Monday, September 29, 2008

Everything says 'Made in China'

Last weekend, we went to the local branch of Briscoe, a seller of household goods. Mission: to buy a new thermos flask. We eventually bought a "Canadian" one. I put the word "Canadian" in quotation marks because, of course, the Canadian company now has its goods manufactured in China.

"Is there anything, these days, that is not made in China?" I wondered. Not so long ago, when I was in my 20s, nothing was made in China. And if you had gone to China, you would have seem millions of impoverished people wearing padded jackets, riding around on bicycles, and fanatically waving copies of the infamous Little Red Book of Chairman Mao's quotations.

But in those days, almost no one went to China. And in New Zealand, those who did could expect to be put under surveillance by the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) upon their return. For going to China was widely seen as the moral equivalent of supping with the devil.

Then the Chinese leaders effectively dumped communism, embraced capitalism, and put on business suits. And suddenly, China was acceptable - though it remained an authoritarian state in which individual freedoms were still rigorously circumscribed. How quickly attitudes change, when our leaders decide, for reasons of expediency, that the time has arrived to pursue a new policy.

I was prompted to write all this by Research New Zealand's latest monthly survey of attitudes and opinions, which has found that nearly two-thirds of Kiwis try to buy New Zealand-made goods.

The telephone poll of 529 people earlier this month found that 59 percent of New Zealanders said they made a point of buying New Zealand-made goods. Another 13 percent said their purchasing decisions depended on what the goods were.

But of course, New Zealand-made goods are often not available. While at Briscoe, I checked the china/porcelain section - just in case it had an aesthetically acceptable dinner set. It didn't. Everything was ghastly. And although I didn't check the backs of the plates, etc., to see where they were made, I'm pretty sure they were all from China, Indonesia and Thailand. Crown Lynn - the main New Zealand manufacturer - was forced out of business years ago.

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