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China's economy: Is the wakening giant a monster?

A great summary of China's economy from The Economist last week. One point that the article misses that I would like to harp on is that, although China makes 60% of the world's bicycles and 86% of the bicycles sold in America, their bicycles, like most of the exports from China that we see in America, are crap. There is not a single product I've bought recently that was labeled Made in China that hasn't fallen apart or is ready to fall apart sometime soon. Lately I've been making a point to check when I'm buying items of importance to me that they aren't made in China, and I've been encouraging my friends to do the same.

  • The North Face sleeping bags are made in China and the stiching and quality of the goose down is extremely poor. I've only backpacked with my "Superlight" 4 times now, and it's already showing signs of wear. I don't think it will last me much longer. The North Face tents are made in China but assembled in Korea, and they appear to be much higher quality.
  • Pacific Trail/London Fog jackets are made in China. I bought a top-of-the-line waterproof/breathable snow jacket a few years ago and it only lasted one season, it literally fell apart at the seams. I'm a small guy; I'm not that rough on clothes.
  • Most of the Martha Stewart merchandise at K-Mart is made in China and use-and-throw-away after 6 months.

    So why does China have this problem? I think it's a combination of working conditions and wages. China has some of the worst working conditions in the world and an average labor wage of 60 cents per hour. Made in China molded plastics that we cherish in our products here at home are made in hot unventilated workshops where overworked and underpaid men and women inhale plastic fumes all day. I would take a job making Nike shoes in a Malaysian sweatshop over that job any day.

    And why does the world accept this problem? I think it's because of our non-stop conumption culture. People in America like having "new" things. "New" is supposed to be better. If it breaks, go buy a "new" one. Industries pump out products that aren't designed to last for a long time so that you'll buy a new one when the old one breaks. Landfills aside, this model is working very well, but the quality of the products is suffering. Sigh...
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    This page contains a single entry by Robert W. Rose published on February 17, 2003 2:34 PM.

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