It’s All About China

I remember years ago when my American friend brought me a gift from Arizona, I accidentally spotted the “Made in China” label right away at the bottom of the item. I said to my friend that it was quite a trip for the present—going all the way to the U.S. and coming back home again.

I didn’t know then years later when I am in America I really can see a plethora of products, from daily necessities to local handicrafts, are made in China.

After returning from my two-week field seminar in Southern Louisiana, I couldn’t help thinking about the souvenirs that were manufactured in China. It wasn’t the first time that the “Made in China” label had turned me off when I was about to purchase a token of the scenic spot in the United States. In Pittsburgh, in Boston, in New York, in Washington D.C., in Denver and even in the pristine Amish Community in western Pennsylvania, Chinese goods seem to have penetrated the local markets extensively.

Strolling in the French Market in New Orleans, I wondered if the place ought to change its name to Chinese Market as eight out of ten stalls sold souvenirs produced in China—Mardi Gras beads and masks, New Orleans magnets, trinkets and key chains, not to mention my new “Made in China” Sony camera purchased on Canal Street.

I don’t know if the “Made in China” label gives American consumers faith in good quality or only assurance of low price. But I notice one reason that Americans like to order take-out Chinese food is because its price is reasonable. Yep, I’ve heard of remarks on expensive Japanese food but not yet on Chinese food.

As a Chinese national in the United States, I have a mixed feeling about the Chinese approach to globalization. On one hand, China makes positive contributions to the world economy. On the other hand, these “Made in China” products have consumed enormous amount of raw materials from China, which means China now not only sustains 1.3 billion Chinese people but also maintains 300 million lives in the United States and elsewhere in the world by exporting tons of goods abroad. Will the natural resources in China come to exhaustion sooner than any developing countries in the world? How can the local economy survive when facing the impact of low cost and cheap labor from the Middle Kingdom?

China often says she won’t harm the interest of other countries and wants to develop a just and harmonious economic market. I feel ashamed to see that Chinese products actually have stifled the creativity and competition among small local businesses around the world.

I wish I could see more than voodoo dolls, Mardi Gras beads and masks in any souvenir shops of New Orleans.

As a foreign tourist, I wish I could buy more “Made in USA” handicrafts than made in elsewhere when I am travelling in the country.


Filed under: Prose, Songyi Zhang's America