"Trade is just the continuation of Politik by other means"From HSBC (July 20):
If Harry Reid has been invited to this month’s opening ceremony for the London Olympiad, organisers would be well advised not to let him anywhere near the Olympic Flame.
Less than a fortnight before the start of the Games, the Senate Majority Leader has been in incendiary mood, and has led the grandstanding by US politicians on the wearing of ‘Made in China’ outfits by American athletes.
“I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them,” Reid ruminated. “I hope they wear nothing but a singlet that says ‘USA’ on it painted by hand. We have people in America working in the textile industry who are desperate for jobs.”
If that sounds like a faux sense of outrage on Capitol Hill (Italian suits, anyone?), it’s in synch with a growing anti-China mood in presidential campaigning. Topics like offshoring and outsourcing have been triggering testy exchanges.
But textile tension has also been evident in the Chinese media this month, on news that “overhead, pick-and-place robots” are being developed in the United States that could soon pose a threat to the country’s vast garment industry.
The claim? That a new era of ‘robot tailors’ may make it cheaper to make clothes in the US rather than shipping them in from China.
The China Youth Daily opted for Cold War imagery in its own assessment last week, warning of a new “containment strategy” in which American automatons “seize the commanding heights in a new round of technological and industrial competition”. Heady stuff. So perhaps it was just as well that no one at the newspaper seems to have picked up on the announcement that the company developing the garment robots – SoftWear Automation from Georgia – has received a $1.2 million grant from the Pentagon.
The money came from an agency tasked with boosting US national security, although a more prosaic explanation could be that the Department of Defense is hoping to save something on a $4 billion yearly spend on uniforms.
Part of the backdrop to the new interest in robotics is the persistent increase in Chinese wages, and the likely peaking of the country’s labour market demographics by 2015.
The upward surge in salaries has continued relentlessly this year. The Wall Street Journal was reporting this week that pay for migrant workers – usually those on the factory front line – rose 14.9% in the first half, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
At current rates, that means China’s private sector manufacturing wages will have doubled from their 2011 levels by 2015....MORE