I hope you aren’t chewing on one of your collectible action figures while reading this. In case you haven’t heard, there has been an epidemic of dangerous toys being sold throughout the United States.
Dora the Explorer was the first mascot for the invasion of lead-coated toys, but there were others. There was a massive recall when it was learned that Thomas the Tank Engine was making express deliveries of the poisonous substance into the mouths of infants.
As the roll call of dangerous toys increased, blame shifting was reaching a fever pitch. China was the easiest target, as the toys had been manufactured there and it was learned they were cutting corners to cut costs.
Things calmed down for a while, but then another, more immediate threat emerged from the toy store. Aqua Dots, a more complicated, chemically unstable version of Play-Doh, had appeared with something much more dangerous than lead. It turns out that when the multicolored pellet size components of the toy were swallowed, they turned into a date-rape drug. Toddlers were in comas and the toy was immediately withdrawn from the shelves in Australia and the United States.
Once again, the toy was manufactured in China, and the outraged media revisited their attack.
Of course, you shouldn’t ask how children found ways to eat these toys.
It’s well known that a majority of what kids play or craft with ends up in their mouths. I’m sure you remember that kid from kindergarten who was always eating paste. Asking parents to stay on alert and ensure that their 2-year-old wasn’t playing with a toy that consisted of candy-colored, bite sized pieces would be too much to ask. A poisonous toy could do serious damage regardless of how safe a parent tries to be.
It is just much easier for the media and public to blame China.
“This is a horrifying recall. We’re just not seeing any letup in the kinds of dangerous products that are coming in from China,” former U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman Ann Brown declared on the front page of USA Today.
While the lack of quality and the dangers of the goods being imported is a serious concern, it isn’t a shock. China has the same business plan that most nations and business employ – a plan that has been perfected by American corporations.
The plan? Do whatever it takes to find the lowest bidder and strike a bargain.
China’s emergence in the global economy has come because they have used their massive population and political structure to become the lowest bidder. American corporations have been there to take
advantage, not only with labor, but also with loans to the nation itself.
One example of a business loan comes in the way of China’s massive Three Gorges Dam. The dam, one of the world’s most criticized construction projects, was financed by private corporations instead of the International Monetary Fund, which typically provides revenue for such projects.
Hailed as the Great Wall of Dams, it was too controversial for the IMF to fund. The problems included the displacement of more than a million people who lived in areas that would be flooded, endangered river dolphins being pushed to the edge of extinction and the loss of countless archaeological goldmines that would never be examined.
The size of the contract was large enough that many companies were willing to look past the issues. China was able to secure funding from private corporations, mostly ones based in North America. One of the companies was the parent of Discover Card.
Yes, the interest you accrued if you made purchases on that thin piece of plastic was, in part, being used to bankroll devastating projects like Three Gorges Dam.
Many Americans had been unknowingly contributing to the suffering of Chinese citizens. However, when a toy is commissioned to be manufactured in another country based on their poor standards, and that toy is purchased to save pennies on the dollar, there is a problem.
The contempt for China also serves a purpose that is vital to the American identity.
As more and more items that make up a part of your daily life are no longer being produced locally, it takes more for people to share things in common. In the past, a group of farmers in certain regions shared an identity because they were farmers. They may have all grown corn to make a living and that was a connection. Now food is imported and there are very few places where communities share a bond in how they work.
Today, it is highly unlikely that you have much in common with your neighbor. Chances are, the work you produce is not a tangible product. To create an embraceable identity for Americans, the focus has changed from taking pride in manufacturing quality items such as toys. Instead, the nation is being asked to rally around the belief that claiming to have higher standards is reason alone to have national pride.