Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Blame Game

It is a universal human trait to blame one's problems on someone else. But in Friday's Globe and Mail, Marcus Gee took the blame game to absurd heights in his column "China Should save less, spend more". Gee agrees with U.S. Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, that China should "encourage its citizens to be more like Americans and open their wallets". In his explanation:

China's government, too, has been building up a hoard. Years of huge trade surpluses and rising foreign investment has given Beijing foreign exchange reserves of $1.8-trillion (U.S.), a staggering figure that is rising more and more quickly. This surplus sloshes around dangerously in China's bilges, causing inflation and overinvestment.

Beijing could reduce the surplus by letting its currency rise against the U.S. dollar, a natural evolution for a country whose goods are in high demand. That would make Chinese products more expensive for Americans, reduce China's trade surplus with the United States and slow the flood of dollars to China.

The statement that it is up to China to make their "products more expensive" for Americans is completely absurd. The truth is that American companies have been taking their business to China in order to maximize their profits. The American companies (and even some British companies) play hard ball to ensure they can get Chinese products for as little money as possible. Proof is provided by the insightful documentary China Blue which shows how a representative from one of the big jean corporations negotiates the per jean price to a lowly figure of $1 and some odd cents. I cannot remember the exact figure but the representative brings the price down from $1.20 to something like $1.13. The Chinese factory owner in the film complains that if he didn't comply, another company would have beat them to the huge order. In the film's end, we follow the jeans from this factory via a gigantic ship containers to its destination in an American mall. There a sales girl opens the box of fresh jeans and puts them on the rack under a sign proclaiming "SALE" for a price of $40. Ofcourse, the same jeans would be sold for $80 at a different time during the shop's non-sale. Either way, there is a huge profit margin being made. So who gets the profit? Not China or the Chinese factory workers but the Multinational company.

If China starts demanding more money for its products, then you can be sure these companies will take their business to another country who would make the products for less. The basis of the capitalist system is that companies will take their business to where they can get more profits. So why is Marcus Gee not concerned with this? To prove his point Marcus quotes an American author: "As the U.S. author Ted Fishman put it in China Inc., "China lends America all the money it needs to spend itself silly." Why is Marcus not questioning the inherent greed that is buried in a capitalist system? At the end of the day, the current problems are down to greed, not only from the companies but individuals who spent more than they could have afforded to, and not about another nation.

The Carrie Bradshaw School of Journalism

This is not the first time Marcus Gee has written an article which reeks of personal agenda. In fact, this problem plagues a majority of the newspaper writers in Canada, especially those writing for the Globe and Mail and even the National Post. It seems most of the newspaper writers in this country do very little investigation or original thinking but merely voice their personal opinions just like Carrie Bradshaw did on her show Sex and the City. So are these personal newspaper articles considered a journalistic output or a personal blog? Are a majority of the newspaper writers merely churning out blogs but only in print? Considering how so many recent newspaper film critics have attacked film blogs for not being creditable, I find the same criticism can be thrown towards the newspapers writers who simply spend too much telling us how they feel on a particular morning or simply get their frustrations out.

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