“I’d rather cry in the back of your BMW than laugh on the back of your bicycle”

These immortal words were uttered by Ma Nuo, a 22 year old woman from Beijing on a dating show recently on Chinese TV. Apparently the saying is popular among young women in Beijing and Shanghai regarding prospective boyfriends, but this is the first time that it was uttered openly on TV. It caused a minor storm, angering citizens who felt that she was demeaning Chinese culture and displaying shallowness and materialism, but it brought Ma Nuo into the spotlight where she remains. Possibly this was the point.

The relevance of this is that when China embraces Western values of consumerism openly and widely, and the demand for cheap consumer goods grows, who will feed this demand? China will feed it herself. Will China, faced with huge domestic growth in demand, continue to feed our, (shrinking) demand for cheaper goods? Not likely. If Chinese manufacturers can do business in China why would they sell overseas? Their margins will be lower to foreign consumers because of the distances involved and rising fuel costs. European economies will continue to sell high value goods to China that they cannot (yet) make themselves, but only for a short period. This leaves a gap in the consumer market for cheap shoddy products that are nearly (but not quite) worthless.

Who will feed our demand for crap goods? Africa? Not based on history.

It is more likely that the demand for cheap products has peaked. With rising fuel costs, with Chinese labour demanding better working conditions and a growing domestic market, the costs are only going to go one way. Up.

In the next decade it is likely that we will have to pay the real cost for goods imported from long distances, even ones made by children. We will feel less guilty about it, but we will certainly pay more.

Good.

 

3 thoughts on ““I’d rather cry in the back of your BMW than laugh on the back of your bicycle”

    • Quite likely, why would a resource poor country sell its produce overseas if it can get a good price locally and not have to pay transport costs.

  1. I guess my comments are about six months tardy. Here’s the deal: it’s true that as China’s economy continues to grow, it will climb the value pyramid where it produces fewer but higher quality products probably in a greater diversity of industries. However, the contention that cheap, disposable goods and a base for their production has all but dried up, is without merit. The base for cheap production will continue to flow around the globe to where such production is .. cheapest. This is already and will increasingly most likely be South East Asia, meaning Indonesia and the surrounding region.

    Why would any country sell overseas? If their profits were higher for doing so. China will continue to sell to the U.S. even if transportation costs are higher because there are more of us that demand more of their goods than the still low income per capita Chinese domestic market. Another reason countries will sell overseas is if there’s surplus demand. If China didn’t continue to fill America’s demand for cheap junk, someone else would. That would mean lost revenue. Anywho… just my 2 schillings of insight.

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