Today is Earth day, we are seeing all kinds of “Green talk” from CNBC to Fox News, from Google to WSJ, from Democrats to Republicans. I think this is all good but this environment thing should be done in our everyday lives, not some sort of campaign or movement: when the passion run out or when the gas back to $2, we back to our old habbits 🙂
Similar logic can be applied to the recent Chinese boycott movement against French brands, after the recent Olympics torch incident in Paris. I noticed the Chinese goverment and news media already toned down harsh words. They are now asking Chinese people show patrotism in the daily work and lives, which is exactly my point.
Boycott does not work
Here are the reasons:
1) Lose moral high ground: in this case the role of the big French supermarket chain in current pro-free Tibetan movement is not definite, we could hit the wrong guy. Even if if somebody hit us, do we have to hit back everytime? I think it depends on the situtation.
2) Backfire and the opposite effect: the boycott of Chinese goods in Europe is coming, because the trade deficit grew and economy impact of Chinese exports (job loss) are felt in western countries in last few years. Recall a few years ago the Wenzhou shoes/stores are burned in Spain? Because (arguably) they drove local people out of business. At the same time, our own countrymen/women who work hard the grocery chain could also be hurt (less work, less pay) because of boycott. They are totally innocent in this matter, and they are vulnerable group.
Also, we gave the French brands lots of free media coverage. Although mostly bad publicity, any publicity is good publicity in this Internet age (remember Sister Fu Rong, she was appeared in Time magazine couple years ago).
3) Economically, people will vote with the wallet. Wal-Mart had a lot negative publicity in recent years, ranging from sex-discrimination, no healthcare coverage, to anti-union and destroying small business (mom and pop shops). At the end of day, as the gas price continue to go up, people shop more at Wal-Mart, because it saves people money (or gas).
Do something more constructive
Buy Chinese goods and service, give domestic companies a chance and support the Chinese workers. Nowadays the many Chinese industries (car, airlines, medical devices…) could use this kind of help. This has to start now. This is more effective than sign the signiture, protest, talking to local people…because this is something we can do and use everyday.
Example: years ago when I was in graduate school, I took my friend (new graduate student) to Wal-Mart. He is from countryside (like me). When we saw two similar CD players, and he noticed the Chinese made is slightly expensive, my friend buys the Chinese nonetheless. Because he knows behind that CD player, one Chinese worker can make a living for a day or two.
Don’t over look small things, I noticed Korean cars are terrible in 1997 when I first came to the US. One Chinese graduate student bought an Hyundai used car because it was cheaper, but it just did not work well. But back in Korea, most people buy Korean cars. Ten years later, look at the Hyundai again, it is very close to Toyota and Honda, and leaders in quality and reliability. On the other hand, Chinese goverment and consumers do not give such support to domestic auto makers in general. The govement official and business people are proud to drive an Audi, a Buick, a Camcord. Why not Chery? Yeah, it’s not as comfortable the above, but it does the work: transport people from point A to point B. I was happy to ride in my friend’s Chery QQ while in Shanghai last spring.
(Two girls holding banner “supporting domestic cars” @Beijing Auto Expo 2008)
We have a lot more to do. In the hospitals they charge higher fees for using exported medical device, while charing lower fees for the similar domestic devices. The goverment tax code used to favor foreign companies (15% tax rate vs. 33% for domestic companies), the new unified tax code has been passed and moving along now…
For me, I am consider flying Air China or China Eastern next time when we visit China, if the price difference is something I can bear with ($100?). Besides better Chinese food, the flight attendants from Chinese airlines are more beautiful too 🙂