- By Prerna MankadPrerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.
Who’s to blame for faulty Chinese products? The obvious answer is, well, China. But maybe there’s plenty of blame to go around. As Stefan Stern argues in the Financial Times, the West also needs to take responsibility for these tainted goods. After all, it’s cost-cutting efforts by Western companies that are putting pressure on manufacturers at the bottom of the supply chain, many of them in China. Inevitably, some corners get cut.
Stern also chides certain American politicians for “foreigner bashing”:
Even the usually measured Hillary Clinton was moved to declare while out on the stump recently: “I do not want to eat bad food from China or have my children having toys that are going to get them sick. So let’s be tough on China going forward.” (Clearly, the pressures of working first at McKinsey and now at a hedge fund have led Chelsea Clinton to seek comfort with her Barbie and Ken dolls.)
Zingers aside, Stern makes a convincing argument. But the question going forward is: Can policymakers can resist the temptation to demonize China? Encouraging U.S. business managers to check their own supply chains doesn’t seem like a way to win votes, but it has to be part of any comprehensive solution to this problem. Of course, the Chinese government has a major role to play in promoting and enforcing regulatory standards, but as is well-documented, that’s not always possible. Which means it’s all the more critical for Western companies to make sure their suppliers don’t harm their customers.
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| The Cable |