Mr Democracy

A written constitution for the UK (made in China)

  • Welcome to Mr Democracy, the story of a British artist who set off to get a written constitution for the UK made.
    Understanding the changing balance of power in the world, and with a nod to Britain’s ‘democratic’ ventures across the world, he chose to get it written in China, and ship it back to the UK.
    Read more under 'about' and in the many blog entries.

Expensive products are cheap

Posted by mrdemocracy on 06,08,2008

On my return from Shanghai, I met a man from Portsmouth University on the train. He was concerned that his pda would be constantly connected to the internet, ‘work’ had given it to him. I’ve grown up with a different impression of universities, not as corporations that send their employees round the world to meet business leaders and do consultancy work. We had that ‘you’re foreign too’ connection. He seemed relieved to see me, despite being on the way to meet his Chinese girlfriend in Guangzhou, some years his junior. We talked about politics, and he veered away again when we got too close to any view which might have been different from his. We did talk about China and the world though. I asked him about what the future held for the west, how we were supposed to compete with China. In doing so I reminded myself of another artical I’d read somewhere about cheap Chinese products, and ‘but we don’t make anything’ fears in the west. The article broke down the cost of products, as do the articles here and here, with the examples of trainers. The main thrust here is that yes, they make cheap products, but the profit goes to the west. Its ironic, the article I had read, and the man on the train’s arguments, were both to reassure westerners – its ok, depsite manufacturing lots, they don’t make all the profits. When I looked again for information on these breakdowns, you can see from the links that information about the injustices of sweatshops came up. He added that many of the jobs in the long chain of high-end products cannot easily be transfered away from the UK, such as advertising (culturally dependent), finance (based on a system which can be trusted) and sales (geographically located). Also, as Chinese wages rise, which they are (article a year old), this will make production in the west proportionally more competative, although that wasn’t the view 10 years ago. It predicted it would take decades before Chinese and Indian wages rise because the pools of cheap labour are so huge, but they have been. Its worth noting again on the other hand that the examples from the anti-sweatshop campaigns that these price breakdowns only work for high-end branded products, not for primark or ASDA stuff. I coincidently saw the exact same Clarks shoes in a shop next to my hotel in China, and they were roughly the same price. Now I got them for a bargain, as they were seconds, but its interesting that this can happen at all, and prices in ASDA or Primark are also not hugely disimilar in China.


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