It wasn’t too long ago that the US invited China to participate in the RIMPAC Naval Exercise. It was pretty amazing to see Chinese warships, including the Type 052 destroyer Haikou, at the Pearl Harbor Naval Station. Access to the Naval Station included allowing foreign Sailors to purchase items from the Naval Exchange. The exchange had a massive boom in sales, such that they even chartered a bus to move Sailors back and forth.
When I walked into the NEX I saw the normal purchases of alcohol, cigars, Hawaiian food and the like. I was really surprised to see Chinese Sailors purchasing baby formula. I was absolutely baffled, so I walked over and asked one of them why. He explained that he planned to sell it at home, because nobody trusted Chinese-made baby formula.
A little bit of internet research lead me to the 2008 Chinese milk scandal on Wikipedia. A bit of searching found some banned videos that had been circulating on social media. They’re a bit graphic to post here, but I could tell there was a massive amount of anger from the population when over 50,000 babies were injured or killed due to melamine infused milk poisoning.
That little run in has always sat in the back of my mind, and recently resurfaced in the discussion of steel and aluminum imports. I’m not an economist, and tariffs go against my preference for free trade. But I would always be happier buying Mexican, Canadian or German goods over Chinese goods. The fact that the government of China tried to hush bloggers about the milk scandal doesn’t sit right with me. In the same sense, I don’t know how much I would trust Chinese steel. We already don’t trust them much anyway, and apparently neither does Mexico or New Zealand. As it is, we get more steel from Mexico and Canada anyway, and at least their governments aren’t plotting to go to war with us.
So if it’s a choice between cheap Chinese products and products from Mexico, I’ll take Mexican steel any day of the week.
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