The idea percolated in my (the Dad’s) head for about 8 months before I even tested the waters with the family. It began with a story I read in a magazine about religious freedom (and lack of religious freedom) in China. I remember reading about the persecution of Falun Gong members, of the jailing of Christian house-church pastors, and of the persecution of the Buddhists in Tibet. Once I started to think about it, there seemed to be a lot of things to consider. Here are some of the biggies:
Religious freedom – as a person of faith, I cherish my freedom to worship God, and your freedom to disagree with me. Yet in China, if you’re not part of a state-sanctioned religion, you can be harassed, arrested, tortured or even killed. Sites to look at include: http://www.persecution.com/index.cfm
Labor standards – the use of child labor, prison labor, or even quasi-slave labor is not a unique-to-China problem, but China is certainly not a paragon of virtue in this respect. For stories in this regards, see http://www.chinalaborwatch.org/.
Environment issues – Reading about the Three Gorges Dam in National Geographic (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/06/060609-gorges-dam.html) made me realize the scale of the things China could do. But China’s booming manufacturing sector is notorious for its pollution. See, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/07/070709-china-pollution.html for example.
Democracy – The economic liberalization of China has not been accompanied with even the slightest move towards democracy. The government of China is the same as the one that used tanks to kill and maim its youth in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Democracy may eventually come, as the newly-affluent Chinese begin to demand more say in their country’s direction, but until that happens, there are lots of nascent democracies around the world that can benefit from my consumer dollars.
Tibet, Taiwan, and North Korea, and whoever else is next – China’s government has a history of aggression and aggressive rhetoric. OK, lots of countries do too, but it’s still a bit scary that North Korea has nukes, and surely they had help from their neighbors.
Economic power – currently the trade deficit between the USA and China stands at over $230 billion per year – that’s money that will one day come back to roost. Why not put our consumer dollars in the hands of democratic countries in Europe, Asia, or even in this very hemisphere? Countries that actually buy North American products (cars and so forth), and that support us when it comes to security matters (like Afghanistan, Haiti, etc).
Trade equity – Related to the above. I have heard the argument that our production in North America is intellectual, not goods, so the trade deficit is a false metric of trade. While it sounds good in theory, so far, China has not shown itself to be able to enforce intellectual property rights. On a visit to Hong Kong, I remember being offered software and movies to buy before these were even released in North America. If we’re going to trade with someone, it should be a level playing-field. China has yet to make their market fair for North American products such as music, movies and software.
Product Safety – I confess that this wasn’t on our minds when we started NMiC, but in recent months, we’ve all read the reports. Anti-freeze in toothpaste, poisonous pet food, lead-based paint on toys... did I mention Aquadots? China’s free-for-all simply doesn’t provide for the standards for labor environment and safety we take for granted.Trade and Manufacturing Capabilities – as more and more products are manufactured overseas, we lose the ability to make them in North America. Although globalization has brought unprecedented trade, I believe it’s important to retain the ability to manufacture key strategic materials. We can’t even make a flat-screen in North America!