No flame intended, but you truly live in a fantasy world and have
little if any understanding of economics, human nature, and recent
Chinese history if you believe any or all of the following:
1. Chinese workers are worse off because of exports to the Nikes
and Home Depots of the world
[Fact, China has increased its PPP (purchasing power parity)
manifold over the past 2 decades due to its rapid
industrialization and export-driven economy. While the rich
have (as always) perhaps benefited disproportionately, there is
now a rapidly growing middle class and a much less impoverished
2. Chinese factory workers are slaves
[Fact, Chinese workers are fleeing subsistance farming jobs in
rural areas to come to the cities in search of factory
jobs. They desire these jobs so much that they risk arrest and
deportation back to the rural areas -- hardly the sign of true
3. If US consumers only were willing to pay more, then all the
problems would go away.
[Fact, instead of the "profits" from cheaper production flowing
to the consumer, they would simply be pocketed by the factory
owners or other middlemen. The "slaves" would be unlikely to
get even a token more. Finally, while it is a nice Utopian
dream, do you think a sizeable number of Americans will
voluntarily pay more to help unknown faces in some far off
country and culture? The automobile example you cite, actually
proves the opposite. In that case US consumers stopped buying
from Detroit automakers because they got better value overseas,
just like they do now buying from China. The solution then as
now is to get US industry and workers to deliver more value for
the buck to be competitive with overseas production . Instead,
you are asking US consumers to voluntarily choose and pay for a
worse value. Good luck!]
4. China should just institute a fair minimum wage and legislate
better working conditions for workers
[Fact, in a global economy, the jobs will just go elsewhere to
markets where labor is cheaper and more flexible. So instead of
having millions of Chinese with low paing jobs, we will now
have millions more Chinese literrally starving from lack of
jobs. After all, why do you think these jobs "left" the US in
the first place? -- because the US is too expensive for certain
types of basic labor]
5. The US should just "ban" or "tax" imports from countries with
unfair labor conditions.
[Fact, first, we are party to various treaties that do not
allow such unilateral actions that have the efect of
restricting trade and protecting home industries. Second, the
people who believe this are usually the same people who accuse
the US of acting unilatterally, being a bully, and generally
trying to impose its values and culture on others. Who are we
to tell other soverign countries how much to pay their workers?
We are hardly talking murder and genocide hear -- just our
own self-serving perception of the proper tradeoffs between
growth, profits, distribution of income, and worker quality of
life. Final restrictions on trade, price controls, and
command-and-control market policies always end up hurting more
than they help leaving most of us worse off (see, Smoot-Hawley
Act of 1930, Nixon's 1970s price controls, the whole Soviet
In summary, I believe that those who inveigh against buying from China
suffer from one or more of the following afflictions or delusions:
A. Well-meaning limousine liberals whose hearts are in the right
place but whose brains aren't -- the "cures" they recommend are
unimplementable and would have consequences worse than the
If you fall in this category, then nothing stops you from
buying at discount places and putting aside your savings to
donate to some established oversease charity where at least one
can be assured that the money goes 100% to the needy. Before
you ask others to pay more, try doing so yourself voluntarily
B. Disingenous, self-interested labor protectionists who are just
interested in propping up overpaid and inefficient US
If you fall in this category, then nothing stops you and your
friends from paying more to buy American. Also, you can lobby
American organized labor to stop opposing reforms that impove
efficiency and competitiveness of US industries.
C. Disingenous, self-interested foreign policy protectionists who
fear China's rise to power.
If you fall in this category, then you too can always pay more
to buy American. Also, it behooves you to do everything
possible to improve the competitiveness and efficiency of the
American workforce. The only way for the US to maintain its
economic position is to out-innovate and stay ahead of the
competition -- trying to hold others back is at best a small
temporary measure that won't make a dent in the inexorable
development of 1 billion Chinese who would love nothing more
than to have the wealth-creation opportunities enabled by a
US-style free market system.
I appreciate what you've written, but my main objection to patronizing that
country is based on just one thing: I don't like the way the country's run.
It is a dictatorship. I don't expect every country to mirror our system, but
at the same time, the other extreme cannot be justified simply because
there's something good on HBO tonight and nobody wants to think about where
their clothing comes from.
Nothing wrong with your opions there. You are entitled to put your
money where your mouth is and buy elsewhere or contribute to solve the
I just don't think it is realistic or appropriate for one group to
impose their political or moral opinions on others. If enough people
think and act like you, then a market will arise in the US to supply
non-Chinese origin (but likely higher priced goods).
My only intended points were the following:
1. Most people are quite happy with and benefit economically from
the the tradeoff of accepting low priced goods, even if
sometimes lower quality and even if manufactured in a
2. The market goes where there is money to be made and politicians
generally don't want to swim upstream against the economic
interests of their constituents (see #1 above)
3. The wishes or actions of a relatively small minority of people
(see #1 above) are unlikely to influence either the market, the
US government, the Chinese government, or the Chinese-based
manufacturers (see #2 above)
4. Boycotts and trade barriers often hurt the people you are
trying to help more than they help them (e.g., workers lose
their jobs, Americans pay higher prices).
5. While I too am troubled by the rise of a rich, powerful,
populous, non-democratic, and potentially antagonistic China, I
don't think that buying or not buying Harbor Freight tools will
have any impact, even if millions of like-minded people did the
same. I would rather focus my efforts on working harder and
smarter here while creating more wealth for me and those who do
business with me.
OK, but you know what? Some products would NOT be that much more expensive.
I think some of the problem is that American distributors may be out of
touch with what the market will bear. A few years ago, I wrote the the CEO
of Lands End. I was curious what their $12 t-shirts would cost if they were
made in the states again. Response: about $18.00. I wrote back saying that I
had LE t-shirts that were 10 years old and looked new, so the six bucks
really didn't matter to me. No response.
The extra profit goes to the distributor, and we have no choice but to buy
foreign made stuff. Try buying a pair of American made casual or dress shoes
On Tue, 24 May 2005 18:41:28 GMT, in alt.home.repair RE: Re:
HarborFreight - am I just unlucky? "Doug Kanter"
Relatively speaking, one might say the same about the USA. Compared to
the freedoms that I remember we had 50 years ago, I would consider
this country to now be a police state and well on it's way to a
dictatorship. If you don't believe that, try commercial air travel.
OTOH, from what I've read about China, it is *much* more free and
economically vibrant now than it was 50 years ago. Not as free as we
are now by a long shot; but they are gaining ground while we are
loosing ground. Soon we will be passing each other: they on the way
up, us on the way down. It's not the first reversal of rolls in the
history civilizations, and it won't be the last.
The excess you describe are the last-gasp efforts of the old-order
trying to hold onto power by chanting the law-and-order mantra. It
works here and it works there too.
To reply to me directly, remove the CLUTTER from my email address.
Yeah...I've heard that cash can change a country. I'm still not sure I
believe it. It depends on where the cash goes. Perhaps China needs to go
through a labor revolution like this country did 100 years ago. Hey...wait a
minute....wasn't Communism supposed to be a labor revolution? :-)
Did you see the new report the other night on the couple in Beijing?
Showed a plush high-rise condo (they said $5M, but I'm not sure they got
it right, but whatever the actual figure was it would rival anything
anywhere in NY or London) w/ the gal sitting at her grand piano and
all...she and her husband had just bought the place w/ their earnings a
"business consultants". The development of a middle/upper class w/
property rights will invevitably, in my view, bring the end of the
I am old enough to remember when Made in Japan meant junk.
I have seen an improvement in Chinese goods already. When
the Chinese get their act together they will be making
products of high quality. The Asian unskilled workforce has
a much better attitude than the unskilled workforce we have
in this country.
Problem w/ generalizations is that, well, they're generalizations. :)
There's good quality stuff from RPC and junk and everything in between.
It depends on the specification of the purchaser. I've been associated
w/ firms using overseas manufacturing facilities and on the purchasing
end for electric utility transmission gear/parts. In both venues, there
have been competent and not-so-competent bidders from multiple places,
including both RPC and USA. Not too surprisingly, cost/quality tend to
be highly correlated irrespective of location.
As for attitude, as I've noted before, there's at least a wide a range
of attitude/aptitude amongst the Chinese as any other population...
Which - as dictatorships go - is a relatively benign one and which is
*far* better than anything else the Chinese had for decades preceding.
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So how do / can you improve it even more? By ignoring the entire
country and condemning them to isolation as a backwater?
Personally I am convinced that the best way to improve their
government, is to send money over there in the form of pay for products.
Someone working substinence level farming has no time or energy left to
even dream about a better future. Someone working 12-14 hours a day in
a factory with money to spend after room and board, does have time to
dream, to learn, etc. Once the country has an overwhelming mass of
people who want something different, things will change.
They have come a long way in mostly the right direction since Tienneman
Square. Integrating them into the world economy seems (other than job
loss) to be mostly positive.
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sdbuse1 on mailhost bigfoot.com
China is on the move, I mean moving forward. Dictatorship? Where?
I thought U.S. has dictatorship right now, LOL.
In 40 to 50 years China's econmy will be 3 times that of U.S. Next up
following China is India. U.S. watch out. May get left behind.
What do you mean by "moving forward"? They have absolutely NO reason to
change the way they do business, treat their employees, or hose their
environment. They're being rewarded for doing things any way they damned
well please, unless you think all the business we give them is some sort of
are. The changes between now and 20 years ago are phenomenal.
Chinese are first rate business men. What don't you like about the way
they do business? Any manufacturer knows that the productivity of the
employees grows his business. Unhappy employees aren't productive.
What makes you think the workers are treated badly? And badly by what
Now, as far as hosing the environment goes, nobody - but *NOBODY* - does
it better than we Americans. Look at the cars. Look at the space
dedicated to cars. Look at the energy consumed by the average
American...look at the water used. Look at the 1000s of trucks
delivering stuff coast to coast...stuff that could be more efficiently
sent by train to major distribution centers and trucked from there. And
I don't hear any mumblings from DC about one child families either.
Lead the way...chuck your computer. Probably your TV, VCR, DVD player
too. Not to mention more mundane things like clothes, umbrellas,
dadiOH's dandies v3.06...
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LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that.
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Oh yeah. Life is good in China. There are a few people in this discussion
who really ought to shell out some big money for a grownup newspaper now and
September 9, 2001, Sunday
Chinese Fight Crime With Torture and Executions
By CRAIG S. SMITH (NYT) 2314 words
HEFEI, China -- Liu Minghe paused in a hospital room here to let a nurse
take his blood pressure, which had surged dangerously in the few minutes
since he began talking about how he had won his freedom from China's death
After she left, he begged off recounting in greater detail the torture that
he said had led him to confess to a murder he did not commit.
''Let's just say it was 'forced interrogation and confession under duress,'
'' Mr. Liu said, his speech slurring slightly because he is missing several
of his lower teeth, which he said had been knocked out during his five-year
Mr. Liu has been recuperating in a hospital in Hefei, 560 miles south of
Beijing, since winning his release last month after having been sentenced to
die in 1996 in one of China's ''strike hard'' campaigns, a frenzied national
effort to purge the land of lawbreakers.
He managed to overturn his conviction on the grounds of insufficient
evidence, thanks largely to his former Communist Party membership, his
family's relatively high social position, and money. But many other people
who are wrongly convicted and condemned to die in China may not be so lucky.
China routinely executes more people than all other countries combined.
This year, though, has been far from routine. Without much notice at home or
abroad, the government has begun sending unknown thousands of people to
execution grounds, often after they have been tortured into confessing
crimes that to foreigners seem minor.
Today China is in the midst of its third great wave of executions in the
last quarter century, a campaign in which as many as 191 people have been
executed in a single day, according to the state news media. Since President
Jiang Zemin announced the crackdown in April, at least 3,000 people have
been executed, and double or even triple that number have been sentenced to
death. The pace of executions shows no sign of abating.
The wrongful conviction of Mr. Liu, and others like him, suggests that by
the time the campaign ends in 2003 dozens -- if not hundreds -- of innocent
people will have died in the capital punishment spree.
These periodic nationwide crackdowns, in response to rising crime and
concerns about weakening social order, place huge pressures on the local
police to solve crimes quickly, which they often do by extorting confessions
through torture. In Hunan Province, newspapers recently reported that the
police solved 3,000 cases in two days in April.
Police in Sichuan Province reported that they had solved 6,704 cases,
including 691 murders, robberies or bombings, in six days that same month.
The campaigns also pressure the courts to try the accused quickly, record
the maximum possible number of convictions and show little mercy in
Convictions are sometimes handed down within days of arrests. Appeals are
processed briskly and executions are normally carried out within an hour
after a sentence is confirmed. Usually, just a few months pass between an
arrest and execution, occasionally only weeks.
The monthly tally of death sentences has become a kind of grim score card
showing how each province is doing. But the real numbers remain a closely
guarded secret. They are believed to be far higher than the confirmed tally,
which has been compiled from press reports by people like Catherine Baber, a
researcher at Amnesty International based in Hong Kong, or a Western
diplomat in Beijing who does not want to be named.
Many, if not most, executions are not reported in the press at all. And
many of the reports that are published simply say that a ''group'' of people
were executed on a given day. A group can include anywhere from a few people
to dozens. Amnesty International usually counts each group as just two.
Neither Ms. Baber nor the diplomat will venture to guess what the true
number of executions might be. But both agree that this year's total will
probably surpass 5,000. Some observers say the number could reach as high as
It is also impossible to say how many of the people executed might be
Signs of Wrongful Justice
Certainly, many of them have been ordered to die for crimes, like bribery,
that would earn them only brief jail terms in the West. But several wrongful
convictions, like Mr. Liu's, have recently come to light, suggesting that
many among the condemned are not guilty at all.
Mr. Liu, 63, married and a former associate professor at a technical
institute in Wuhu, Anhui Province, was arrested during China's last great
sweep in 1996, for the murder of Tao Ziyu, who was reputed to be his lover.
Her body was found floating shoeless in a shallow lotus pond not far from
his campus residence. She had been strangled by someone's left hand, the
An elderly woman reported seeing a woman arguing with a man near the pond
shortly after Ms. Tao was last seen alive, visiting a friend who lived
nearby. Mr. Liu, who is right handed, protested his innocence and said he
could account for his whereabouts at the time.
But just before the end of the three-month period that police are allowed
to hold suspects, Mr. Liu says they plunged him into brutal, round-the-clock
His wife says he was handcuffed to a window so he had to either stand or
hang from his wrists. She says he was only allowed to eat a few bites of
food by lowering his head to a bowl. A document submitted to the court by
his lawyers said that Mr. Liu had not been allowed to drink or close his
eyes during the interrogation.
The police told him the questioning would continue for 10 days and that if
he did not confess he would probably be executed, and offered him a lighter
sentence if he did, according to his lawyers.
On the third day, Mr. Liu broke. In the videotaped confession, which his
wife has seen, interrogators did most of the talking while a dispirited Mr.
Liu answered ''yes'' to the scenario they presented.
Suspects in China are not allowed legal counsel, or any contact with the
outside world while under interrogation. Mr. Liu's wife says her husband
disavowed the confession as soon as he was allowed to see a lawyer.
''I couldn't bear it,'' she said he told the lawyer. ''If I didn't confess,
I would have died.''
Despite the lack of physical evidence and Mr. Liu's alibis, the Wuhu
Intermediate People's Court found him guilty of murdering Ms. Tao based on
his videotaped confession. On Dec. 30, 1996, he was sentenced to death.
Mr. Liu appealed his conviction and his family enlisted the help of a legal
expert from Beijing who focused on, among other inconsistencies in the
prosecution's case, Mr. Liu's alibi and the coroner's estimated time of Ms.
A higher provincial court sent Mr. Liu's case back for a retrial in Wuhu,
which found Mr. Liu guilty a second time but reduced his sentence to life in
Retrials Without Limit
There is no limit in China to how many times a case can be retried, and Mr.
Liu appealed his case twice more before the provincial court overturned his
conviction. Before he was finally released on Aug. 8, his wife had nearly
lapsed into despair. ''I have no tears left to cry,'' Ms. Wang said in an
interview in July, squatting in her small living room, her knees bearing
thick, plum-size scabs left from kneeling outside the courthouse to plead
for her husband's life.
During the five years he was jailed, Mr. Liu says he was held in a series
of 200-square-foot rooms crammed with as many as 26 people. He slept on
boards or on the floor. He was rarely allowed outside and given few
opportunities to exercise. For 16 months both his hands and feet were
shackled, he says. He saw about 30 people sent to their deaths.
''My four limbs could barely move,'' he said last week, sitting in the
hospital room, his white hair recently died black in an attempt to erase the
wasted years. He said he collapsed shortly after he was released from prison
and has since been hospitalized with severe diabetes and high blood
Mr. Liu might be dead today had not his longtime Communist Party membership
and social position encouraged the provincial court to look more carefully
at his case, his family and lawyers say. Money also helped. Mr. Liu's family
has spent more than $36,000 on his defense, an enormous sum here.
But the vast majority of people executed in China have neither position nor
money and their cases often get less scrutiny than Mr. Liu's, defendants'
Part of the problem is that Chinese prosecutors rely less on physical
evidence than confessions to win convictions. According to a recent state
press report, a government investigation found 221 cases of confessions
extorted in six provinces during a two-year period ending in 1999. In 21 of
those cases, the prisoners were tortured to death.
Even if the prisoner shows signs of abuse, prosecutors rarely question how
the confessions were obtained.
Du Peiwu, a policeman in Yunnan Province, was released from death row last
November after a group of car thieves confessed to shooting his wife and
another police officer in April 1998, crimes for which Mr. Du had been
convicted despite a clear alibi and lack of physical evidence linking him to
During his trial, he dramatically stripped off an outer layer of clothes to
reveal the tattered garments in which he said he had been beaten, hung by
his handcuffed wrists and shocked with a cattle prod to force his
confession. The judges ignored his claim, according to press reports after
he was freed.
Though forced confessions are technically illegal, the country's Public
Security Ministry -- whose local bureaus are charged with investigating
crimes -- rewards officers who extract confessions, while usually only
lightly punishing those whose abuse goes too far.
The two policemen who tortured Mr. Du into confessing were sentenced last
month to suspended one-year and one-and-a-half year sentences respectively.
Compounding the problem is an untrained and politically beholden judiciary.
Judges in China are not required to have any legal training, and few do.
Most hold their positions because they have close connections with local
government officials, who are eager for quick convictions.
''Veterinarians, drivers, anybody can get that job if they have good
relations,'' said He Xing, a lawyer who teaches at the North China
University of Law in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei Province.
People have been executed in recent months for everything from tax fraud to
drug trafficking to stealing diesel fuel.
In China's far western province of Xinjiang, where a small but persistent
separatist movement percolates among the mainly Muslim population, people
have been shot for ''separatism,'' according to local newspaper reports.
Similarly intense spates of executions have played a grisly role in China's
political upheavals over the last half century. In the first few years after
the Communist Party came to power, as many as five million people were put
to death, most after summary trials by makeshift tribunals.
A Third Wave of Executions
This year is the third surge in executions since the end of the 1966-1976
The first came in 1983 when Deng Xiaoping announced the first ''strike
hard'' campaign. Large white posters bearing the names and crimes of the
condemned were pasted in public places across the country. Western observers
estimated that more than 10,000 people died that year. The second ''strike
hard'' campaign, the one that swept up Mr. Liu, began in 1996.
These periodic crackdowns and the widespread use of execution have received
broad popular support in China, despite the likelihood of wrongful
A 1995 academic survey of 2,661 people found that fewer than 1 percent were
in favor of abolishing the death penalty, while more than 90 percent thought
there should be more.
Their opinions are colored, however, by underreporting of executions in the
press and the government's secrecy about the annual total.
With increasing frequency, prisoners are formally arrested or sentenced at
public rallies. Nearly two million people attended such rallies in Shaanxi
Province in April and May. On June 25, more than 5,000 people attended a
rally in Hubei Province, at which 13 people were sentenced to death, 8 of
whom were executed immediately.
The condemned are normally paraded through town on the beds of open trucks,
before being driven to the execution ground, often trailed by a caravan of
Usually at an open field outside of town, the prisoners are made to kneel
and are then shot at point blank range in the back of the head. Their organs
are sometimes removed on the spot by medical staff and rushed to nearby
hospitals for transplant operations.
The condemned are not allowed to see their families before they die. Once
they are picked up for questioning, they never speak to a loved one again.
Often, the family does not even learn of the final sentence until the
execution is over and they are notified to collect the prisoner's ashes from
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
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