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The Meaning of Mattel's Strange Apology

Genuflecting to China

by ALAN FARAGO

Mattel apologizes to China and to the Chinese people for safety lapses which resulted in the recall of 21 million Chinese-made toys in recent months. Excuse me?

Does anyone else feel a backlash rising against China, that is fundamentally different from the trade complaints of the past and skirmishes over the value of the Chinese yuan?

The sight of a major American corporation going on bent knee to a nation that flouts the rule of law, cares not about human rights, freedom of speech, product and food safety, has emerged as a global factor in a warming climate, can’t get its pollution under control– is terrible.

Now, China is right to point the finger at the United States on this nation’s arrogance toward the causes and consequences of global warming.

But of greater concern for now is the position of our economies in relation to each other, and the growing sense that the United States is the subordinate partner.

Our own trade policies (successive presidents) encouraged the massive transformation of the US economy to a low inflation environment that is regulated, not by what we manufacture, but by what China does. So what do we do when Chinese products threaten the health of children, we apologize?

Because the United States embraced this subordinate position, we find ourselves doing exactly what subordinates do: placate those with power over us.

Listening to Jim Cramer last night out of the corner of my ear, I heard him tell television viewers that we shouldn’t worry about the smashed value of the dollar, we should just try to figure out ways to make money from it.

But if this is the good news about the "free market", why don’t I feel good about it? Why don’t I feel good about the US economy turning into a flea market for the world’s stronger currencies?

I don’t believe apologies to China takes America anywhere this nation wants to be.

The Chinese government views its co-dependency with the US dollar as economic trade-off with diminishing value.

It is no secret: China has announced its intention to diversify its portfolios out of the US dollar. It is the single threat hanging over the intense efforts by former Goldman Sachs chief, Treasury Secty Hank Paulson to smooth relations with China.

Chinese economic ministers are most certainly astute and must feel badly burned by their choice to invest in credit through financial derivatives tied to the US housing industry, now turned to junk. We don’t hear much about China’s dissatisfaction with America, except when we see the reaction of a US corporation, like Mattel, to answer a presumed slight: the recall of 21 million toys.

Who, after all, are Americans to complain about the services we receive from China?

ALAN FARAGO of Coral Gables, who writes about the environment and the politics of South Florida, can be reached at alanfarago@yahoo.com.