Re: Made in China

From: Bill Douglass (
Date: Thu Apr 19 2001 - 13:32:14 MDT

Chris Rasch <> wrote:

>>It's also unclear to me that boycotting companies who employ children
>>working under sweatshop conditions will necessarily improve the lot of
>>those children. Let's assume that the boycott is successful, and the
>>company goes out of business. What happens next? What do you expect will
>>replace the income (pittance that it was) that the child earned?

Brian D Williams wrote:
>This if course is a bigger tougher issue. The very least any company >can
>do in my opinion is make sure it's factories follow basic human >decency.

>Child labor here would never be permitted under these circumstances, >and
>people from here should not permit it elsewhere.

>Invoking the Golden rule.

Since this is still the Made in China thread, I can't help wondering, OK,
but why do you want to boycott goods made in China (you mentioned this in a
related post a few days ago)? Surely you don't think that most Chinese
factories use child labor or have sweatshop conditions?

One of my best friends spent most of the last five years inspecting numerous
factories all over Southern China, and a lot of factories in other parts of
mainland China. Not once did he encounter sweatshop conditions, let alone
child or other forms of coercive labor.

I've been to mainland China around eight times myself, and have had candid
discussions with numerous individuals, on politics, economics and other
subjects. Not once has anyone even hinted at a wish for foreigners to stop
buying Chinese products as a way of pressuring their government to treat its
people better. On the contrary, Chinese people I've spoken with are quite
pleased with the progress their country has made over the past two decades,
and they're well aware that the main spur for this progress has been their
government's economic reforms, first implemented by Deng Xiaoping.

As recently as the late seventies, China was something akin to North Korea
today, with the vast majority of the population living in grinding povery,
and segments of society living close to starvation. Since Deng's reforms
started, real average income has quadrupled, and almost everyone's standard
of living is much higher than it was. This trend should continue, as long
as Western protectionists don't succeed in closing overseas markets to
Chinese goods (and other factors, of course, but I'm keeping these comments
relevant to this thread).

If enough Americans were to decide to stop buying Chinese goods, the effect
would be the same as if a protectionist like Pat Buchanan were to become
President, and equally tragic: it would cut off the flow of oxygen to
China's economy.

Since reforms first began, haltingly in 1978, the pattern in China has been
that in times of strong economic growth, liberals in the government such as
Premier Zhu Rongzi have managed to hold a lot of clout, and be successful in
pushing through further liberal, capitalist reforms. The process builds on

However, in times of economic stagnation or crisis with the West (such as
the aftermath of the embassy bombing in Belgrade, for example, not to
mention the current problems in Hainan Province) the anti-progress Communist
hardliners in government tend to gain ground, and criticism of the liberals
becomes louder.

It's always hard to predict the future, but as far as I can tell, the
effects of a large-scale boycott of Chinese-made goods would have the
primary effect of slowing or even reversing the liberal, pro-freedom trend
in China (there would be other negative effects, but again, I'm keeping this
relevant to the thread).

I buy Chinese-made goods all the time and have absolutely no qualms about
doing so.

Bill Douglass
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