Made in China

I’ve posted this photo on my blog before.  You can read that entry here.

There are so many deleterious things about our national addiction to Chinese stuff that I could blog about nothing other than that for a year and still have more to say.

Leaving aside the geopolitical, monetary and fiscal issues involved in our trade with China, I find it disturbing that so little is said in our country about the human cost of it.  As we fill the coffers of a repressive regime so we can fill our basements and attics with the junk they send us, we also enable the exploitation of Chinese children and the destruction of the world’s environment.

A friend of mine recently commented, in a different context, “It used to be that ‘Made in China’ meant ‘ Poor Quality.   Avoid at all costs.'”  Now it just means cheap.  And that’s the way we like it.  We shop at megastores in large part because we prefer quantity to quality. 

But why is the stuff from China so cheap?  Why is it cheaper to make it there and ship it half way across the globe than it is to make it here?

One reason is because children like those pictured above come cheap in China.  I suggest we think about them this year while we’re piling Chinese-made Christmas presents under our trees.

Another reason is because Chinese industries are the worst polluters in the world.  Most days you can barely see the sky in Chinese cities and the air isn’t safe to breathe.  They dump toxic waste into their rivers and poison the water of the peasants and farmers.  They rape and destroy the earth to make the cheap crap that we are unable to resist.

Suppose we only bought the things we need.  To quote Wendell Berry, what if our economy placed “its emphasis not upon the quantity of notions and luxuries, but upon the quality of necessities”?  The market for Chinese crap, made by child labor for the benefit of state-owned destroyers of the earth, would vanish.  And instead of an economy built on exchanging trinkets for American dollars, the Chinese people might develop a sustainable community-based economy of their own.

As Mr. Berry says, “Let us tilt against the windmills.”

Love Wins