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Tuesday and Thursday
What does it take to stop Americans from shopping without care?

For the record, this cartoon is not a criticism of the current movement to boycott goods made in China. Indeed, the Boycott Made In China folks offer an informative F.A.Q. on why boycotting Chinese made products is a good idea (indeed, wouldn't it be great if all F.A.Q.s were this thoughtful?). Tibet, Sudan, ongoing government repression, its formation of a middle class on the backs of millions of impoverished workers, etc. - plenty of good reasons exist for conscientious consumers to spend their money elsewhere, like say at your local farmer's market.

That said, it is largely the FEAR OF LEAD that has prompted much of the knee-jerk consumer boycotting covered in the media, a meme that began earlier this year with the stories of tainted pet food products. Again, all good reasons to boycott - we love our kids, we love our pets. But I think we fool ourselves if we think that these problems are unique to China and not consider the larger context of global division of labor and the role of American companies in creating them. Indeed, I hope my fellow Amurcans are starting to connect the dots between consumer safety issues, labor and human rights abuses and environmental damage inflicted by global corporatism.

Another thing that worries me, something that isn't addressed in the small space of this cartoon, is the way this year's Chinese consumer menace stories have fed into the ongoing anti-Chinese paranoia favored by cranks of the American imperialist and nativist persuasion. Watch a week's worth of Lou Dobbs. You'll see what I mean. I sympathize with Lou's fulminations against corporate-friendly free trade policies that punish American and Chinese workers (the latter get little mention by him, however), but as with his immigration rants, he leans far more to the xenophobic.

1 comment:
AJ Luxton (ajl) says:

I agree with many of your points.


I, of course, am not boycotting goods made in China: because I *am* in China.  Resistance is futile. :-)


I do think it's good for America to reduce its total reliance on imports from any one country.  Not just for humanitarian reasons, either.  As I explained to my students -- in whom I am trying to inculcate the idea that China is a powerful country, not a lesser cousin, but a world power in the here and now (and needs to move more responsibly, in that awareness) -- "If China stopped making products right now, the Americans would have a shortage of shoes, clothes, dishes, electronic products, some kinds of food... they would have nothing for a while."  Letting any other country have that kind of leverage over the population is foolish. I'd like to see less foolishness.


And also less xenophobia. It's been pointed out by reliable news sources that America's also been sending lead-laden products to China: why? Because when your widget doesn't meet the local standards, you slap a new label on it and sell it abroad.  I'm of the mind that there's probably more of this going one way than the other, but it's obvious it's not unique to any one import-export channel. 

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Kevin Moore is the creator of Wanderlost, formerly known as Sheldon the Pig. A veteran of zines, underground comics and political cartoons, Kevin has been doing webcomics since 1999. He is also a librarian. ... full profile