Note: This is a translation of an essay published in the Chinese Youth On-Line (中青在线). This translation is meant to bring to readers’ attention some of the diverse opinions publicly expressed in today’s China. I came across it because it was highlighted as the number one piece in Sina’s (新浪) opinion section.
[UPDATE]: ESWN also has a translation of this article and some more. Interestingly, the version translated at ESWN is from the author (廖保平) Liao Baoping’s blog directly. It is somewhat different than the one I found and contains some more colorful words. In particular, the Chinese Youth On-Line version misses one paragraph at the very end which sets the tone rather differently.
Xinhua reported the news of Sarkozy’s meeting with Dalai Lama in this way: “The French President Sarkozy, despite patient and repeated efforts [by the Chinese side], went ahead to meet with Dalai Lama on 6th. This was an unwise move that seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and damaged the Sino-Franco relationship. The Chinese people’s reaction is evident in the form of angry calls on the Internet for boycotting French goods to defend our national dignity.”
I understand some of the emotions expressed online in China. And I wonder if this is going to result in pretests in the streets. But for me personally, I won’t boycott French goods.
First, it is because I simply cannot afford French products. French products generally belong to the category of luxury goods. An authentic French clothing item in the shop could easily equal to many months’ salary for me. For someone constantly struggling for a living, like me, how could I ever imagine to buy that type of stuff? If inability to afford is a form of boycotting, then I am on a fairly constant basis doing so. And if boycotting equals patriotism, I wonder if all those young guys facing unemployment immediately upon graduation are automatically counted as patriots. You know, if your pockets are empty, it’s easy and satisfying to talk about boycotting since there is no difference between doing so and not.
Do rich people boycott French goods? I seriously doubt about it. They are the true consumers of luxury goods. It seems rather difficult to ask them to boycott French fragrance, fashion and wine. They not only won’t boycott French products in China; they would even go to France to buy directly. The ones who could afford won’t stop, and the ones who could not talk about boycotting. Is this another form of Chinese characteristic?
Please do not forget, no matter how high your emotions may run, the French could just as easily boycott our stuff as we can do to them. Who says it’s only something we can do but not others in return? It’s something to be considered as who would benefit or win in the end. For many years, the Chinese economy is dependent on export and foreign investment. If there is a widespread effort to boycott Chinese products, the result is likely serious. I don’t know the relative numbers of imports and exports between China and EU. If the result of a boycotting campaign is killing one thousand while suffering a casualty of ten thousand, it is perhaps not a worthwhile effort to boycott for to save face.
Frankly, I do not boycott French goods. Why should we do so if they have good valued or high-tech products? Sometimes I feel the need to boycott domestic products, e.g. the poisonous milk and those costly but inferior things.
I do not boycott French goods also because it is not something to be taken seriously. Remember how some people proclaimed never to buy anything Japanese when things went rough with Japan? How serious was that? People are still lining up to buy Japanese cars, electronics and food. I just don’t see anything new or meaningful in boycotting. Eventually it is known as an empty threat. Big deal!
I would like to emphasis on one point: boycotting French goods is not equal to boycotting Carrefour. It is a French branded group of shops in which 90% of products sold are Chinese and 90% of workers are Chinese too. To boycott Carrefour in China is to boycott Chinese goods and workers. It is simply unwise.