The Chinese Dress Code

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran an apologist editorial on the front page of the Marketplace section entitled Does it Matter China Made the U.S. Olympic Uniforms?  This sanctimonious piece by John Bussey condemned Senator Harry Reid and Rep. John Boehner for questioning the Olympic Committees outsourcing of more U.S. jobs. The Senator and Congressman were right-on. It does matter. It matters quite a bit.

It matters because the Olympics is a show and everything about it is politically symbolic. At its best Olympic symbolism is about bringing together diverse people from around the globe to compete on a fair playing field, founded on the democratic traditions of ancient Greece. At its worst, the symbolism glorifies a totalitarian regime as in Hitler’s 1936 Nazi pageant and Hu Jintao’s 2008 Communist blow out.

While that over-the-top Chinese carnival offend the senses, under its saccharine coating lurked the usual Communist grime. With the world carefully distracted by astounding fireworks displays, the repression of the Falun Gong, the razing of Christian churches, the brutalization of peaceful Tibet, and organ harvesting for profit continued unabated.

Thousands of Beijingers were forced to relocate to build the Olympic facilities. The month before the spectacle, I took this picture. Here you see the last home still standing; its owner having plastered every wall with Communist flags and portraits of the Chinese Communist Pantheon in hopes of keeping the bulldozers at bay. That brave man understood the power of symbolism.

Meanwhile, the broadcast media, papers, and Internet were more restricted than ever and political protests were still aggressively squashed – despite a very public promise made to the international community that turned out to be just another convenient Chinese Communist lie.

Beijing also a high bar for cheating, typical for a government that has never recognized any rule of law beyond what power can get away with. Watching twelve-year-old girls used as props to boost the commie medal count was as symbolic as it gets. The Chinese government even forged passports to keep the charade going. After the Olympics ended, it was even reveled that a Chinese government run hacking ring had infiltrated the I.O.C., the World Anti-Doping Agency, and a number of national Olympic committees. This, like the Tiananmen massacre, should have told us something about how far China can be trusted in trade and military agreements – not one bit.

So what does a naïve American Olympic Committee do? Buy Chinese uniforms! And what does the co-opted U.S. media do? Tell us it doesn’t matter! If China lies, cheats, steals its way through the Olympics, why would the WSJ expect China to adhere to WTO rules? In reality that paper, like most of business press and lobby groups, simply doesn’t care about honesty in trade, because the multinational firms that support these institutions profit immensely from China’s cheating and abusive labor practices.

The Journal and their sold-out buddies at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tell us that lost American jobs are OK, because we are all benefiting from the unseen miracle of Ricardian comparative advantage. Now, that’s a insidious abuse of economic theory that will require a whole ‘nother post to unravel, but let’s just say if you can’t see it, it probably doesn’t exist. During thirty years of empirical testing of that theory with China, American incomes and unemployment have risen in lockstep with our growing Chinese trade deficit. That is not a coincidence.

The Journal also dredges up a discredited report from two European economists at the Federal Reserve (see my piece here) as a further distraction. That report brutally twists trade data to, again, convince you of something that disagrees with your own vision: that only a tiny portion of our purchases are going to China. The bottom line is that China’s imports to the U.S. always outstrip our exports and the growing difference is now about $300Billion a year! That is an economic leakage that now accounts for nearly 2% of our GDP. If American had 2% more GDP, we’d be on easy street.

Reading the Journal article I choked on the line, “The Chinese are really good at producing low-cost uniforms.” A remarkably arrogant quip, since these little Ralph Lauren pretties cost $2,000 a piece. Maybe that’s cheap by Wall Street standards.  Its all part of turning a pump that brings in short term Wall Street profits in exchange for the transfer of our capital and technology to a regime that is both the largest abuser or human rights and America’s rising geopolitical enemy.  How dumb is that?

The good news is that in London, the demonstration of a free people celebrating both a culture and a government worthy of their pride will wash away the soot of Beijing. It’s too bad that America’s athletes won’t get clean uniforms for the games, it’s even worse when our free press dismisses legitimate concern for our unemployed and the prosecuted people of China as symbolic grandstanding.

Greg Autry serves as Senior Economist with the American Jobs Alliance and is the co-author of the book Death by China, now a documentary film directed by Peter Navarro and narrated by Martin Sheen.

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