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.