April 5, 2001
Over the last week or so I've had some interesting experiences trying to buy products. It's not that I couldn't find what I was looking for but rather it was difficult to find products not made in China. Why the big deal with China? I try not to buy products made in China because of that country's human rights violations.

For example, I have been trying to find a set of measuring spoons and cups to use in my rekindled efforts at cooking. I have gone to no less than ten different stores, including a well known supplier of cooking products and all had both measuring spoons and cups which were made in China. I have even looked at a web site or two but so far with no success. Interestingly enough, the aforementioned store did have a very sturdy set of kitchen tongs that were made in this country which I did buy. I guess it's too much effort to use the same technique which stamps out the metal for the tongs and apply it to stamping out cooking spoons.

Mind you, I'm not the kind of person who buys only American-made products. I will gladly buy products from almost any country if it is what I am looking for and I believe it is of good quality. Price is a consideration but again, if I believe the product warrants the high price, I will still buy it.

This phenomenon is not limited to just measuring spoons and cups either. Whisks, plastic cooking utenstils, toasters, pots and pans, comforters, winter gloves, lamps, you name it, they are all made in China.

You can also include shoes and handbags which are items made in China. A friend and I have been going to numerous stores over the last two months searching for a pair of black heels and a nice black evening bag. We have visited no less than five malls and almost fifty stores and have yet to find either the shoes or bag not made in China. This includes such well known brands as Liz Claiborne, Nine West, Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY and others. Actually, we haven't been able to find a pair of black heels anywhere but that's another story.

It's very disconcerting to find that these products cannot be made in another country which doesn't brutalize its people the way China does.

Then again some of the products I buy do come from countrys in which the human rights record is only marginally better than Chinas. Indonesia and Malaysia come to mind. Both these countries have human rights violations. The only saving grace is that these violations are not as severe as Chinas and there is some modicum of democratic principles.

Some say I'm crazy for thinking I can find such products not made in China. What's the big deal they say? You want a product which doesn't cost an arm and a leg, you go where the labor is cheap. China, and other similar countries, fit that bill. My response is: what is the difference between my not wanting to buy a product made in China and someone who buys only American-made cars?

Not much really. Both have a principle they believe in and stick to it.

And that is what it comes down to. Principle. Former President Clinton signed legislation which makes China a permanent trading partner, no longer subject to yearly reviews. The logic goes that by not subjecting China to a yearly review to see if we should impose high tariffs and instead grant them the same privileges as Canada, we will be helping the people of China to grow and prosper and change the government from within.

Hogwash. The money that those people make still gets siphoned by the higher authorities and the human rights violations will continue. One need only look at Chinas attitude towards other countries like the Vatican. When the Vatican recently announced the appointment of a large number of bishops in China, the communist government went ballistic and criticized the Vatican for making a big show of the appointments. The reason for this is because these appointees would not toe the party line and would instead answer to an outside source (Watch for an upcoming article on why catholic priests should be considered foreign dignitaries).

Think about it. If you were the rulers of a country which was under constant criticism from most of the rest of the world for how you treat your own citizens and now you are made a trading partner in good standing not subject to yearly reviews, what incentive is there for you to change? None. Now you can do what you want with impunity.

What's even more interesting is that while China does not use the same brutal techniques as Iraq does (i.e. using poison gas on entire villages) the overall pattern of abuses is no less severe. In fact, China recently imposed the most stringent controls on the use of the internet by its citizens and internet providers in the world. Any content which the government deems offensive could land you in jail. What are some of these violations? Anything dealing with Taiwans independence movement, any comments which criticize the government or its policies, adult related material of any kind and numerous other such areas which we take for granted.

Worse yet, the interenet providers in China must save logs of all web pages viewed by anyone using their connections for a period of 60 days and must produce these logs immediately upon request by the authorities. Failure to do so could land the owner of the provider in jail on charges ranging from what we consider a misdemeanor all the way up to subversion.

So now I ask the question: how difficult is it to make a product such as measuring spoons either in this country or somewhere other than China? When it comes right down to it all a measuring spoon is a piece of stamped metal or molded plastic. Certainly with all our industrial capacity we could produce these products at a reasonable price. The bonus would be that we would be supplying jobs to people in this country.

To all the stores out there who stock kitchen supplies, listen up. Can't you find another country to buy the products from? To all the manufacturers of these products: please find someplace else to have your products made.