Home / Opinion / Snap Poll: China poses threat to U.S. businesses

Snap Poll: China poses threat to U.S. businesses

A plurality of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll—41 percent—thinks China’s economic emergence is a threat for businesses in the United States.
One-quarter of respondents see the nation’s emergence as more of an opportunity for U.S. firms.
President Barack Obama this week opened two days of high-level talks with China by saying “the relationship between the United States and China will shape the 21st century.”
This poll’s results were nearly the same as when the same questions were posed to readers in February 2007. In that poll, slightly more respondents (43 percent) saw China as a threat to U.S. businesses. The same percentage of readers in both polls saw China’s economic emergence as an opportunity.
Roughly one-quarter of readers—26 percent—said China’s emergence has negatively affected their businesses. That’s slightly higher than the response in 2007, when 23 percent said their businesses were negatively impacted.
In both polls, 20 percent said their businesses had been both positively and negatively affected. Some 44 percent of readers said China had no impact on their business.
Roughly 445 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted July 27 and 28.

Do you think China’s economic emergence is more a threat or an opportunity for U.S. businesses?
More a threat: 41%
More an opportunity: 25%
Equally a threat and an opportunity: 34%

How has China’s economic emergence affected your business?
Positively: 10%
Negatively: 26%
Both positively and negatively: 20%
No impact: 44%

Here are some readers’ comments:

The Chinese are generally well-educated, disciplined, highly motivated and driven to succeed and excel. We could learn a lot from them.
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency Inc.

A large threat is that they are a huge creditor of the U.S. and own much of our country’s debt. If they call our loans in large amounts or sell them off, it will put our entire economy in a tailspin.
—Bill Cox, Marktec Products Inc., Batavia

We must never forget that the basic economic philosophy of communist China is in direct conflict with the free-market capitalistic philosophy that built our nation. While we may benefit in the short term from trade with China, in the long term, adherence to their counter-capitalistic philosophy will only serve to corrupt our nation economically and societally.
—Steven G. Poyzer

China represents a threat insomuch as many of our regulatory, legislative and business leaders use it as an all-purpose tool rather than a truly strategic one. Certainly China has much to offer, including vast markets and resources, but it is also a complex and self-centered partner we have yet to really figure out. We should be very cautious and guarded in our dealings with China.
—Steve Beyer, Pittsford

Changes in the business competitive landscape are always an opportunity to those who are able to adapt and take advantage of the changes, and they are equally a threat to those who don’t adapt or take advantage of the new opportunities. So the answer to the question is really up to every business person. Of course it is easier to stay with the status quo, but Americans have always been good at change.
—Sergio Ruffolo, COO, JR Language Translation Services Inc.

We cannot view the U.S.-dominated world of the post-World War II and Cold War era as a permanent state of affairs. It is not. The world is dynamic. Since 1948, the rising economic prosperity and influence of the European Union had much to do with America’s vision to implement the Marshall Plan and to provide a defense shield to Western Europe to stop the advance of the Soviet empire. Similarly, the Nixon-Kissinger “opening” of relations with China had much to do with that nation’s rise in economic and military power and world influence. In world affairs as in business, changes are ALWAYS opportunities for the alert and the nimble, and these same changes always threaten the ostriches among us. We must prepare engineers, technologists, teachers, diplomats, executives and other Americans with more emphasis on education in Chinese languages, Chinese history and culture, just as we must broaden the international perspective generally of our future population. The greatest threat to our well being, our freedom, and our influence in the world is our woefully inadequate education system, not China. China and other nations have much to teach us about preparation of people for the modern economy and society. We have much to teach them in most life disciplines, including the accommodation of free expression and human rights, the building of benign bi-lateral relationship out of former conflicts, and the melding of a population of diverse origins into a proud, functioning democratic nation state as we have done. The Chinese have already seized the opportunity to learn much from us, and we from them. The opportunity is to continue down that path. The threat is not to continue to learn, and not to let our own guard down in case a less-enlightened regime creeps back into power in Beijing.
—David Lovenheim, managing director, Keystones Global LLC

The richer the Chinese are, the better for America, even American manufacturing. As the Chinese get richer, they will be able to afford our high-tech manufactured products. And the price of their manufacturing will go up, with their increased salaries (as they have significantly already in India). Cheap Chinese manufacturing has allowed the American economy to grow more quickly into the new Information Economy.
—Clifford Jacobson, WebHomeUSA.com

China is and will continue to be a threat to U.S. manufacturing. It is a country of cheap labor and uncontrolled standards, as shown by the many recent disclosures of contaminated and poor-quality goods we have received from there. They do claim to abide by international standards but many of these are purchased through a corrupt system. Their business practices are unscrupulous, and they enjoy an unfair trade advantage over the U.S. They frequently ignore copyright and patent laws and in many cases produce an inferior product without any recourse given to the consumer or business they are selling to. In some ways, they are like the Japanese were after WWII when their goods were inferior and copied from many of ours. The Japanese, though, eventually figured out how to produce competitive products and are now leaders in many fields. Eventually we will find a way to relegate certain products to the Chinese for manufacturing but we have not learned the lesson yet as we pursue cheap manufacturing. The Chinese will eventually raise their standards and produce quality products. We must figure out what low-cost products we want them to make and put exceptionally high and enforceable quality standards on these products and business relationships. The U.S. must develop fair and balanced trading practices among China and the businesses in China and the U.S. that deal in these areas. We cannot continue to unfairly try to compete. China must ease restrictions on U.S. products and services that can be sold there. We must be able to access their markets in a fair and responsible method. The U.S. must closely guard its manufacturing prowess, secrets and technology in order to maintain a competitive advantage over any country. If you export your technology for the buck, it will be used against you and put you behind the competition. We must separate our products that should be produced outside the US and those that should be produced inside the US. We need to do this to maintain our employment, further our technology, and maintain our competitive advantage. We must be so good at these products that we would not want to share their secrets with anyone else and would maintain the technology base to grow from and develop the U.S. We have been too weak in our dealings with China and our manufacturing, employment and profitability have suffered. This change can only be accomplished through our trade laws and some gutsy manufacturers that stop chasing the buck and get a backbone to help make the United States stronger.
—Bob Stein

Doesn’t anybody else find it strange that the issues of human rights the United States has been so very critical of seem to have conveniently taken second place to the race for cheap and the greed of the almighty dollar? With companies such as Wal-Mart reportedly responsible for 10 percent of the trade deficit and other U.S.-backed new manufacturing in China creating significantly damaging increases to Earth’s climate, this generation chases further and greater desperate measures to shirk responsibility and lead us to bankruptcy while China laughs all the way to the bank!
—Richard Stevenson, co-founder and CEO, CobbleSoft International Ltd.

This is a two-edged question. China is a threat to smaller companies and an opportunity for larger companies. The larger companies go to China because manufacturing is cheaper. The smaller companies lose out on the manufacturing opportunities that get sent to China. Since I hold the readership of this publication in high regard, I won’t bore you with you already know about trading with communist China. The currency, environmental, piracy, human rights, corruption, on and on. But the root core of the problem is us. The problem with us is that we have the power to fix our economy and have an impact literally within days. Give your neighbor a job. Boycott anything made in China. Really give that concept a thought. If this was a nationwide movement and was synchronized to begin on a certain day, the impact would be immediate. Anyone who thinks we are becoming a service economy and that manufacturing is not important is wrong. All you have to do is look to what used to be third world economies a few short years ago and the impact manufacturing has had for them. The worst part about it is that they aren’t earning their place on the totem pole, we are giving it to them. If our government won’t protect us with trade policies, let’s protect ourselves and boycott communist Chinese-made goods. Think of all the manufacturing that would come back to the states if all you bought was “made in the USA.” It will be harder than you think, but more effective than you could ever imagine.
—Lou Romano

There is a balance—we must produce to earn to spend. We cannot spend what we do not earn. Without jobs here in America, there is no way to earn a living. I believe we must return to the model of manufacturing at home, and selling at home and abroad. I feel the model of manufacturing abroad (China) and selling at home is the root cause of the erosion of America’s high standard of living. If there are no jobs for the common person here in America, there will be no one to purchase even the cheapest goods manufactured abroad. Additionally, I believe manufacturing is the base on which all other jobs—business services, IT, banking, retail, food service, etc. are built on. Without a base here at home, there is nothing.
—Gary A. Stafford, president and COO, Lazer Inc.

China’s currency manipulation and large subsidies to its own businesses are more protectionist than tariffs since most countries cannot afford them. The majority of products made by foreign companies in China are for export due to these and other Chinese government policies that restrict access to Chinese markets. Add to this wages as low as 15 to 50 cents an hour and much lower costs—if any—for safety and environmental standards for workers not free and this is a lose-lose race to the bottom.
—Jim Bertolone, president, Rochester AFL-CIO

We are handing over our manufacturing base to China without creating a new one for our people. China is much more powerful than the previous slave states (Japan, Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, etc), and with its improved and modernized industry, as well as with its larger population size, it will become a political dominating factor. China already controls our government by providing the money for our deficits and trade deficits. It now depends on our political savvy to keep that relationship from getting sour. Our recent history has not been encouraging in these respects. Let’s hope for the better.
—Ingo H. Leubner, Crystallization Consulting

Regardless of whether you consider China a threat or opportunity, they are a force that cannot be ignored. The rise of Chinese manufacturing capacity in the last three decades (among other factors) has had a generally negative impact on Upstate New York’s industrial economy. But what’s done is done—the genie is out of the bottle and it’s not likely that we’re going back to the post-war era of unchallenged manufacturing dominance. How policy makers manage this relationship will largely determine whether U.S. businesses are helped or hindered by their rising influence in the world. As a country we need to focus on encouraging free floating exchange rates, fair trade practices, intellectual property protection and areas of common interest. As individual businesses, we need to find ways of selling into their growing consumer market, building on areas where we still have a competitive advantage and on fostering partnerships with firms in China for mutual success. Fighting back a tidal wave or wishing for how it was in the 1950s/60s is not a recipe for success.
—Matthew McDermott, SPHR employee benefits consultant, The Landmark Group

The decline of the Roman Empire was marked by the point at which Romans began importing the same goods they produced that made them an empire. The issue is whether the United States is smart enough to manage the current reality.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield

Commerce with China is definitely an opportunity, but our Commander-in-Chief and Secretary of State seem way too trusting of countries that would love to take advantage of us. What’s troubling is their extreme lack of foreign-policy experience.
—Douglas Strang Jr.

One needs only look at Kodak to see how wise building a business in China has been. Kodak took the long view years ago, and did the right thing, by training Chinese to run their manufacturing plants. Investment of effort in China is the way to go. If one looks at it from the viewpoint of a worker, who has lost his job to a Chinese, one sees the narrow view. If China can grow, and rid itself of issues such as the melamine in milk and the lead in toys, the Chinese can/should do what Kodak did, and invest in plants in the US. This investment in the foreign country in which you wish to do business is really only business 101.
—Hutch Hutchison, CEO, In T’Hutch Ltd.

The U.S. consumer is the real threat. Look around at your friends and colleagues drinking Canadian beer on the Fourth of July or drinking Swedish vodka with an Austrian energy drink from a Swiss-made water bottle. Guess what? The United States—and the Rochester market, in fact—has the capacity to produce these products at a fair cost to consumers, however consumers seem to want to pay more for foreign products, which is quite mind-boggling. China is not more a threat than any other foreign economy.
—Brian Stiehler, Penn State University

As a manufacturer, we are finding it more and more difficult to get our raw materials as more and more of our supply chain goes off-shore. As this country develops its economic policies, it is important to remember that one man’s raw material is another man’s finished good. It is also important to remember that the products we are losing to China are not obsolete or dying product lines but mainstream products and services. Therefore, the argument that we are protecting dying industries, as some economists contend, simply does not hold water.
—Anita Dungey, president, Auburn Leathercrafters

The fact that China owns so much of our debt is the greatest threat to our overall financial security. In addition, their failure to acknowledge Cap and Trade standards—should such legislation pass in the Senate—will insure the quick demise of American manufacturing. Sadly both problems are of our own making!
—Todd VanHouten, Cintas

(c) 2009 Rochester Business Journal. Obtain permission to
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