Our government has frequently expressed its desire for a free trade agreement with China. Indeed we already have some dubious arrangement with their involvement in Hinkley Point and the suggestion of another similar plant in the south-east. Here I will suggest why such arrangements are bad for us and the suggestion of a free trade deal with the Chinese even worse.
The Nature of the Chinese
The Chinese are insidious; they don’t openly cause problems as the Muslims do but quietly insert themselves into other countries where they may develop their businesses. Their only true god is money, little else matters. Many businesses in South East Asia, for example, are owned by the descendants of Chinese immigrants. More recently we have seen them curry favour in Africa to exploit its mineral wealth. Of course, such businesses turn to their country of origin when products or components are required. They might employ local people but normally only in the lower ranks. Nothing is spent on anything they can do without such as improved working conditions or better equipment. I have seen this; my wife currently works for such a business.
Chinese Product Quality
In my experience over many years, the quality, i.e. fitness for the intended purpose, of a wide range of Chinese products is simply unacceptable. Sometimes it is difficult or near impossible to source products of acceptable quality where the Chinese suppliers dominate the market. Their products might be cheap but simply don’t last. Some, such as electrical items, can be extremely dangerous but might have an undocumented “CE” mark moulded into them. One example I found was a socket adapter which came apart when pulled from the socket exposing live terminals.
I read some years ago that the largest container ship in the world is scheduled to visit the UK annually in the run-up to Christmas. Of course, it brings toys, Christmas decorations and suchlike. Do we really need to import and waste our money on such tat which will end up in the bin after a short time?
The quality of Chinese steel is a major concern; in many cases, it simply does not conform to our required standards which were developed over many years. I have had a good bit of hands-on steel fabrication experience over the years and know the difference. In particular, the Chinse steel is of inconsistent composition and one only needs to drill a hole in it confirm that. The British product drills smoothly but the bit continually snags on hard spots in the Chinese product. A friend who is a CNC machinist confirms the same issue in machining part completed Chinese steel components but the “bean counter” is allowed to override the Engineer; the cost is still lower even with a very high reject rate (around 50%). For that reason I used to source re-usable British / European steel but that no longer seems possible; it is all being exported as scrap to feed the Chinese furnaces.
The worrying fact is that steel that does not comply with our accepted standards is being imported. Often it is not even necessary to test the steel as the non-conformance to our standard profiles is obvious by visual inspection. It is worth noting that some Japanese multinationals in the oil and gas industry simple refuse to accept products containing Chinese steel and some even exclude Indian steel. Are they going to be allowed to supply the rails for HS2?
Of course, there are industries in China which are well controlled but most of these have been set up by international companies which have enforced proper standards. The same might be said for some major engineering projects but there is a large pool of western expats to be drawn on for the required expertise.
The Chinese Business Model
We have seen the demise of many of our native steel manufacturers through their being unable to compete with Chinese imports. That is a direct consequence of how the Chinese operate:
Subsidise their exports > destroy the native industry > capture the market.
Sadly our own government is unbelievably naïve or is complicit. Maybe corruption plays its part but whatever the reasons, the failure of the government to protect those industries from unfair competition is unacceptable.
Another concern is the propensity of the Chinese to steal intellectual property. I’m sure that is one of the key reasons why they want to be involved in our nuclear industry.
Animal Welfare in China
Every year the dog eating festival is celebrated during the summer solstice in Yulin, Guangxi. Thousands of dogs are transported in atrocious conditions from far and wide to await their execution in full view of those next in line. It is reported that some are boiled or roasted alive as this is said to improve the flavour.
The Chinese seem to have a taste for anything; I have heard it said that any creature with forward facing eyes is eligible. I recall some years ago seeing a TV programme (probably not in the UK) showing snakes and other reptiles being skinned alive in a restaurant kitchen after being selected by the customer. However, possibly the worst case I have been told of (by an expat who had witnessed it) is their taste for monkey brains, one of those foods which they consider gives them special powers. In that case, the restaurant tables are equipped with a hole in the centre. The monkey is installed protruding through the hole sufficiently for the top of the head to be cut off. Once that is done the customers eagerly spoon out the brain; the monkey has to be alive at the start of this process for those special powers to develop in the consumer.
One of the other serious acts of cruelty is the extraction of bear bile from a live animal kept in a cage too small for it to move around. After many such extractions, the bear will die. Again they believe that the consumption of it has special health benefits. We get a few Australian TV programmes over here, one of which is concerned with their border control and the attempts at smuggling. One unusual item that caught the attention of the customs officer was the penis of a deer which a Chinese guy was trying to smuggle in. Apparently, that is another product which has to be removed from the live animal to secure its beneficial effects.
Of course, we are unlikely to import any of these products or methods but do we really want to deal with people who carry out such atrocities routinely in their lives?
There are many reasons why we might want to avoid trading with China, some of them practical, some simply abhorrent. Their involvement in Hinkley Point presents a serious safety concern and, of course, they are only there to steal the technology. As ever, our politicians take the opposite view and have welcomed the Chinese and their imports to the detriment of our own industries. They have even suggested that a trade deal with China should be pursued as a matter of priority.
They need to be forced to think again, both on that and the involvement of the Chinese in key infrastructure projects.
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