Back in the year of our nation's Bicentennial, senior slump in the waning days of high school was relieved a bit by a substitute history teacher who apparently took great joy in teaching us Catholic school boys and girls a few select “swear words” in Chinese. To this day, I have no idea if his claims of Cantonese scholarship were true or, if so, what he taught us meant what he said it did — or actually translated to something like “You are a soggy egg roll.”
Thirty-one years later, China — the People's Republic of, that is — is still a Communist dictatorship, but it has emerged as an economic force to be more than reckoned with. And certainly not to make jokes about, especially at the expense of our national interest.
Perhaps I was overly indoctrinated as a kid in what the good old American Way amounts to — capitalism AND democracy — but I still think of as “Red China” what so many others seem to now reflexively refer to as simply “China.”
Such are the vicissitudes of political correctness, or more to the point I think in this case, political expediency. Now, don't get me wrong. I am all for international engagement. For one thing, I figure that despite how he tried to shred our most sacred secular document — the U. S. Constitution — like so much kitty litter, Tricky Dick Nixon is already earning high marks in the history books for having “re-opened” China to the West with his ground-shaking trip there 35 years ago.
Sadly, though, I was reminded of late by a TV documentary on the savage crushing of the political dissent displayed at Tiananmen Square in 1989, as well as all the bad ink China is now getting thanks to defective consumer goods being shipped over here by the boatload, that it is a nation not worthy of the full measure of our national trust.
To be sure, trucking has been directly affected by defective tires imported from China and I was frankly stunned to learn toothpaste was being sold here that was made in China using such lovely ingredients as diethylene glycol, a chemical component of antifreeze.
Maybe it's stating the obvious, but if you can't trust a trading partner to supply you with something as benign and ubiquitous as toothpaste that won't potentially kill you, why on earth would you trust them to supply you with trucks or cars — or their components — that won't perhaps fail in operation?
I am painting with a very broad brush here, but the types of defective products coming at us from China cover a pretty wide swath of territory too. And, yes, there are U.S. and other non-Chinese manufacturers operating in China — household names inside and outside trucking for that matter — and no doubt their oversight of their own operations ensures we have no more to worry about the products they produce there than we do the same ones they produce in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Europe or where have you.
Still, all this should give fleet owners pause to think about where their components (and maybe vehicles in the future) are being sourced and, above all, who is ultimately responsible for their effective — and safe — performance.
Trucking industry suppliers that source anything from China should bear in mind that the bad publicity Chinese-manufactured goods are receiving could plant a red flag of suspicion on their products.
If nothing else, this should behoove them to directly and proactively address this concern with their customers in North America and, really, everywhere.