Thursday, March 28, 2013


The new buzzword is officially hip. The Prez likes it, the talking heads are expanding on it, and the public is promoting it. And the funny thing is, the Chinese are doing it, too...

I was speaking to a supplier of mine recently. He is an American citizen of Chinese descent, educated at USC and living near LA. He has a blossoming business in China, opening yogurt shops in major cities while continuing factory work near Hong Kong to produce consumer goods for eventual sale in the US. He is an honest, hard working guy with a beautiful family and thriving businesses. I asked him why US companies were frustrated with Chinese production, moving product back to the US, and he said it was because the Chinese just don't need that commerce as much as they used to. They are thriving on domestic indulgence, no longer relying on foreign entities (well, not as much) and building their own economy right in their backyard. No nit-picky US producer wondering why the factory hasn't hit six-sigma black belt levels in quality. No pesky emails in the middle of the night complaining about delivery. No exchange rate to haggle with. No tax problems to run from. No quota or export license to deal with. In all honesty, I can't say I blame them. We'd do the same thing.

Years ago, when I first traveled to China. I realized how interconnected we were with other countries. I worked in textiles looking for a low cost alternative to the wages paid in the US. We were always looking for that new frontier. Better, faster, cheaper. What we got might have been all that, but we got a whole lot more as well that we didn't want, or realize we would get. We found out that trading our higher wages for down-and-dirty low was attractive, but it came at a higher price when we realized the conditions those folks worked in. We found we could make things better (sort of,) but only because we allowed the environment to suffer. We discovered we could build it faster with hundred of works focused on it, but none trained properly to do the job right. The difference between work cultures was large and the expectations we dictated not necessarily achievable, but we were on a mission to get what we wanted. The unfortunate thing was we traded problems. Now we just have to travel 10k miles and stay up all night to deal with them.

I am excited to keep our jobs and product in the US. Not because anyone wants to hurt the Chinese, but because we are helping ourselves. Sounds like they are doing the same thing. Perhaps the next time I travel to China I will go to see the Great Wall, eat duck blood soup in an open market in Shanghai, and cross the Yangtze in a river boat cruise complete with music and food. And not once will I care about what is being produced, because it won't make that much difference.

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