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2017-09-03 18:03
By William R. Jones



“Made in China” is a country of origin label affixed to products manufactured in mainland China, excluding Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Sara Bongiorni is the author of the book, “A Year Without Made in China: One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy.” It is a thought-provoking account of how the most populous nation on Earth influences almost every aspect of our daily lives. It tells of her family’s attempt to outrun China’s reach by refusing to buy Chinese made products. It looks at the big picture and breaks it down to a personal level.

About one-quarter of all Chinese exports are sold in the United States. It is difficult to avoid buying Chinese products. Many goods have components that are made in China, but are assembled elsewhere. Competition is king and those with the lowest costs rule. Standards of living are improved by people being able to purchase less expensive products no matter where they are made. So, living without foreign products may be an option, but it is not a very realistic one. In the 1950s, it was “Made in Japan” that was a concern. In the future it could be made somewhere else that will be a concern.

The “country-of-origin effect” also known as the “made-in image” or “nationality bias,” is a psychological effect describing how a consumer’s attitude, perception, and purchasing decision is influenced by a product’s label of origin. Consumers have a relative preference or aversion for products, depending on their country of origin. In some countries, consumers tend to prefer products made in their own country (also known as consumer ethnocentrism) and in others foreign-made products tend to be preferred.

Nationality bias and consumer ethnocentrism would probably receive the stamp of approval with their national flag. Since 2014 the U.S. Department of Defense has required the purchase of completely American-made Stars and Stripes. The national flags must be wholly sourced from the U.S. like those made at North Bay Industries of California ― and not made of any elements from overseas, including ink, thread, gold fringe and fabric. That ruling extended the existing Berry Amendment of 1941 that bans the Defense Department from buying military uniforms and some other things not grown or produced in the U.S., except in rare and special circumstances.

It was not necessarily unusual to learn that the U.S. government would purchase foreign-made American flags. However, it is incredible that it was ever authorized in the first place! Certainly, it would create dissonance, that is, inconsistency between military action and military belief.

The reality of globalization tells us that it’s often less expensive to buy “Made in China” ― however, quality may be another story. “Made in China” could soon be “Made in the U.S.” (see Beijing Bureau Chief Eunice Yoon’s report @www.cnbc.com 31 May 2017). “Lower corporate taxes, cheaper land and electricity, better air, safer foods, and straightforward access to funding and a government that doesn’t intervene” are selling points that attract Chinese companies to manufacture products in America. Also, businesses can lower costs because in America they don’t have to build employee dormitories and cafeterias or arrange transportation for their workers.


The writer has taught conversational English for 15 years. He currently works for Virginia State University. His e-mail address is: wrjones@vsu.edu.


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