But They Now Have A Larger Carbon Footprint!!!

by Don Boudreaux on December 27, 2007

in Standard of Living, Trade

In poor Laos, the benefits of trade are visible.

The pineapples that grow on the steep hills above the Mekong River are especially sweet, the red and orange chilies unusually spicy, and the spring onions and watercress retain the freshness of the mountain dew.

For years, getting this prized produce to market meant that someone had to carry a giant basket on a back-breaking, daylong trek down narrow mountain trails cutting through the jungle.

That is changing, thanks in large part to China.

Villagers ride their cheap Chinese motorcycles, which sell for as little as $440, down a dirt road to the markets of Luang Prabang, a charming city of Buddhist temples along the Mekong that draws flocks of foreign tourists. The trip takes one and a half hours.

“No one had a motorcycle before,” said Khamphao Janphasid, 43, a teacher in the local school whose extended family now has three of them. “The only motorcycles that used to be available were Japanese, and poor people couldn’t afford them.”

Inexpensive Chinese products are flooding China’s southern neighbors like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. The products are transforming the lives of some of the poorest people in Asia, whose worldly possessions a few years ago typically consisted of not much more than one or two sets of clothes, cooking utensils and a thatch-roofed house built by hand.

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{ 7 comments }

The Dirty Mac December 27, 2007 at 9:33 am

"For years, getting this prized produce to market meant that someone had to carry a giant basket on a back-breaking, daylong trek down narrow mountain trails cutting through the jungle."

I don't know. It sounds like more jobs being destroyed by globalization.

CRC December 27, 2007 at 10:09 am

"I don't know. It sounds like more jobs being destroyed by globalization."

Yep, isn't it great (considering the jobs).

happyjuggler0 December 27, 2007 at 3:28 pm

How many of us think of a motorcycle as a capital good?

Billy December 27, 2007 at 6:22 pm

Somebody should make the Chinese motorcycle manufacturers sell their bikes for a fair price, so the Japanese bikes can still compete. $440 for a motorcycle is clearly unfair. The Chinese are obviously exploiting the Laotian consumers so they can run everybody else out of the market, then jack the prices up where the poor can no longer afford motorcycles.

shawn December 28, 2007 at 10:07 am

man….all this satire in one comment thread. it's beautiful. and no rants…

vidyohs December 28, 2007 at 10:21 am

Just remember what the Viet's did to move supplies along the Ho Chi Minh trail. They piled huge loads on bicycles and walked beside them pushing.

Any one want to bet that, if not already, in short order the Laotians figure out a simple trailer or side car concept that will allow each individual with a motorcycle to move even greater amounts of goods down to the market, and even larger amounts of goods back up the mountain.

Next the farmers will pool their resources and improve the road to make the trip faster and easier, which will bring more profit and repay their investment in short order.

Government will do well to just stay out of the way.

It is impossible to stop man's individual captialistic drive, it is part of our nature.

vidyohs December 28, 2007 at 10:23 am

Last sentence, that should read capitalistic.

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