China's Counterfeit Behavior Is Actually A Copy... Of 19th Century America

from the imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery dept

China's capitalistic missteps are ablaze in the headlines lately. Tales such as those about poisonous toothpaste and counterfeit Harry Potter books strike fear into our hearts that our most favored nation may be going too far when embracing the very capitalist ideals that we have been trying to instill in them since the cold war. China has been painted as a nation of unscrupulous money grabbers, eager to make a quick buck without concern for any consequences. However, let's not be too quick to judge, lest we forget our own past. China's brash brand of capitalism is merely a normal step along the way of a developing capitalist economy -- a step that the US also went through in the 19th century. It wasn't long ago that American businesses ran amuck without regulation. Candy was found to contain arsenic, custard laced with lead, and as made famous by Upton Sinclair, lard contained traces of the occasional human. Back then, counterfeiters were notorious, giving rise to the term "snake-oil salesmen." There is a silver lining to this story, of course. Just as the US was able to grow out of this adolescent stage of capitalism, so will China, but, kids will be kids, and they need to get a few bumps and bruises along the way before they learn their lesson and change.


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  1.  
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    RandomThoughts, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 3:44pm

    Indeed. Of course, China could decide to roll out its tanks again, which would pretty much screw themselves, but being a trading partner of the world makes that less of a possibility.

     

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  2.  
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    Colin, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 4:40pm

    copyright

    I have George Bernard Shaw volume published in England in 1911. On the frontispiece is the legend "If you purchased this book in the United States of America, please note that it is likely that neither the Author nor Publish have received payment for it."

     

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  3.  
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    Michael Schmitt, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 4:46pm

    Thank you for seeing it this way...

    I'm glad this perspective is being seen by others. I too believe that any nation going towards capitalism has its growing pains and will have to make some mistakes here and there in order to come to where we are in terms of our economic thougth processes. We took care of our child labor laws 60+ years ago, but we point the finger and call "for shame!" on China for having child laborers. We are horrified at the work conditions that Chinese laborers work under, but we only brought OSHA into being about 40 years ago... Just because we have taken care of our issues in the past doesn't give the right to judge others because they are currently in a situation that WE were in only a couple of generations back. As the more mature country when it comes to business practices, we have an opportunity to take a look at our past, see the pros and cons of our decisions, and pass that knowledge on to China as they approach the awkward teenage years of maturity when it comes to capitalism.
    ... and We, being Americans, can probably see a business opportunity in passing on that knowledge...

     

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  4.  
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    RandomThoughts, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 4:53pm

    I agree Mr. Schmidt, but there are some dangers that we all face by developing nations. China is becoming (if it is not already) an environmental nightmare. Both India and China are projected to pass the US in carbon emmissions soon. These things effect everyone. We can't just say "China" has to clean up its act, because if we shut them down, the plants are not coming back to the US, they will just go to another country. How we go about changing other countries process will be a great challenge.

    Its easy to say don't mess with the environment. Its hard to actually pay for it.

     

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  5.  
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    Pope Ratzo, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 5:01pm

    or...

    There's another possibility:

    It could be that the very machinery of capitalism, of the so-called "free market", will invariably create the bits of people in lard and lead in custard. When you have a system that is built entirely around the notion of short term profit, it is inevitable that corners will be cut, and the first cut are at the softest point: human beings.

    The reason the USA was so rich and powerful in the second half of the 20th century might be the very opposite of the characteristics of the 19th century. Anti-trust laws knocked the unchecked greed of corporations back a few steps, labor unions created a large and healthy middle class, the New Deal and civil rights brought a security and energy that pushed us out of the pure dog-eat-dog hunger of the Industrial Revolution into... something better, more human.

    The real story may not be how China is emulating the US to their benefit, but rather how the US emulated socialism to our benefit.

    We'll just have to wait and see if the Bush Administration has put the last nail into the coffin of the new social contract that made America great in the post-WWII period. And we better hope that China doesn't forget all of the lessons of the social and economic thought of Marx. Or the rest of us are going to be in deep shit.

     

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  6.  
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    TacosaremyFwends, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 5:05pm

    China

    They could roll the tanks but they'd prolly all contain lead based paint and kill off the operators. Or, they'd just fall apart. Much like many of the cheap chinese goods that are purchased at my local China-mart. Long live capitalism. Oi!

     

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  7.  
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    Max Smith, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 5:05pm

    It's the 21st Century folks...

    Whilst leaning over backwards to forgive what we all agree is inexcuseable social and trade practices, remember, it is the 21st Century and generally held principles apply to everyone. What next ? should we excuse Darfur massacres or perhaps allow racial discrimination just because they are 'emerging'? I don't think so.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 5:11pm

    Max, seems the liberals are fine giving the Islamic countries a pass on their human rights beliefs.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 5:12pm

    How dare you!

    "China's Counterfeit Behavior Is Actually A Copy... Of 19th Century America"

    How dare you say that!

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 5:17pm

    Well, you can do what you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America! Gentlemen!

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 5:50pm

    Re:

    "Well, you can do what you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America! Gentlemen!"

    Yes, of course. The USA being absolutely perfect in every single way is totally above any sort of criticism!

    If you can't look at yourself critically you're never going to learn and better yourself. If you ignore your own issues while criticising others for the same things, that's called hypocrisy.

    Every country on the planet has a few skeletons, exposing them eventually leads to reforms. Anyone who thinks they should never be criticised, (constructively of course), has their head up their arse.

     

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  12.  
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    Kril, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 5:56pm

    Everyone makes mistakes...

    Oh come off your high horse. Americans went through many issues before they got to the point they are currently at, and are still going through many more (patents for one, and short term profit for two). I only hope China develops a Socialist regime and not another Capitalistic screw everyone for a dollar attitude of Corporate America.

    Btw Max, Americans STILL have Bigotry, is that okay by you? Those KKK issues tiny insulated incidents or what? How about the fact that the Anti-Trust laws HAVE to be in place for corporate American to play fair? Its not the people who have to catch up, its the government regulations and penalties for such behaviour. I seem to recall some recent Dog fighting as well. All Govenment regulations, otherwise, you would have more and more people trying to make a profit doing it if it wasn't illegal. Give them time and just avoid that Made in China label for now.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 6:08pm

    Let's not overthink this too much, folks.

    1) Chinese leaders know about US and European laws, and why they came about - just as we know about theirs. They are not stupid nor are they backward.

    If they wanted to avoid these issues,they could have - from day one.

    2) The US and European companies who outsourced these goods had a responsibility to specify exactly how they should be made, and what practices and materials were forbidden. This responsibilty is there wherever the goods are made - even right here in the US.

    The fact is, the blame goes to our importers, the Chinese companies and both governments. They all decided to take the risk of being detected.

    Everyone thought they could get away with it. Now it's finger pointing time.

    Screw them all.

     

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  14.  
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    RandomThoughts, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 6:15pm

    "Well, you can do what you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America! Gentlemen!"

    Yes, of course. The USA being absolutely perfect in every single way is totally above any sort of criticism!

    Lighten up. I do believe that line is from Animal House.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 6:19pm

    "kids will be kids, and they need to get a few bumps and bruises along the way before they learn their lesson and change"

    Dennis, you owe the victims of the poisoned toothpaste, and everyone else who is damaged by these products a most sincere apology.

    You have written these victims off as being no more important than a minor cost of the Chinese learning process.

    You have also insulted the Chinese people, characterizing them as inexperienced children.

    Or did you mean that the "kids" who need to "learn our lessons" are the people who buy from China?

     

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  16.  
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    The Other Side, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 6:50pm

    Regardless of the natural course of a capitalistic economy, you are talking about people dieing because of a countries carelessness. i see no harm in the couterfit iphones and books,but poisonous and deadly mistakes need to stop. it is their is NO EXCUSE for that kind of incopetence

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 7:24pm

    Re: How dare you!

    Are you being serious right now?

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    uh-oh, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 7:55pm

    This is on the same line of thinking as: hey, my neighbor's boy was a black crack dealer when he was 12, and smugger when he was 13; he got into college with a football scholarship,then he realized he cannot make to the NFA,he picked up a few text books and become an economist.... well, I guess good thing may come from a bad beginning

    - but good things don't have to come that way. Want to get better? better learn from other's mistakes. If China cannot learn other's expensive mistakes, they may eventually be damed in a worse way. So that's your intension?

     

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  19.  
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    Some Random Guy, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 9:43pm

    Re:

    Even if China DID roll out its tanks, don't you think that most countries would try to pacify China as quickly as possible? After all, China is one of the biggest traders in the world market, so if it stopped trading, where would America go to buy its cheap goods?

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 10:07pm

    In response to RandomThoughts:
    "I agree Mr. Schmidt, but there are some dangers that we all face by developing nations. China is becoming (if it is not already) an environmental nightmare. Both India and China are projected to pass the US in carbon emmissions soon. These things effect everyone. We can't just say "China" has to clean up its act, because if we shut them down, the plants are not coming back to the US, they will just go to another country. How we go about changing other countries process will be a great challenge."

    Apply the same logic, England and US also devastated the environment while they were developing. Remember the famous white moth that evolved into gray moths?

     

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  21.  
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    charlie potatoes, Aug 28th, 2007 @ 11:59pm

    Re: China

    ah, whippersnappers all... hehe when i was a boy the japanese econony was trying to rebuild..our markets were inundated with the shoddiest, cheesiest, crappiest products imaginable...we used the term "jap crap" and would turn most products over to look for the ominous 'made in japan' label required by law, then not buy it. well...not to belabor a point but now they make cars that run 250,000 miles while our detroit crap falls apart at 100,000. i suggest we sit back and watch china figure out how it's done.

     

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  22.  
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    Ken, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 4:10am

    Re: It's the 21st Century folks...

    Finally! Thanks Max for making some sense.

     

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  23.  
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    Sanguine Dream, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 6:32am

    Ummm...


    China has been painted as a nation of unscrupulous money grabbers, eager to make a quick buck without concern for any consequences.


    Corporate America has been painted as a bunch of unscrupulous money grabbers, eager to make a quick buck without concern for any consequences.

    Yeah that is just weird...

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    John Duncan Yoyo, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 6:46am

    Re: How dare you!

    Yeah I'm sure the Americans of the time were copying someone else. Charles Dickens complained about rampant piracy of his works when he visited the United States.

     

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  25.  
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    Streaker, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 11:00am

    Re: Re:

    Don't be naive. China's economy depends heavily on our purchases. India would probably be able to step up and replace China.

     

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  26.  
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    Streaker, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 11:07am

    Re: Everyone makes mistakes...

    Thanks for supplying the kook's perspective.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Streaker, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 11:08am

    Re: Re: China

    I was about to make the same point. Japan, as an emerging industrial society, did much the same thing as China is doing now.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2007 @ 6:48pm

    Hey, we had slavery, should we look kindly on that one?

     

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  29.  
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    name, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 1:02pm

    Re:

    yes

     

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  30.  
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    Rufus T firefly, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 1:19pm

    Re:

    Yeah.......they might roll out their tanks, but not into someone elses continent.

    People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

    Or could it be that the countless hundreds of people slaughtered in their own countries these past 15 years by Israeli, British, American and other western countries' tanks aren't as significant as the people killed by China's tanks?

     

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