I have long maintained that boycotts rarely work well as a tool of political protest. Even when mobilized as a collective national action like a trade embargo, history has not shown much effectiveness in causing political change, other than merely increasing bitterness (like the Embargo against Cuba).
Against a much larger target, with even broader scope, such as “boycott China”, the sheer size of lunacy of such a proposition is immediately apparent. Chinese economy is not pinned down in a few special economic sectors, it’s large and diverse, and most importantly international. It produces final products and components and material. It’s not merely economical for businesses, it’s necessity of businesses to buy Chinese products.
But even more interestingly, the increase in the internet economy has shown that it’s not just companies like Walmart that dictates the improbability of “boycott China”, it’s increasingly the end user purchasers who are making it impossible to “boycott China”.
Even with the fear of “counterfeit”, “food poison”, “lead paint”, etc., the internet economy (across borders) has increased significantly, with almost no regulations, (other than dubious attempt to tax).
China was early in internet economy. Many Chinese young people use internet to sell and buy things. (My sister-in-law has an internet business in China). Chinese internet businesses offer almost EVERYTHING that can be bought legally (and some illegally), food, clothing, automobiles, parts, components, toys, etc.
Many of them are now also generally accessible globally. It’s the equivalent of a giant “home shopping network”.
This year, on China’s “Cyber Monday”, November 11, internet shopping smashed previous year’s record, reaching $3.1 Billion (in 1 day), more than double of US’s cyber Monday figure. China’s internet economy is expected to reach $650 billion a year by 2020.
Increasingly, the customers of China are getting sophisticated. Why go to Walmart, when you can order directly from Walmart’s Chinese supplier (with no markup)?? (The risk of bad quality is about the same).
One might wonder, how much of this is really going on?
It’s hard to say, most who do buy directly on internet from China do not necessarily advertise that. They do occasionally brag about it on some internet sites like Reddit.com.
But there is 1 interesting parallel: US Senior citizens are increasingly turning to ordering cheap prescription drugs from Canada, India, and China, due to the high cost of drugs in US.
US government has sometimes cracked down on the practice, but it is very difficult. Beyond the political unpopularities of busting Senior Citizens for illegal imports, it is practically difficult. How does the US Customs intercept individual mail parcels for banned goods?! You might get a few here and there, but most get through.
Similarly, this present the future improbability of “boycott China”: Even if Walmart decides to stop buying from China, the internet buyers won’t stop.