The China Problem!?

Submitted by Zebra Mussel on Thu, 05/01/2008 - 23:19.

So I am just back from 14 days in Japan.  Interesting to be on the sidelines as 3,000 Japanese police protect the olympic toarch from what I thought would be a calm, reserved crowd.  Dont get me wrong, I was not in Nagano, I was in Shibuya / Tokyo.. but it got a lot of attention.  Pro and anti China student groups and observers literally throwing punches, 70 year old Japanese men going to jail for throwing tomatoes in the face of the police protecting the toarch... etc.  It was akin to what I saw in the USA when the toarch came thru California.

The reaction to the Nagano toarch relay sent me out on a mission to ascertain the Japanese sentiment on China.   You see when I was in college eco-impacts ofNAFTA was all the rage to study in my foreign environmental policy classes.  Back then, Mexico was the 'pollution haven' discusses time after time.  

Boy how times have changed.  Pick up the latest edition of National Geographic for some solid unbiased intel.

Anyhow, the torch ceremony in Nagano was supposed to start out at an ancient Shinto or Buddihst temple in Nagano.  Rather than give a heads up to the planning committie the munks at the temple waited until the day before to announce that there was basically no way in hell they would allow / condone such a ceremony to start on their grounds.   All I could think was WOW.  Last minute mega changes to a big event with international ceremony are designed to do only one thing IMHO, to turn it on its ear.   Well the ceremony did go on... and it got a alot of attention.  The word on the street was that JR Rail (Japan Rail) was restricting tourist travel to Nagano as well before the event.. perhaps in an attempt to curtail international protesters that travel to add fuel to a fire (like the ones that follow IMF / WMF conferences, etc).

Anywho.. I inquired with some new found Japanese friends in Tokyo as to their thoughts and the thoughts of their people on the China situation.   I was told quite frankly that many feel very poorly about China.  In a country with honor being involved in just about every decision (Japan), I was told that Chinese businesses rip off patents, ideas, concepts, media, etc routinely.. and that this was looked down upon seriously by the Japanese people.  I found it interesting that the land of the rising sun paid it no mind to think about the eco-impacts but then again that is the feature of the China economic boom that I am honed in on most closely.

China, their role in the genocide in Darfur / Sudan, Tibet, pollution, and human rights are earning this country we rely upon daily for products and US financial debt ownership a world renowned horrific reputation.   The buck keeps flowing but the eyes of the world are incresingly aware of the current externalities of the situation.  I'll continue to sit back and watch.

*insert disclaimer*  I have never been to China, but I have been to half a dozen US factories who have shut down and fired all workers to shift production to China.  This article was not intended to be racist, in fact I dont know any folkd from China.  I am sure there are great people there, just like here.  Unfortunatly here we have laws, that just once in a while, businesses are held accountable for complying with. 

US and foreign companies polluting via manufacturing in China in my opinion seem to be taking advantage of this externality, and the cost of cheap labor.  Shareholders need to hold their companies accountable.   Its just wrong that some US biz are complying with US laws there and as such operating by a higher standard, while others are taking advantage and polluting on a mega scale never seen in the US in the last 40+ years.

My thought is, buy american, buy Japanese, buy products from the EU but do what you can to not buy products from China... as the cost of the el cheapo product does not reflect the cancer clusters (see Nat. Geographic), and the wholesale pollution taking place.   Even Clevelander's can detect pollution (particualte) from China, in the air we breathe each day in our home city.

While China and its issues may seem to be a zillion miles away, they are not that far away when it comes to fate and transport of polltion.  Buyer beware.



Welcome back, ZM

Knew you were about due back from Japan, I'm sure you had a blast.  You touch upon some critical aspects at the very heart of the corporate social responsibility debate.  I wish the reality of the situation were one which reflected uniformity across the board (in this case, globally) in regards to ethics and social responsibility standards.  Unfortunately the truth is exactly as you've described - many corporations continue to comply only as far as is absolutely necessary and mandated by law/regulation.  All nations of the world, especially those as heavily populated and industrialized as China need to be held accountable by globally accepted environmental standards.  Near-fascist regimes have a unique and unfortunate position and power to completely disregard public outcry and ignore socially conscious and sustainable strategies.  Cheap labor coupled with lax environmental restrictions allow low cost production facilities to flourish - and prodigiously pollute. 

Not quite the vision of progressive culture I embrace. 

Even more unfortunate - the lure of cheap Chinese labor becomes even more attractive under economic duress and a dropping dollar.  Boycotts make logical sense, but are difficult to mandate in a free market economy.  Can corporations find the strength and courage to select alternative component providers with cleaner supply chains and operational plans?

Can the Chinese themselves find and realize the value of enlightened environmental consciousness before they irreversibly and permanently damage our planet's resiliency?

Key questions, indeed.

great china enviro disater

great china enviro disater videos from youtube uploaded to zee GreenSpieler!  Check it..