Who's to blame for faulty Chinese products? The obvious answer is, well, China. But maybe there's plenty of blame to go around. As Stefan Stern argues in the Financial Times, the West also needs to take responsibility for these tainted goods. After all, it's cost-cutting efforts by Western companies that are putting pressure on manufacturers at the bottom of the supply chain, many of them in China. Inevitably, some corners get cut.
Stern also chides certain American politicians for "foreigner bashing":
Even the usually measured Hillary Clinton was moved to declare while out on the stump recently: "I do not want to eat bad food from China or have my children having toys that are going to get them sick. So let's be tough on China going forward." (Clearly, the pressures of working first at McKinsey and now at a hedge fund have led Chelsea Clinton to seek comfort with her Barbie and Ken dolls.)
Zingers aside, Stern makes a convincing argument. But the question going forward is: Can policymakers can resist the temptation to demonize China? Encouraging U.S. business managers to check their own supply chains doesn't seem like a way to win votes, but it has to be part of any comprehensive solution to this problem. Of course, the Chinese government has a major role to play in promoting and enforcing regulatory standards, but as is well-documented, that's not always possible. Which means it's all the more critical for Western companies to make sure their suppliers don't harm their customers.