lot of it in place, and it only came about due to strong public pressure.
China is just getting going in terms of its potential industrial and economic development. The excesses and abuses are evident already: from uncrontrolled labor conditions to uncontrolled toxic discharges into the air and streams. In other words, and for all of our own good, China has got to adopt and enforce strong, systematic safety regulation.
A boycott against China because of its military or economy is like a boycott against a dog for having a flea. The Chinese would laugh it off as you would a threat of boycott from your three year old.
A boycott aimed at pressing China for stronger consumer protection, however, is a direct attack on the Chinese brand. People don’t buy unsafe products. I don’t know how old you are, but many of your readers will remember the way we turned up our noses at Japanese cars in the 1970’s. That consumer response led to the Japanese cars of the 1980’s and 1990’s: Toyota and Honda built a commitment to quality that drove them to the top of the automotive world.
We can do the same thing to the Chinese. But only if we scream every time we find faulty goods and if we refuse to buy inferior goods.
That will solve the quality issue, but the problem of jobs in America is a different issue altogether. For that you are going to have to convince a lot of American couch potatoes to get off their duffs and get more American kids to succeed in school. The Chinese will graduate over 300,000 engineers this year. The Americans will graduate about 80,000. Chemical engineers, electrical engineers, computer engineers, aerospace engineers… you know, the kinds of folks who make our American way of life so cool and comfy. Kids in China have schools that are pathetic compared to ours in terms of the buildings and teacher salaries. But they have something we don’t: parents who aren’t afraid to make their kids work on their books. In America we emphasize playtime for kids: softball, basketball, soccer, t.v., computer games. China’s parents tell kids, work hard now so you can lead a better life later. American parents tell their kids, in effect, enjoy life now and take any old dead-end job you can find later.
So I guess my question is this: Do we really need a Chinese boycott or a wake up call to American parents and students?
A comment by Frank from Reflections by J. Schenone