My Old China, Remade in the UK

The coronavirus has impacted the western economy in a strong and powerful way, but it has also impacted the productivity of the maker of many goods that they sell in their stores. Around 80% of all the worlds consumer products: electronic devices, furniture, plastic disposable items, children’s toys, all carry the imprint Made in China. Apple was forced to delay the launch of it’s next iPhone because it’s factories suspended production over the virus until further notice and several Hollywood and British films that were earmarked for the Asian market were abandoned until later dates.

About a month before the Covid-19 came to Britain, Chinese telecoms company Huawei was granted access to build Britain’s 5G mobile network. This move angered some people in Britain because it looked like British engineering firms were not getting a fair deal in developing their own country. For years since the Chinese economic miracle boom of the 1990s the country had produced so many millionaires and billionaires that they were buying vast swathes of shares and land in foreign countries. It looked like we were going from Made in China to Owned by China.

How could democratic western countries with liberal democracies consider doing business with a country with poor human rights records and direct state control in it’s economy? China is richer and stronger than it’s ever been before and I am glad to see them better themselves. I applaud nations that make great strides in science and technology and produce great wealth for the people. But China is a communist country with a central market economy that endorses capitalism and that means that it has total interference in it’s people’s business activities. So by developing and exporting goods in this way it can distribute PRC instruments into people’s homes that can hack their data.

Relations with China are even more damaged now because the Covid-19 virus started from China in the area of Wuhan. There is a story that claims China misled other nations including the World Health Organisation, that is now influenced by the CCP, that Covid-19 can not travel between humans and that infections in human populations are not to be very concerned about and that it will be contained in the country. Being an authoritarian controlled nation with control on information the statistics of their Coronavirus cases were not very truthful and as a result of this the world was plunged into the biggest pandemic since the Spanish Flu a century ago.

I am not one to buy conspiracy theories and I don’t think China did this as a veiled attack on the world to cripple and take control of world economy. Besides it’s not all of our country or our government’s fault for entrusting all economic ties and outsourcing jobs to these developing nations. After all we are a free enterprise economy, the bosses and the companies have freedom over who they choose to do business with. Apple’s CEO Tim Cooke has his company’s iPhones made in China because the country has incredibly low labour laws, cheap materials, and an ability to produce exponential quantities of products that can be easily sold cheaply. Sir James Dyson has his vacuum cleaners made in Malaysia and Marks and Spencer have their clothes made in Pakistan for similar reasons as well.

How did we end up relying on China to make all our goods in the first place? Why are we all pulled into it without considering the effect it has on our own industries who could also make it for us? I could tell you this in a very long and elaborate way but I won’t go into too much detail for this post so I’ll try to shorten it as best I can.

It dates back to when Chairman Mao died and Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of Britain. In 1976 when Mao passed on China was ravaged by failed economic experiments and millions of deaths across the land. His successor the pragmatic Deng Xiaoping began reforming the country by granting economic freedom to people so that they could make China richer and stronger and thus began the autocratic market economy. In Britain the Thatcher government started to roll back state control of it’s own industries by privatising everything and creating a home owning nation. The unionised workers that kept stifling productivity disbanded and it’s former members became entrepreneurs. Several people found themselves citizens of a powerful free market to make their own happy lives whole and get more money in their pockets.

A decade later this popular capitalism took another turn when the world started to embrace globalism. The Soviet Union collapsed, several Asian nations abandoned socialist policies and became world superpowers. However some of these countries were still politically and socially unfair to their people. China’s government was having trouble trying to find common ground on economic and social reforms. The Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 was condemned by the international community, but a resolution was found amongst the party officials to stop the infighting that was plaguing the country’s economic reforms. Now China was more stable enough to allow for foreign investment from western private industries.

Many companies warmed to China’s open market and found themselves as diplomats of economic prosperity between their respective nations. They were happy to get richer by international trade but the conditions that the CCP set to western nations was ‘if you want to invest in my country and use my low cost raw materials, don’t criticise our civil justice or human rights record’. Some businesses were happy to heed those words and a result the vast exodus of offshoring jobs abroad began.

The idea behind this system is we as westerners buy the cheaply made products in China that we want that fill our lives with content. This in turn increases their economic development and makes them rich and powerful and brings them out of poverty. But there are a number of built in flaws in this system that we have been taking for granted. First of all it’s built on burrowed money and we are paying the price. Because Britain and several other western nations are consumer and retail dependent nations with vast numbers of shops we have to buy to make our country rich. That means that we have to buy ourselves all the pretty things even if they make us broke in the process. Don’t believe me, well check your bank balance and see how much you’ve saved over a year.

Then there is the quality of the goods. Just about everything you buy from China is breakable and disposable. The top selling smartphone or wireless speaker you bought has lasted just a couple of years. There are two reasons behind that. One, it’s an industry practice in product design and two, it keeps the factories open to keep a supply and demand system so that the workers can not lose their jobs.

Technology companies realise that products have to fashionable as well as functional. Curved phones will probably be more desirable than blocky phones now so they design and build a phone to those specs and sell it to the consumer. To make sure that they keep ahead of changes in consumer fashion they trust that their customers will want to come back for a different model, so what do they do to make sure of that? They make the phone susceptible to breaking, so the customer will have to throw it away and buy a new and completely different phone. The technicians and the scientists who work in the company labs are also always busy experimenting and perfecting the technology to make better products every year. So they also believe that by making phones disposable they can make sure that customers get a more advanced but not physically superior product. I’ve read about this in a book on product design.

China’s central planning economy also plays a part in this bad quality design. It’s part of the cycle of supply and demand. For taking advantage of a disposable throwaway culture they have more reason to build factories and assembly plants. They even apply this throwaway culture to infrastructure projects. I watched a documentary a few years ago about Chinese megacities and it showed this school that had just been built three years ago and it was to be demolished. The authorities don’t just want to enrich the country they want to keep the factories working and create new jobs. In fact China is overbuilding itself in such a way that it doesn’t care for sustainability. That’s the problem with authoritarian economies, they build for the sake of the government rather than for the sake of the people.

We can’t go on like this anymore. This globalised one world economy with China as the maker of all our products is not sustainable. We haven’t just made a dragon in the Chinese nation breath it’s fire to dominate the world, we’ve put ourselves second best in influencing world developments in infrastructure projects and world trade. Of the international trade jobs that I work in there is big competition from China affecting my ability to make infrastructure projects. China’s central banking system lends money to developing nations in scrupulous debt traps in return for building President Xi Jinping’s Road and Belt Initiative. This is an infrastructure project that is basically a great road leading all the way from Beijing to the Middle East, Europe and Africa. This is China’s attempt to rebuild a corporate empire from the Pacific to Europe just like Genghis Khan did centuries ago.

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe has started a programme of business exodus from China and is encouraging people to break apart China’s dominance on the international stage. Japan will be showing a good example of what good quality comes from it’s own creative designers and companies when they are established in Japan. I film my vlogs on a Canon EOS M50, a Japanese brand and as luck would have it says ‘Made in Japan’ and I can tell you the elegance and functionality of the camera reflects it’s country of origin. Beautiful. We in Britain need to follow that example. No more cheaply made junk that is made to break just to make us sleepwalk into debt and create unnecessary waste.

There is plenty of room for new ideas to bloom in this nation. No more shopping centres popping up and lets have industrial parks training people to make British clothes, gadgets, porcelain and furniture and made to a standard that lasts for a good long time. Unlike China we don’t expect cheap poor products made by slave workers that struggle to understand how to tighten a screw on a kitchen cabinet.

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