Wednesday, July 26, 2006

OBSERVATION: China myths and the American press

I recently had an Internet chat with a friend in China. He observed that the American press seems to be so negative of his country. I explained to him that a lot of my conservative friends are left over Cold Warriors. They still think of China as the antithesis of American philosophy – enemies of the American way. These are the people who actually believe that war between Mainland China and Taiwan is likely, when it is hardly even possible.

Then you have the religious right, (mostly Christians) who see China as a heathen land of religious oppression. Now, I will grant that the level of religious freedom and expression is not as great as in the United States, but it is getting better. (I took the photo at left in one of the Catholic Churches in Harbin.) Religious influence in the media assures that China will be a constant subject of criticism. Would I be too cynical to suggest that blasting China is good for the collection plate … almost as good as a new church roof?

Then you have the labor unions. They work up workers into a frenzy of fear that China has, or will soon be, taking all their jobs. Of course, this is untrue, but the propaganda campaigns of American unions would be the envy of any old guard Chinese sentimentalist.

Trade unions are the much of blame for the flow of cheap goods into the U.S. When China and Russia were outside our commercial trade sphere, unions used every tactic in the book to create a U.S. economy.(wages AND cost of goods) well above the global free market level. Once China came on line as a producer nation, our cushy wages and benefits were to our own disadvantage. And remember, those union-driven wage increases were accompanied by higher consumer prices. In purchasing power… no gain. Those who complain about the use of low cost labor in China should go there and buy three bushels of corn or 12 cents, and a custom made suit for $60.

The problem for the U.S. was made worse but the fact that the old Communist system of China suppressed wages and benefits. This kept the controlled economy of the Middle Kingdom in check, but at great pain to the working class. The system that was to benefit them actually oppressed them. This meant that the wage difference between the U.S. and China was artificially wide. Ergo, manufacturing flows to low cost. So great is the disparity that even high transportation costs did not overcome the wage advantage of China. But alas, this will gradually even out.

While unions complain about the loss of jobs, they do not take into consideration Chinese-influenced or financed job creation in the U.S.. In addition, the American consumer is reaping in the benefits in terms of lower retail costs. That is a benefit to a lot more Americans than the real number of those unemployed by job shifts to China.

We also have to remember that China is now a much better partner in international relations. From the war on terrorism to the handling of North Korea, U.S. foreign policy benefits from Sino cooperation.

So, for all the troublesome issues between China and the United States, and there are significant ones, it is much better having them export retail goods than anti-American sentiment. Perhaps you need to be old enough to personally recall the Cold War to appreciate just how much better things are today.

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