The United States of America: Made in China?

By the time you have read this article you will have most likely heard the controversy over the U.S. Olympic teams’ uniforms being made in China.  Although most of the U.S. seems alarmed and shocked by this, I can’t say I’m surprised…

Most people seem to think of China as this monolithic force that’s stealing U.S. jobs and buying up all of our debt. To them, it’s only a matter of time before they crush the European Union and spread their tentacles out across the pacific to strangle our fragile democracy, leaving the world to answer to a Chinese Big Brother. And, it can seem that way if you mostly shop at Walmart and consistently watch Fox News.

Now, I  won’t  go as far as to say that nothing in the U.S. is made in China, because well, it’s just not true. Actually, about 2.7% of U.S. consumer spending is on products imported from China, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. 2.7%, to me, doesn’t really merit raising a red flag quite yet.  What’s more, of that 2.7%, less than half of it is actually sending U.S. dollars into China. But in the clothing and shoe category, which has been the recent topic of discussion, Chinese imports account for 35.6% of U.S. purchases. The horrible truth is that it’s much cheaper to make these items in China, due mostly to the lack of labor rights in the country.

I’m sure by now most people have heard the concerns (mostly coming from the right) about the ownership of American debt by the Chinese government.  Oh goodness, what are we to do with big and scary China pulling the strings of our financial institutions?  Surely, they will want to evaporate our capitalist system by cashing in on our debt when the opportunity strikes?  The truth is, Chinese ownership of U.S. debts accounts for only 8% of all U.S. debt, while the U.S. itself owns roughly 69%. Nowhere near enough to cause catastrophe…Yet another example of Republican-style fear-mongering to scare people into submission.

The recent discovery of the U.S. Olympic teams’ uniforms being made in China seems to reveal a ‘problem’ inside the U.S.  But what exactly the problem is, no one is sure. Even if Ralph Lauren, the designer set to the task of making the uniforms, decided to switch his manufacturing avenues to the U.S. specifically for the Olympic clothing line, what kind of message are we sending to American workers?

That their work is only of value when it’s politically convenient?

It is sad that production and manufacturing jobs in the clothing industry that were once held in the U.S. are now partly profiting a corrupt and authoritarian foreign government, I agree.  And it is sad that politicians only care about the issue when they can cause a self-indulgent scene to score popularity points when it’s the Olympics. But Americas’ fear and dissatisfaction with Chinese imports is largely disproportionate to the reality of the facts and numbers.