You would think Chinese manufacturing is in crisis. News of imported Chinese contaminated food of various types, including various types of meat, and other products like toothpaste, seems to come every month. Toy recalls, including those for highly visible, upper-end products, often involving lead paint, keep chugging along. Between food poisoning, lead contamination and other problems that have led to the execution of a top Chinese official (yes, I mean “put to death”) you’d think Chinese manufacturing would be on the ropes with a PR challenge: how to convince Americans to buy products made in China. You’d also think there would be a huge “Made in the USA” campaign for buying domestic manufactures stressing health, safety, environmental and labor standards. You’d think.
If you want a sense of the state of American manufacturing, which has been gutted under the Bush Administration, look no further. Where once “Made in the USA” constituted a way of life and wealth, today it isn’t even a point of difference. This isn’t a call for ugly nativism – and I’m not against Chinese manufacturers selling their goods in the U.S. – but a failure to adhere to basic health and safety laws, along with poor labor and environmental records, should disqualify a number of Chinese products from coming to the United States – and these regulatory differences should be a place where American manufacturing and labor can compete. That it no longer is made a point of difference makes the point.