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Meanwhile, what of the misery and damage on which this glut of cheap clothing is founded?

Surely you mean the hundreds of millions of Chinese and Indians that have 'been lifted out of poverty'?

Cheap clothing is leading people to treat clothes in a qualitatively different way. Clothes are becoming throwaway consumption items.

Imports now make up more than half of the value of the domestic market in apparel in the US, and that means over 75% of the volume. I'd doubt that factors like 'higher mechanisation' and 'lower domestic wages' figure into the equation of lower prices as more than mere statistical blips.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 08:59:05 AM EST
From someone living in a developing nation, I've been pondering on this a bit.

I saw a figure that in 2003 the hourly wage in China was less than 1 dollar: about $0.78 Who in the world can compete with that? So the zero sum game is well in place.

But it now gets worse as also Chinese companies are mushrooming: the South African textile industry, a relatively thriving part of the economy, has been virtually destroyed within three years by Chinese imports. So China is not only taking on developing countries, it's defeating them too. Result: bankruptcies, higher unemployment and an even graver outlook for the poor. Economic growth is still high in SA, but one wonders what would happen if China would take on SA's core industries.

But why were the South African companies destroyed: simply because the South Africans abandoned to purchase local products and went for the cheapest available. Simple as that. I've observed before: the African Dream is not too different from the American Dream. And they want it now, so it has to be done on the cheap - which ultimately is destroying their own economy.

On the short term: it means that people from townships can afford nice looking clothes without little costs - and wearing nice clothes is definitely a part of empowerment. On the long term: this "winner takes all" trend is insidiously damaging for developing nations. I don't see how it can be stopped, short of China going through a cycle of developing unions blocs, higher hourly wages, responsible external costs and an equal wealth distribution. Which may take generations - at best.

by Nomad on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 10:36:25 AM EST
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The Chinese are starting to feel the squeeze of their growth in many industrial activities as they struggle to find enough qualified workers. So I don't know if you need to be that worried about SA's 'core industries'.

The thing with clothing is, you don't need your workers to be qualified for the labour-intensive steps in the production process (= the final assembly). I've seen estimates that there are more than a hundred million low-skill Chinese left to be integrated into the labour market. This means that China can continue to compete on labour costs in clothing with the poorest developing countries for another decade or more.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 12:12:45 PM EST
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There is this French comic book author, Guy Delisle, who is also working in animation production. Ten years ago his animated cartoons were being produced in China, as he wrote Shenzen ; five year later he wrote Pyong Yang.

Even the Chinese can feel the crunch of economics dumping.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Dec 6th, 2007 at 04:23:11 AM EST
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Pyongyang is amazing. I'm still trying to get it out of my system.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 6th, 2007 at 05:04:58 AM EST
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