As the economic downturn worsens more people seem to get upset by imported goods.
I noticed some bitter comments on paddling.net when there was mentions of Confluence (group of companies including Wilderness System kayaks) moving most of it's manufacturing to China.
Some American folk were up in arms.
Obviously they were concerned about job losses.
A very similar sentiment seems to pervade locally with some sea kayak manufacturers and paddlers.
Some believe that buying a kayak that is imported is very bad form thus not supporting the local manufacturers.
I seem to have infuriated a few contributors of an Australian forum when I commented on my Chinese made kayak and it's virtues.
The kayak in question is made to be very light and strong with cutting edge technology but does not come with the expensive price tag of one similar made in a Western country (no such technology available yet in Australia).
I have been accused of supporting a government that abuses human rights (China) and that my kayak is the product of exploitation.
In reply to those accusations I have to comment that my view on a kayak made in China is:
1) why it's OK to be using just about every single electronic product made in China but not a kayak?
2) why is it OK to be clothed head to toe by cheap Chinese rags and shoes, our houses furnished by Asian goods and our cars predominantly made with Asian components but it's not OK to paddle something as simple as a kayak?
To the accusation of me supporting an economy that has been abusing the worker I have to say:
Chinese workers are better off with us buying their products than not.
As one forum contributor that has been importing goods from China pointed out: " ..for the last 13 years my supplier's standards of a workplace have improved dramatically, and admittedly not to Australian standard, but the factory worker today has a much better environment than 10 years ago..."
I believe that by Western companies outsourcing to China and creating a strong economy there it has helped the Chinese community immensely.
But how is "letting" our work being sent to China help Australia?
We live in a global economy and despite the insular mentality of some folks we can not sustain ourselves alone.
We import goods.
So, if our die hard traditional industry can not compete with the prices of imported goods it's time to switch gears.
No point in continuing manufacturing in a traditional style just because it has been done for decades.
Kayaks for example take a lot of "man hours" to build. Somebody has to manually handle the fabrics and the resin to construct a hull and deck.
A lot of time goes into assembling and finishing one off.
It requires a lot of labor and labour is cheap in China. So why insist on trying to compete with a labor force that is cheaper in Asia. Why does not want anybody set up a manufacturing plant of goods that requires unskilled labor here in Australia? because economically does not make sense. The locally made product would be too expensive and woud not sell too well, unless it is so much better then the imported one.
Please note the "unskilled labor" factor.
If the product would require highly qualified and trained personnel than things are different but for simple tasks Australians are wasted.
Australians are ingenious, talented designers, great inventors and skilled managers. China does not have those traits.
Let's capitalize on that. Create the work that nobody can touch: skills, know-how and expertise.
So, I will probably continue to buy Chinese products because they are substantially cheaper than other ones. Money does not grow on trees for me :-)
Just like my PC and laptop are Chinese made so one of my kayaks can be too (I have some Canadian and some British ones too and in the past I had New Zealand made ones).
I will probably buy high end items that require strict quality control and reliability made locally (or USA or Europe).
My EPIRB is one of them since my life might depend on it one day.