China is Screwing Us

May 10, 2020

“It’s a story about us — people — being persuaded to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need to make impressions that won’t last on people we don’t care about.” — Tim Jackson, Economist

We have discovered, by hook or by crook, that China has been screwing us for quite some time. They have been screwing us, hammering and nailing us, and hosing us. Clearly, we are victim to China’s incessant push for us to buy things made there.

In addition to the “goods” listed above, China is smartphoning, toying, furnituring, major appliancing, cookwaring, pet fooding, video gaming, blanketing, flat screening, and flowering us. We can blame, denigrate, and abuse China all we want, but the buck that we are spending over there stops here — because we buy whatever they dish out.

If you really believe that China is the root of our problems, then I have a bridge in Beijing that I would like to sell to you. “They” have not been forcing us to buy the things that they are making. It is us, not them, that is our problem.

The Chinese don’t air television ads in America claiming that if we buy a certain car we will have more love in our lives. They don’t push the idea that we need to be anxious about feeling anxious and it is best to be relieved of that anxiety by taking a Chinese-made, American-branded drug. They don’t implore us to buy the next phone, pad, pod, or promise. In fact, I challenge you to name five Chinese-brand manufacturers. Not manufacturing businesses that make branded American or German or Japanese products, but companies based in China owned by Chinese entrepreneurs or the Chinese government that are branded as an end-product for the world’s consumption. Name five of these companies. I tried and couldn’t even name one.

The Chinese are masters at capitalizing on capitalists. Whether through macro-loans to governments around the world or with bootlegs of blockbuster movies to Hollywood-hungry consumers, we are indebted to them because we cannot control our impulses to build new refineries or buy unnecessary plastic objects. As Tim Jackson says above, we are spending too much money on things we don’t need. He doesn’t make a deep effort to answer why we do this, so I will dive right in.

Why do you buy things? And more specifically, why do you buy things made in China? Your answer to this question will answer the question of why we buy from China. We, quite simply, is you and I. So if you are complaining about China’s role in the coronavirus, the mistreatment of their citizens as abused laborers, the authoritarian communist government, or pollutants they are ceaselessly spewing, stop. Stop complaining. In this pause, answer the question about why you buy: Is it due to a want or a need? Is it the relentless pull of slick and irresistible advertising or seeking the approval of others? Could it be just a habit or just an impulse?

The why you buy is all you need to know. Change for the greater good of us all starts here. This goes for me as well.

Did you know that more than 50 percent of Ecuador’s oil production is allocated to the Chinese government? China gets this in exchange for Ecuador not being able to pay back loans they received from China for the construction of dams and other infrastructure. This relationship is threatening tens of thousands of pristine rainforest acres and the indigenous tribes that call these tropical canopies home. Not to be outdone by Western nations, there are 50 developing countries around the world that owe 15 percent of their annual income to China for loans or infrastructure projects that left them indebted to the Chinese government. So where, oh where, did China get this much money to loan?

97 percent of plastic flowers, 99 percent of electric blankets, and 98 percent of video game controllers sold in the U.S. are made in China. That’s a lot of dough flowing into China. This is where they get their money. Which of these three items do you need? Which do you want? Which do you buy because they can be delivered in two days by Amazon?

China is not hammering us. We are not getting nailed by them. This is akin to saying they are holding the hammer and nail, or at the very least, we are holding the nail as they swing away. In reality, we are holding both. So when your thumb gets hurt from smashing it or when our economy gets hurt from a devastating international virus, think about who is the real driving force.

The giving in to the persuasion to buy is screwing us. The hope of finding love, peace, happiness, and joy through merchandise peddled by U.S. companies making things overseas is screwing us. Our impetuous or incessant or invalid wants are screwing us. We have the tools to stop rainforest destruction, to impede the devastation of developing nation’s peoples, to limit the physical harm and economic demise of our neighbors and neighborhoods. The tool is as simple as deeply asking yourself — before you hit “purchase” online or break out your credit card in line — “Why am I buying this?”

In the glow of your answer — with the possibility that you may not have had a really good reason — consider this: We have learned a lot about ourselves and the people we care about during the stay-at-home period of COVID-19. This includes the knowledge that saving a few dollars today could lead to losing thousands later. And that those who matter most — perhaps more than we may have ever truly realized up until now — are fellow community members who work at or own local businesses. Persuade yourself to leave the big chain store or to enter a new Google search term to find a regional adventure guide service, a neighborhood furniture maker, or a hometown beauty-products manufacturer. Seek out a local toy retailer, quilt shop, or real flower nursery. Buy from them. Keep them from getting screwed. Then ask yourself again, “Why am I buying this?” and revel in discovering how much you matter too.

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