The whole world has heard of the Coronavirus and how half of China is under quarantine. Over the last couple of weeks, it’s been announced Disneyland in Shanghai and Hong Kong are both closed indefinitely. Apple has said they will lose money this quarter because factories are shut down in quarantined cities. Last week there was a report on my local news station about how many wedding and quinceanera dresses are made from fabric from China. The factories haven’t been sending shipments since the quarantine and that means no dresses. What most people fail to realize is these things are only the tip of the iceberg. It sounds like I’m fearmongering but I’m not.
Many years ago, I read a book called A Year Without Made in China by Sara Bongiorni. The book follows a family who decided to forgo buying anything made in China for a whole year. It started out as sort of a social experiment but it became more than that. The family found it virtually impossible to buy certain things not made in China. In some cases, the things they needed (parts to repair something) were only made in China. There was no other alternative. After reading this book I began taking stock of where the things I bought were made. I noticed a fair bit of China as well as other Asian countries and India with a few other places scattered here and there. At the time that I read the book, I just thought it was a sign of the times that American factories were dead. It never occurred to me how a disruption in the manufacturing of goods in another country could affect day to day life in our country, yet here we are. I’ll be honest I don’t remember if that was even touched on in the book.
This virus induced disruption of goods is definitely a wake up call. It throws into sharp relief how dependent we all are on other countries and how interconnected we have become. I wonder if this disruption will be the catalyst for bringing manufacturing back to America. For decades, America has all but outsourced the manufacture of most everything to other countries. A few years back there was a new push to “Buy American” but if there’s anything American’s love it’s cheap crapola and American made products aren’t cheap. After all, American made products have to be made by Americans who need to have a living wage which means the factories can’t run sweatshops and sell cheap goods. However, if we can’t get the goods from cheap labor places what is the alternative? You know what they say, “If you want something done right you have to do it yourself.” Maybe it’s time we did it ourselves or maybe we’ll just find a cure for the virus. The sad truth of it is this probably won’t be a catalyst to ‘do it ourselves’ again because the start up time for a new factory would be years. We no longer have the capability, facilities and manpower to do it ourselves. We’ve essentially outsourced the things we don’t want to do which is another topic for another day.
NOTE: If you are looking for a new read, I highly suggest reading A Year Without Made in China. It really is quite fascinating. Click on the title about to go directly to Amazon or you can be cheap and get it for free at the library.