The Atlantic Monthly’s James Fallows at his blog puts the recent news about lead-contaminated toys from China in a broader context, in a way that makes some sense. He describes China’s dichotomies — the highest of the high-tech in a sprawling, poor country.
Purchasers just looking for something cheap from China will get it — cheap in every sense of the term. That’s not China’s fault: it’s early stage industrialization. Britain’s factory life was dirty, slipshod, and dangerous in Charles Dickens’s era, and America’s was in the day of Upton Sinclair. And, frankly, American consumers just looking for something cheap will get it too.
So avoid Chinese toys if you feel you must. But let’s not make this the basis for a big fiesta of anti-China-ism. The factories here can be perfectly safe — as the best ones are, when middlemen and consumers around the world are willing to pay the price. And before you imagine a giant Chinese plot to poison Americans, think of the people who pay the greatest personal price for unsafe food and products: the average Chinese citizens who eat and use this stuff every single day. Along with me.
Ah, interesting. Fallows mentioned his risky eating habits in a recent interview on “America’s Business with Mike Hambrick,” which we’re featuring over at the Americasbusinessblog. From the transcript (which you can read over there):
People know that America is a big and diverse country. China is a really big and very really diverse country, and so you have simultaneously – and I’ve seen them – plants that are as good as ones that are in the United States. I’ve seen places where basically all the IBM, Lenovo Think Pads in the world are made. That’s a very advanced plant. Intel has advance plants here. On the other hand, there are scenes out of the Middle Ages practically, people doing welding in bare feet, and the famous, you know, food-safety issues that we’ve heard about. (laughs) Tell your listeners, they’re worried about sometimes eating Chinese food. Think of me, that’s all I eat here …
OK….Although, there’s American fast food in China, right?
Anyway, really interesting interview with Fallows. Highly recommended.
UPDATE (2:05 p.m.): Another post at the Atlantic/Fallows blog, agrees with the WSJ editorial — an exception, apparently — that the magnet problem is one of design, not manufacture.
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