Sure we are running $300 billion annual trade deficits with the Chinese. But don’t worry, that is about to turn around, take the Washington Post’s word for it. Soon Chinese consumers are going to be snapping up the products of American companies like Apple iPhones and iPads, HP computers, Tommy Hilfiger shirts and New Era sports caps. Wait a minute. Aren’t all those “American” products already made in China? So even if Chinese consumers started snapping them up, those sales wouldn’t help American workers. Apple has lately been shouting about how sales of its iProducts that are assembled in China creates a lot of jobs in America because someone has to transport them, sell them, etc. But even that argument wouldn’t hold for Apple products sold in China. The people transporting them and selling them in China will probably be Chinese people, unless Apple unveils a remarkable new American guest worker program in which Americans would sell iPhones and iPads to Chinese consumers. Hey, it could happen.
This myth of the emerging Chinese consumer market has been around for a long time. Countless American and European firms have invested vast amounts of time, resources and energy chasing the dream of vast sales of consumer goods in China. It isn’t hard to figure out why that is pretty much a pipe dream. Think of a consumer product that isn’t made in China. Kinda tough isn’t it? Shoes? China is the world’s largest producer of shoes. Apparel? Ditto. Handbags? I challenge you to go to Macy’s and find a purse that isn’t made in China. Hell, Coach even makes purses in China. Cars? China already produces more cars than any other nation. Appliances? Haier, a Chinese firm, already has the world’s largest market share in consumer appliances? Consumer Electronics? The less said about that the better. So what manufactured products will we sell to the burgeoning Chinese consumer class? Your guess is as good as mine.