The Chinese government is opening up the door for American companies to exploit their people. American companies manufacture their goods in China for the same reason we all can’t stop shopping at Wal-Mart: other businesses can’t compete.
According to manufacturingnews.com, an average Chinese wage of $0.57 per hour, or $104 per month, is about three percent of the average U.S. manufacturing worker’s wage. China has also forced the value of their money down to better compete so that their products are dirt-cheap. This move drove out all other competition in Asia and throughout the world. One simply cannot get manufacturing for cheaper. It seems logical for any business to want to cut costs as low as possible and ship out of China.
Luke Drake, who works for a local company that manufactures their product in China, believes his company couldn’t compete without their low cost manufacturing. “A lot of products that display the beautiful stitch work that we demand come from Asia. A machine usually isn’t doing that stitch work; a woman is. Paying an American worker to do something by hand would price an item outside of mass retail. So much of it goes back to our demands as consumers. We want beautiful things, and we want to buy them at Target and we want to spend under twenty dollars. If that’s going to happen, it’s unlikely that the product can be made in Minnesota.”
In the end the people who suffer are the factory workers, working 14 hour days making hardly enough to get by. A recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune focused on the horrendous health problems that these Chinese workers endure. Many are exposed to hazardous chemicals on a daily basis and are dying because of them. One worker, 39, is dying from being exposed to cadmium while making batteries. These workers are devoid of any sort of health protection at all. These American corporations are claiming it’s just business.
Are American consumers to blame for continuing to shop at these businesses that manufacture in China, proliferating their success? Are the companies to blame for making no more than a financially economic business decision? Or is the Chinese government at fault for looking the other way while they boast of their economic growth?
This is a huge question of ethics. Do we allow our businesses access to China and let their government continue to suppress the Chinese people or do we put our foot down and defend their basic rights even if their government won’t?