October 23rd, 2008
08:35 AM ET

Feeling sorry for China?

Michael Schulder
CNN Executive Producer, "The Row"

My family tries hard to avoid “Made in China” for the same reasons a lot of American families do – especially made in China toys and food. Is there lead in the paint? Is there toxic filler in the feed? It’s hard to know for sure. But now the Chinese government has announced that country’s growth rate is down 2.5 percent from last year – down to 9 percent. I’m not sad yet. But now I'm seeing things in a different light.

You’re looking at Chinese workers besieging the gates of a large toy factory that’s been shut down. Hundreds of Chinese workers at this factory lost their jobs. One of the main reasons the factory shut down is that Americans are spending less on nearly everything, including Chinese toys. These Chinese workers didn’t just lose their jobs. The factory fed them in the factory cafeteria. The factory housed them in factory dormitory rooms. Now, many of them have no place to eat or sleep.

You could say this is China’s problem, not ours. But it’s sad to see. And in this globalized world, one country’s problem has a way of becoming everyone’s problem.

You can watch this piece from our chief China reporter John Vause to get more details on the story and meet a new type of Chinese citizen. He’s called the house slave.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Economy • John Vause • Michael Schulder
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. serah

    Chinese people should just demand more from their government because their government is financially sound to respond to their problem appropriately without having to borrow funds from any where. They rightfully need a stimulus package their government can afford it anyway. I cannot loose my sleep because of their problem. That government is wealthy!!!! How much national debt do they have???

    October 23, 2008 at 4:53 pm |
  2. Mike Cloud

    Sad, yes but no worse than the Big 3 laying off car workers here. Would making toys, TVs, etc in this country add THAT much more to the final price?

    October 23, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  3. freddie, chicago

    Having been to Beijing 10 times in the last 5 years, it's remarkable how the Chinese government is able to hide the much of the poverty their people live in. The tree lined and sparkling clean boulevards, the amazing number of new buildings under construction and the snarling traffic jams were nearly nonexistant in 2002, my first trip.
    Take a taxi ride where the driver avoids traffic and takes you down a side street or two, and it's nothing but tin shacks with dirt floors. No heat or indoor plumbing. Climb to the 5th floor of the famed shopping palace, the Pearl Market and the smell of slaughtered animals is overwhelming. (They have a huge grocery market right next door).
    China likes to think they've joined the modern society and are well on their way to become the world financial leader.
    However, as America goes, so goes the world. Now that Americans are not buying their cheaply made goods where young kids probably make a dollar a day working in factories and where a US $3 KFC meal would shoot their budget for a week, the true Chinese lifestyle will not be so easy to hide.
    My China travel and shopping days are over. Hopefully President-to-be Obama will bring manufacturing jobs back to the US and the Chinese government will be exposed for what they are.....cruel and completely devoid of the concept of human rights.

    October 23, 2008 at 3:45 pm |
  4. BILL

    Do I feel one bit sorry for them???? Hell no, how many american families had been devastated with plant closings and relocating to other countries? With all of the contaminated and cheap products coming from china, i have no remorse. As far as food being imported to this country, please – this was an agricultural nation, why cant we raise our own? did anyone feel bad about the generators that killed some of our soldiers – remember the ones Halliburton supplied and they were chinese products. still feel bad??? then move to china.

    October 23, 2008 at 3:14 pm |
  5. Jerry Loggins

    Sad to see? ...Is china helping the american families who are losing their homes.?? If it's so sad , why dont you give them some of your paycheck ?...Oh, I see. Not that sad. Shut up

    October 23, 2008 at 3:09 pm |
  6. Liana

    As an American born Chinese, it is sometimes unclear to me whether there is any amount of discrimination in the American media, especially when it concerns cheaper, and often lower quality Chinese products. While I acknowledge that there is, to a degree, resentment among those who lost jobs when American companies shifted work overseas, it does not give anybody a right not to show empathy for another person's loss. Even if you will never meet or get to know that person, those Chinese workers who lost their livelihoods are just like you and I – struggling in a time of global crisis, victims of the failing economy.
    Mr. Schudler, I am surprised you are "not sad yet". It certainly saddens me when I hear stories like this, and not only because I might feel a connection to those suffering, but because I feel that I am a citizen of the world, and it is my responsibility to feel sad. It is my responsibility to care about dying polar bears, it is my responsibility to cry for the orphans in Rwanda and it is most certainly my responsibility to, at the very least, feel sad about someone losing their livelihood.

    October 23, 2008 at 3:08 pm |
  7. Joe

    People stoped to buy toys from China not just in US but all over the world. I am sorry for people in China, but not for factories.

    Before thing with Fisher-Price toys, my child had full room of those toys, when I read about Fishe Price toys, I tooked them all, and bring to garage, and value of those toys are more than 1000 EUR.

    So I am not kind of the sorry becouase Fisher Price. I will like to see them bankrupt.
    First they were shut down factories all over the Europe and US, then they go in China and sell theirs products all over Europe and US for same and very expensive prices, so when someone buy toys for that kind of the money, he excpect the best quality. And what they get?

    October 23, 2008 at 2:56 pm |
  8. Annie Kate

    No, I'm not feeling sorry for China as a whole but I do sympathize with the individual workers. Lots of people have lost jobs here too and I worry about them – so many may become homeless and in this economy its not going to be easy to bounce back. Last year when the pet food was killing our pets because someone in China was adding an additive to make it seem there was more protein content than there was and this additive turned out poison, there should have been an effort to ensure that China met our safety guidelines on all products before we bought them; but there wasn't and so we have seen people getting sick from food from China, and toys with lead paint to endanger our children. If China wants our business then they should be sure they are producing products that at least meet our safety guidelines. Getting a cheaper price is alluring but not at the price of one's family.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    October 23, 2008 at 2:30 pm |
  9. Jon

    Mike, I think that it is great that you are a caring, compasionate person, but did you seriously write this.. and exactly what was your point?

    Instead of trying to get people to feel sorry for these people and writing a sad story. You should turn this around and show how countries with large governmental control suffer.. crime, corruption, and pain is all there is in these environments. Tell the citizens of the US how lucky they are to live in the United States. Don't make us feel guilty for not buying "made in china" products.

    I have traveled all of the world and I have gone to war in the middle east. No one in the world has it as good as we do. God bless.

    October 23, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  10. Sharon Kitchen

    In this country.......we are fast learning that we can not afford what we want.............even cars for work,all the food we think we would like to eat(even if it where all safe-–if that was even checked by our own gov. and we are told it is not.......alot of risk,that's in the food ,how about the milk or milk products........even chocolate.....some made in China with the melamine.......).Houses we no longer can afford. What credit? What banks are still viable and will we even be told?Some just go to a bank,job and find a locked door,and a note.....closed. So in this hour of need in this country........our thoughts can go out to them.Those that still have can give.Please save something for the fellow Americans that are down and out.We took in someone who had no home.We all eat at the same table ,one meal at night, no breakfast and no lunch and no snacks.....what little food we can afford to buy at the outragous price tag. I ride a electric bike to work.Our we hungry? Sure. Is it cold riding to work 40 minutes in the cold? yes.
    Do we have a choice? Yes......all of us made the effort to registar as many people that we could and then we all voted. Hope is our last chance. May we all be successful at this time. May our country come back to it's potiental. May our leaders and those elected to represent us actualy do this.Then we will regain strength and inturn be able to help others and then all help expanding neighbors and countries.
    Will other countries do the same? I pray so.

    October 23, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  11. Boycott Made in China

    GOOD! I'm glad that my boycott of products Made in China is having an effect. Bring our factories back to our soil!

    October 23, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  12. Michael in Nashville

    I am not sure which is more sad, the reasons you avoid Chinese products, or the lack of focus or concern for the American worker that used to make those toys.

    I feel sorry for their situation, but I am more sorry for the situation of my neighbors and fellow citizens. If we didn't move production over there in the first place just to save a buck, those that you feel sorry for would not be in that situation now. It is infuriating how much production we have moved and continue to move out of this country. If you think this is sad, go out to Manufaturing.net and read daily how many people are losing their jobs here and how many plants are closing.

    Wake up and worry about your neighbors.

    October 23, 2008 at 2:04 pm |
  13. Kelly

    I feel empathy for their plight, but America can't be the savior of the World. Due to our own Beloved Leader and Congress, our nation is in the worst financial mess since the Depression. This American is more concerned about that and how long it's going to take the next president to extradite us out of the Bush War on Terrorism with either a full-out military campaign meant to bring our enemies to their knees, or to end it politically via the UN.

    October 23, 2008 at 2:01 pm |
  14. Bill

    Who cares!!

    October 23, 2008 at 1:57 pm |
  15. Stu

    this is ridiculous. there are thousands of americans losing their jobs right here in America!!! Why don't we start worrying about ourselves and make sure our country is taken care of instead of sending billions of dollars in aid overseas while we keep piling up debt? If America is whole and good, the rest of the world will reap the benefits. Until then, close the door and keep our money where it should be. Right here in America.

    October 23, 2008 at 1:52 pm |
  16. Virgil

    Being part chinese myself, I can say that Chinese businessmen
    are born cheaters. They will do anything to cheat there customers just as what is happening now to most of those made in China products.
    and they are now paying for it.

    October 23, 2008 at 1:51 pm |
  17. M.Melamed

    The valuable lesson for the Chinese workers and people should be, don't make so many products that you can't use yourselves. In this way, factory production is just like market speculation.

    October 23, 2008 at 1:44 pm |
  18. Robert Raphael. Palm Beach County, Fl.

    I Don't Feel Sorry For China. China Put Me Out Of Business By Copying My Picture Frame Designs And Selling Them To My Customers At Less Than It Cost Me To Produce. I Had American Citizen Workers

    October 23, 2008 at 1:29 pm |
  19. mary lee chen

    this is problem of theirs, not ours. don't you think we have enough problems to worry about here?
    their government should focus on corruption and regulations to make sure all the products "made in china" meet all the safety standards.
    by that time, everybody will buy "made in china".
    do you feel sorry for the murder who was put in the jail?

    October 23, 2008 at 12:50 pm |
  20. Sue, Billerica, MA

    The problem is more than just the lead in toys and toxins in pet food and baby formulas and god knows what else but the problem is lack of regulation

    We don"t realize how lucky we are to have the FDA protecting us for most asian country and most of the world doesn"t have things to protect consumers and that is the real problem

    Of course the other problem is overpopulation which will eventually catch up with the rest of the world including us and is probably the biggest looming crisis and that worsens all the other crises from global warming from coal burning fuels needed to feed an ever increasing and ever increasingly fuel hungry world to depletion of our natural resources to feed that world to the agitation and wars fueled by not having enough resources due to overpopulation to spread of disease from overpopulation etc etc

    So instead of feeling sorry for them we need to realize there is a problem there that affects us and the world including overpopulation and lack of regulation of commercial and all industries

    October 23, 2008 at 11:48 am |
  21. David Garcia, San Diego CA

    One thing is certainly consistent in history: war is secondary to economic downtowns. Economic crisis is the time where all countries of the world begin to realize that some country's have more than others. Its a time where countries say to themselves "We have nothing to lose but everything to gain." The United States therefore has a concern because this matter of national security requires that the U.S. advance a wordly perception of generosity and concern for the less fortunate rather than an appearance of greed. In economic crisis terrorist camps grow, governments are overthrown, governments do not act rationally in fear of being overthrown, and countries who are secure within their borders face an inevitable impact from the irrational behavior of those countries which have been devastated economically. Feeling sorry for China is okay. In fact, this is the mentallity that every American should take with them into their voting booth. Otherwise, America will always be on the defense. We have and they do not; they have nothing to lose; we have so much to lose. Will our peace fade as countries become more aggressive against us? I certainly do not have the answers but I can say that compassion for others is certainly patriotic. And to the political right...."Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

    October 23, 2008 at 11:44 am |
  22. Dale

    OF course I feel bad for the workers themselves. However, the company not so much!
    American comapanies have been going under for the past decade, because of this "free" and unequal trade between USA and China.
    I will try hard to avoid products that are not made in the USA.
    Which is difficult, because our "leaders" have sold the American people out for PROFIT!

    October 23, 2008 at 11:31 am |
  23. Max

    You can't avoid all the stuff made in China or elsewhere.

    Can't we diversify who we TRADE with????

    I don't agree with buying only AMERICAN or CANADIAN anyways.

    (What on earth happened to North AMERICAN car manufacturers is astounding. Don't TRY and MAKE everything – focus on areas you EXCEL at???? Oh my GOD.)

    October 23, 2008 at 10:59 am |
  24. Maria

    Probably people will not realize the globalization effect till they experience it. I think you made very good point. Think about globalization in this way, the globe is one body, USA probably the heart of the body, so if your heart suffer, then you should expect that all of your body organs will suffer too and may fail. Thanks for bringing this topic.

    October 23, 2008 at 10:56 am |
  25. jen kidd

    Yes, this is China's problem but we have led them down the path of economic wealth thru production of disposable goods and useless consumer products. We as a nation must assess the impact of our consumerism. But, can they innovate, adapt, cultivate new areas of economic growth? Alternative energy manufacturing, recyclable goods, technology widgets... Can they take the lead or only respond to America's finicky wants and needs? It all starts with leadership and vision. I like to think that's what separates "us from them". Maybe we can change our paths together.

    October 23, 2008 at 9:56 am |
  26. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    For God's sake Michael think about all the American workers that factory has put into forclosure and what it's done to our Trade imbalance. If they are that disatisfied they should over throw the totaltarian COMMUNIST regime that uses them as slave laborers so that G W Bush neo-con Greed mongers can live hihg on the hog while American Workers get thrown out on the street. the Unitsed States Government as well should impose penalties on Slave labor regimes around the world to instill a spirit of FAIR TRADE as opposed to unfettered GREED MONGERING 'free trade'. The COMMUNIST Chinese by the way could bring the United states to its knees simply by calling in all the loans they've made us. They don't have to start another war.

    October 23, 2008 at 9:41 am |
  27. Cindy

    Yep....you said it, this is China's problem not ours! If they actually made products that were quality controlled and safe then the Americans wouldn't be leaving them out in the cold. They brought this on themselves!


    October 23, 2008 at 9:06 am |
  28. J.P Michaels

    Welcome to the real World.
    The only way to create Employment in North America is buying north american products.

    October 23, 2008 at 8:53 am |
  29. Vicki

    If China falls, then we fall, as China basically owns us because of all the money we borrowed from them. So, yes, I do feel sorry for China. It seems as if the entire world is collapsing right before our eyes.

    October 23, 2008 at 8:39 am |