I have never really been one for politics and economics. Being neither a politician nor an economist, I have never really understood the mechanics of all these deals. I have always felt that these things are better left to the experts. Be that as it may, however, the effects and ramifications of all these economic negotiations and deals have invaded into my personal life. I never expected it to happen but during a recent camping trip of mine I found out just what the trade relations between the United States and China really means in the life of everyday people.
It started on a nice and sunny day in the middle of spring. I was looking forward to the annual camping trip that I and my friends went to. While we believed in roughing it, we also believed in living with a few luxuries that civilization had made us accustomed to. In the spirit of “roughing” it, we had set a limit as to how much we could spend on the items that we were to bring on the trip. The budget per person was around US $200. We figured that by setting a cap spending limit we would stick to the bare necessities and experience what it was like to really enjoy camping.
In hindsight, I realize that the budget of US $200 that we had set was pretty lean, to say the least. We had to do away with the usual items that we were used to buying such as portable television sets and the like. Yet, as we entered the camping goods store, we noticed something different. There were now so many other cheap goods on sale in the store. Needless to say, since we had a limited budget, we were overjoyed to realize that we could now splurge on a few more “essential” items for our camping trip.
At the check out counter, we had purchased so many other extra goods. Aside from the basics such as a tent, flashlight, lamp, sleeping bag and disposable dinner ware, we had also purchased a portable television set, radio speakers and electric generator.
As anyone would have guessed, these additional luxury items were made in China. We never expected that we could buy all these things at a fraction of the price that the same American goods were sold. In fact, the thing that surprised us the most was the proliferation of these goods into almost every camping goods store in the vicinity. The real lesson on the impact of the United States and China trade relationship was not to be experienced until the camping trip itself.
The first few minutes of the trip were relatively uneventful. We unpacked the items and assigned members to handle the setting up of the various items such as the generator and the tents. As soon as the basics were set up, we decided to give our new gadgets a go, so to speak. The first item to screw up was the portable television. After several minutes of trying to find the right signal, the television set decided that it was also a toaster and it began to emit smoke from the rear panel. It was not long before the sparks started to fly.
Much to ours surprise, the radio speakers soon followed suit, dangerously close to the sleeping bags. Like clockwork, the generator also followed suit and soon all our made in China goods were either smoking or ablaze.
We were left with none of the luxuries that we wanted and only the basic goods that we required for our camping trip. While a few embers had fallen on the sleeping bags and the tents, they were left relatively un-singed. The relatively expensive goods by comparison that were made in the United States lasted while the cheap goods from China had broken down even before we had begun to use them.
It was that moment that I realized what was really going on in the United States and China trade relationship from an economic and political point of view. The influx of cheap Chinese goods was a result of the open trade relations that allowed these goods to enter. The expanded distribution was caused by the relatively low prices that these goods had.
I also realized that these things were necessary because trade relations pretty much govern the political relations that countries have with each other. In order for the United States to tap into the market of China, certain concession had to be made such as allowing trade reciprocity. The cost of such deals, however, can really be experienced by the normal people such as me. As the law of supply and demand shows, cheaper is not really better and quality comes at a price. This I