A very reasonable question to ask is: What are the conditions under which the factory workers are laboring? Are they being well treated? Would it not be better to buy from American, Japanese or European companies where working conditions are clearly more benign?
The working conditions (by western standards) in Chinese factories, though largely unknown, are generally assumed to be abysmal. The Chinese regime, originally founded under the communist banner of “workers unite” and “power in the hands of the people” now colludes with manufacturers to deny rights and recourse to mistreated workers, prevents western organizations from learning about working conditions, and certainly prohibits workers from uniting in any way.
One must then ask: “Would this situation be improved by a general boycott of Chinese goods” -- the answer to which is “No, not noticeably.” One could, of course, endorse a preference toward the higher priced products of more developed countries with more civilized labor policies, but price so overwhelmingly supersedes conscience in purchasing (especially in an ailing economy) that any real effect of such an effort without tarrifs and controls would be ineffectual to the point of insignificance. Also, the effort to persuade Americans to switch to more economical and ecologically friendly forms of transportation (ie., scooters) would be severely crippled.
What can a conscientious consumer do for human rights, worker's rights, and planet ecology which is workable given current economic factors? It really makes more sense to buy Chinese products, but to attempt to convey one's preference for support of those companies which do, in whatever measure, distinguish themselves from others in the arena of worker relations and policies. Chinese companies have a major presence on the net and, when it comes to doing business and maintaining a favorable image in the eye of the American consumer, they are accessible and willing to communicate. One major Chinese source directory is Alibaba.com
This route is deserving of more research and effort and is certainly more likely to yield fruit than others. We are seeking organizations engaged in pursuing this course.
China has been accused of “dumping” products on the US market for less than their cost of manufacture and this has been and will continue to be the cause of many trade lawsuits (see the Business Week Article: Wielding A Heavy Weapon Against China)
This is regarded as unfair competition by western companies of course, but perhaps, to the avid scooterist, it could be seen as a major Chinese subsidy in support of an American low-cost motor scooter movement. Vespa/Piaggio will survive. There are enough classic scooter enthusiasts to ensure that.
No, Boycotting Chinese products will not appreciably improve the lot of Chinese workers, but providing Chinese companies with a market and image based incentive to treat workers well and to allow access to their workers by international observers could very well have a major effect, particularly if a significant scooter craze develops in the US as is our hope. This is an ongoing project.
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