Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The American Market, A Chinese Perspective

Chinese workers laid off because of falling U.S. demand for useless junk.

FENGHUA, China — Chen Hsien, an employee of Fenghua Ningbo Plastic Works Ltd., a plastics factory that manufactures lightweight household items for Western markets, expressed his disbelief Monday over the “sheer amount of garbage Americans will buy. Often, when we’re assigned a new order for, say, ‘salad shooters,’ I will say to myself, ‘There’s no way that anyone will ever buy these.’ ... One month later, we will receive an order for the same product, but three times the quantity. How can anyone have a need for such useless garbage? Why would anyone want to shoot their own salad?"

"We make so many useless things for export to the U.S. that I sometimes think the Americans take pride in owning completely useless products. And the more useless and unnecessary the product the more the Americans want it. There is a huge demand for very cheap pieces of colored plastic that have no use at all. The only thing that can be done with them is to throw them away. We tried giving them for free to Chinese people and all they did was throw them in the trash."

"I hear that Americans can buy anything they want, and I believe it, judging from the things I’ve made for them,” Chen said. “And I also hear that, when they no longer want an item, they simply throw it away. So wasteful and contemptible. If they would ship them back to us we could make many more useless items for them at even lower prices. We also could make many useful and beautiful products for Americans but our wholesalers tell us they cannot sell such products to the Americans because they would last too long and lead to unemployment in the garbage disposal industry. I have never studied economics but some of the best Chinese scholars, who studied in the U.S., assure us this is the best way for the economy."

Our discussion ended when one of Mr. Hsien's bosses dropped in to give him a copy of an order for 50,000 plastic fake pens that will not write. When Mr. Hsien told him he could make the same pens, only writable too, at no additional cost, his boss told him the order was very specific and stated that the pens must not write.

"What can you do?" lamented Chen, "You must manufacture what the customer wants, even if it is stupid, useless junk. Otherwise our workers, who come from the provinces will have to return home, like the workers shown above."

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