October 8, 2008

Chinese Democracy

I like egg rolls, lo mein, fireworks, fortune cookies and really big (some would say great) walls. I was even glued to the Olympics this summer. But this weekend I found myself reading the fine print of every single apple juice label in the grocery store. Why? Because, while I like some things that come from China, I don't want my kids to ingest anything from China. And there's usually a little something from China in every bottle of apple juice. Like just about everything else.

Just take the crap on my desk. My phone? Made in China. My stapler? Chinese. Speakers? China. Computer? Yep, China. Scissors? Bingo, China. My cheap ball-point pen? Mexico (who knew the Chinese didn't have a monopoly on cheap pen manufacturing?). My belt, while technically not on my desk, also Chinese. My underwear? Chinese. (Note to self: never again remove pants to check underwear label while in the office.)

Over the past couple of weeks, the industrial chemical melamine has been found in Chinese-made milk-based products. These products have made 53,000 kids sick and killed four. Chinese-made products have been pulled from the shelves all over Asia after testing positive for melamine. And it wasn't an accident. The Chinese government has pointed its large communist finger at 22 companies. Those companies, it is theorized, watered down their milk products to yield more and added melamine - which boosts protein levels - in an effort to fool quality tests.

This is, of course, the latest in a long string of recalls and health scares involving Chinese-made products. Especially products for kids.

(Blogger's Note: Holy shit. I just realized that I'd typed, what, four whole paragraphs and I have absolutely no point whatsoever. What you are witnessing is the derailment of a post, people. I've jumped out of the plane but by cheap-ass Chinese-made parachute won't open! But I've never let the lack of a point stop me.)

Anyway, as I was saying before I was rudely interrupted, the problem doesn't stop with all the imported crap that's got real potential for hurting our kids. In June, it was calculated that the Chinese hold $922 billion in U.S. securities. (That number includes public and private debt - the Treasury securities China holds amount to around $491 billion. If you're economically challenged like me you just heard "blah duh bloo da dee". Just know that this is a shitload of money.) With all the recent economic instability, shouldn't we all be at least a wee bit concerned that a communist country with an atrocious record of human rights violations and an inability to manufacture safe products has us by the balls? Or, rather, 922 billion balls?

China kinda scares a little bit of the crap out of me. And I'm tired of buying crap that could hurt my kids. Boycotting isn't the answer. If we tried that, we'd be running naked through the streets cooking our Grade-A US raised beef over campfires, writing with Mexican pens. But I do think we can demand better. We can force the companies who sell Chinese-made products to test them. And we can encourage a little fiscal responsibility in our government. Maybe instead of bailing out greedy Wall Street tycoons we could take back a little control of our economy.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not some xenophobic asshat hell bent on closing borders to imports and making everything our damn selves. We long ago lost the capacity to make everything we need. But we all keep hearing about our reliance on foreign oil. How about our reliance on foreign crap?

(PS, did you watch the debate last night? What did you think?)

Posted by Chris at October 8, 2008 6:26 AM

I just went to an industry luncheon and the speaker said that when he got off the plain in Beijing (this was before the Olympics) there was a sign that said "China is #1" and he said to us, "they aren't kidding."

They buy and stock pile any barge with oil and gas. They buy and stock pile steel which has driven up the price tremendously. They are definately a threat to our economy if we don't stop selling everything to them.

Posted by: Debbie at October 8, 2008 6:41 AM

Yeah, China scares me too. I try like heck NOT to buy from China, but as you say, it's hard.
Remember the good old days when Wal-Mart advertised many products "Proudly Made In The USA"?
Maybe you don't. Seems like it was a long time ago.

Posted by: Maribeth at October 8, 2008 7:14 AM

I feel like we've got to take back our country - take back control of what we're eating and wearing. My levis are made in Vietnam and Malaysia or somewhere like that (same style different washes - go figure).
I feel like that movie sometimes - I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore. We're just falling into a heaping pile of dogshit and if we don't watch out we're never going to crawl out of it.
A little doom and gloom but whatever...

Posted by: NancyJak at October 8, 2008 7:55 AM

Yup, watched the debate... apparently this morning there is already a website (http://thatone08.com/) and t-shirts ("That One"). *snort*

But I had already made up my mind pre-debate, and it didn't change my mind. I wonder how many folks were undecided who felt any clearer after the debate...?

Posted by: Sarah at October 8, 2008 8:08 AM

I had no idea that apple juice came from China. And I'm a label reader. But because of my boy's Autism, I zone in on the ingredients and haven't looked further. Holy crap. And I agree, I'm not an asshat either, but between the tainted food (pet and human) and the shennanigans during the Olympics (the little singer, the taxi drivers) it is scary as hell. And it's so hard to get a handle on it. Especially after the earthquake response. Immediate, effective. At least what we heard in the media. It made our own government's response to natural disaster look just like what it was, pitiful. And then this? It's complex beyond my ability to work it out. And so, scary.

Posted by: OS at October 8, 2008 8:30 AM

and here I was hoping you were telling me G-n-R's long LONG await album was finally here...

Posted by: Darren at October 8, 2008 8:52 AM

Hey, isn't "Chinese Democracy" supposed to be the name of Axl Rose's album if he ever puts it out?

Posted by: claire at October 8, 2008 8:57 AM

I heard that there are a lot of foreign countries pissed at us right now becasue they invested in our markets.

Hah. China. Take that for the whole dog food Fisher price tooth paste scares yuo gave us.

as far as the debate goes..I like McCain but man does he repeat himself. I like Obama but man he just does not seem right to me.

Posted by: William at October 8, 2008 8:59 AM


Posted by: Sparkle Pants at October 8, 2008 9:12 AM

Someone commented that McCain doesn't seem like he wants to be in the race anymore. I decided to run on a treadmill instead of agonizing over the debate.

China's letting our own companies in its borders, and as long as THOSE companies help the Chinese citizens realize that they can get more, the good labor might go to those companies. When I worked for a mega corporation who does actually use U.S. laws for environmental, health and safety standards in non U.S. companies, you start to understand how important those laws are...

Posted by: alektra at October 8, 2008 9:13 AM

Yeah, that's pretty scary. I've been giving some serious thought to jumping on the "eating local" bandwagon.

Posted by: Fraulein N at October 8, 2008 9:20 AM

Ever since the Pet Food incident, I have stopped bringing anything "Made in China" into my house. Will my not buying anything made there actually hurt them? no...but it makes me feel a little better. It is very hard to find products, but it can be done. Unfortunately, they do cost a little more but more peace of mind...well worth it.

Posted by: diane at October 8, 2008 9:46 AM

Great post as usual Chris. I am LMAO from this "SOMEONE PUT A LEASH ON MCCAIN SO HE DOESN'T WANDER OFF."

Posted by Sparkle Pants ....So funny!!!

I could not stop laughing last night during the debate. It was like McCain had a nervous tick and he could not sit down ...he was kind of wandering! My husband mentioned that if McCain can't even sit down and wait for his turn then how can he even sit at a desk and do the "job." Since I already voted for Barack (absentee ballot) it was mostly entertainment for me.

My husband and I kind of made jokes throughout the entire debate and then at one point ignored it and played with the cats! That's my take on the debate.

And yes, China scares me.

Go Obama!

Posted by: Julie Andel at October 8, 2008 9:55 AM

I think that I had a psychotic breakdown in the middle, and began screaming at the TV I AM NOT YOUR FRIEND, I AM NOT YOUR FRIEND, while curling up into a ball and crying into my carpet.

Other than that, I think I hate that format. I think Obama was trying to bait McCain, because the angrier he gets the worse he looks to all of us- except he already looks pretty bad. I think Obama did a good job of making points, one, two, three, this is what I'm going to do. I think McCain name dropped and wheezed. I think that as someone who came into this historic election knowing not much, after two debates I still can't tell you anything solid McCain plans. Other than to scare the crap out of us.

In short, Vote for That One!

Posted by: caleal at October 8, 2008 10:08 AM

This is going to sound bizarrely protectionist of me, but given the state of our economy, why aren't we doing things to encourage American companies to make stuff here again instead of shipping jobs overseas? It's economically sound and on top of that, it's environmentally friendly because the stuff doesn't have to be shipped halfway around the world.

And the fact that China holds so much of our country's debt is disturbing. I don't understand much more of it that you do, but I know it is bad.

I watched some of the debate, but got bored and wandered away. John McCain's voice annoys me, and I know I'm voting for Obama anyway. From what I saw though, I was pleased to see Obama being agressive. I thought he looked good.

Posted by: bad penguin at October 8, 2008 10:09 AM

Corporation execs in China are punished and at least one committed suicide. Here, they leave with $350 million in bonuses or spend $400,000 (I think that number is right) on weekend retreats right after they've hit us up for trillions of dollars.

Can you wrap your mind around that much money? I sure can't.

I know I shouldn't compare the deaths of babies with our ongoing financial crisis but in some respects they're similar. Greed, corruption, and lack of oversight. We are the people in glass houses and the pots calling the kettles black. How's that for two cliches in one sentence?

Apropos of not very much, my small California city made both the NY and the London Times with our sky high foreclosure rates as well as the unfinished subdivisions all over town. As someone said "if it weren't for the honor, I'd just as soon pass". We've taken a real beating. The signs were obvious, even to me. I said "who are they selling to?". No one, as it turned out.

Yes, I watched the "debate" and the MSNBC commentaries that followed. Senator McCain was condescending, both to Senator Obama and the gathering. His lowest point for me was his insinuation that one of his younger questioners didn't know what Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae are. Does he actually believe people who take the time to think of questions and attend debates are that ignorant?

This from a person who thinks Iraq borders Afghanistan and that Spain is our enemy.

The Republican campaign is hitting a streak of ugliness (and even danger) that I haven't seen since the 1968 elections when a leading candidate was assassinated and there was rioting and police brutality in the streets of Chicago. Governor Palin's smears make the Swift Boat antics seem like a ringing endorsement. Either Senator McCain approves of her words or he's oblivious. I don't know which is worse.

I can remember respecting John McCain even when I disagreed with him. No more. He's put winning ahead of what principles or ideals he may once have held.

Posted by: Ann Adams at October 8, 2008 10:20 AM

Yep, scary. I went to Beijing twice (and yes, I bought lots of crap while I was there, but at least it was brocade fabrics and rugs - things truly Chinese that I would have paid a fortune for over here) and it was amazing how much it commercialized over just a period of two years. I don't pay much attention to where my clothes are made, but I'm certainly buying local foods these days when I can.

Posted by: Heather at October 8, 2008 10:39 AM

It is possible to boycott, but it is hard. It's going to cost more. You are going to have to shake up your buying habits. Skip Walmart, Target, any big chain store. Buy local food when you can, health food stores when you can't. Read labels. Ask questions.

My strategy is always consume less, but consume better. It doesn't always work, but every little bit helps.

I watched a bit of the debate, but McCain really turned me off with the endless repetition of "my friend" and his stale talking points.

Posted by: Alias Mother at October 8, 2008 11:09 AM

Yeah, I think China is a valid concern. Their government consistently displays a complete lack of regard for PEOPLE, and giving that kind of power to a regime like that is worrisome.
As for the debate, I think Obama won pretty easily. McCain seemed a little unsteady to me and I felt that he was trying a little too hard to buddy up to the questioners. There were instances this time where he actually gave a couple of details of his plans, instead of just talking in platitudes, but it still just didn't work for me.

Posted by: Amy at October 8, 2008 11:17 AM

China: scary scary.

When I was a kid my friend had an Oriental Trading Company (do you remember them?) catalog. Basically you could buy all kinds of cheap useless crap- by the gross!

There were these white plastic finger rings that said Jesus Loves You in big red letters. Under that, in slightly smaller but still obvious red letters, the rings said MADE IN CHINA.

To this day, whenever I run across a Jesus loves you message I always add MADE IN CHINA afterwards.

Jesus loves you MADE IN CHINA.

There was no point to that story, except that it still makes me laugh for some reason.

Posted by: jessica at October 8, 2008 11:41 AM

Re last night's debate: Joe Biden for president. (It sucked.)

Posted by: Poppy at October 8, 2008 11:49 AM

bill maher said something like "everything from china is made with lead. except their lead which is made from cardboard"...

Posted by: kati at October 8, 2008 11:52 AM

Jessica just cracked my shit up! I will never, ever not read Jesus Loves You the same way again.

This is exactly why I won't buy anything I don't have to that's made in China. Which is no small feat in Hong Couver.

PS: Try 1600 Billion. Where do you think the bailout money is coming from? We're screwed.

Posted by: Mr Lady at October 8, 2008 12:04 PM

I am trying to get rid of crap instead of buying more.

Last night, for the first time, I went pro-Obama. I was always anti-McCain but last night Obama said something I was waiting for someone to say.

So not a real net difference on the outside but a change on the inside.

Posted by: That Girl at October 8, 2008 2:06 PM

My dad is boycotting China.

For almost two years he has refused to purchase anything with a "Made in China" stamp on it. He's made some very interesting purchases, but the man is diligent. Turns out Mexico and Brazil manufacture a lot of the same stuff... it's just a little harder to find.

Posted by: Monica at October 8, 2008 2:45 PM

(Note to self: never again remove pants to check underwear label while in the office.) <- just about made me snort cranberry juice out my nose. Thanks for that ;0)

FWIW, I totally agree.

Posted by: Heather at October 8, 2008 3:42 PM

There's a book called: _A Year Without "Made in China"_ about a family that boycotted Chinese products. So it can be done. Just looking at my computer and the pile of baby stuff nearby, about half is made in China, the other half other places, but 0% from the U.S... sigh...

Obama has a plan to structure corporate taxation to provide incentives to manufacture in the U.S. I wish he would talk more about these ideas in the debates. Whoever would give succinct and to-the-point answers, rather than political filler, would win quite a few votes.

And, if I'm John McCain's "friend," does that mean I can hang out at one of his houses? At least one must have a sweet pool.

Posted by: Laura at October 8, 2008 6:12 PM

Missed the debate, I was busy washing my hair... or something.

What I am more curious about is whether you think the McCain profile in Rolling Stone is going to hurt him, or are they preaching to the choir, or, you have no clue what I'm talking about?

Sorry. I am allergic to periods today.

Posted by: Nat at October 8, 2008 8:10 PM

My friends, the debate was one sided. I think I might be more liberal now than I was before hand.

Yes, I agree with you 100% on the China business. It freaks me out. The slow, silent and steady pace of it is what really gets to me. And honestly, I think my life would pretty much be clutter free if I didn't have so much foreign crap in my life.

Posted by: Jen at October 9, 2008 3:53 PM

I do my best not to buy any food from China - but sadly even the store brand applesauce here says made in Canada - yet when you call the 1-800# they tell you that this year the apples were sourced in China and the plastic the sauce is in was made there. Piss me off. So since you FILLED the container in Canada - it counts as Canadian made? GAH! You can not win if you tried.

As far as toys go - I do a lead test all the plastic that comes into the house and painted woods get tested too. I have thrown out quite a few things that should have been "safe" from reputable American and Canadian companies that source from China.

Posted by: sleepynita at October 9, 2008 6:02 PM

I feel your pain.

Apples from China? I never heard that! You could try buying apple juice at a organic shop. I don't know about the organic shops in the US.. but here it's common that those shops are more likely to sell locally produced veggies & fruits.

I do worry about all the plastic toys Monkey and Roo have (and chew on). Almost every toy is from China.

Posted by: Nadine at October 11, 2008 3:12 AM

they have a slave market defently keep away from it

Posted by: samuel welsh at November 30, 2009 10:46 PM