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Commerce Is Not Conquest

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A front-page story [2] in today’s New York Times discusses the likely delay in introducing Chinese-made automobiles into the American market.  Here are the opening few paragraphs:

NINGBO, China — Every day in cities like this one, Chinese factories churn out waves of exports that flood markets in the United States and Europe: DVD’s, microwave ovens, furniture, washing machines, shoes and more.

So it is no surprise that as China’s industrial revolution advances, Western automakers and their workers have begun to worry seriously that an invasion of Chinese cars will begin soon.

It turns out it probably will not be so soon after all.

Despite growing anxiety that the Chinese would quickly seek to conquer yet another important industry, it now looks as if it will be at least another several years before Chinese automakers start exporting large numbers of cars they both design and make. They had intended to start selling their own brands in the United States as soon as 2007 but have pushed off their plans by a couple of years.

And now, some Chinese auto executives admit, it could be as late as 2020 before they will be ready to take on the world auto market.

Note the misleading belligerent language — “invasion of Chinese cars” and “conquer yet another important industry” — along with the utterly wrongheaded allusion to natural disasters — “flood markets.”  Here’s how I would re-write these opening paragraphs.

NINGBO, China — Every day in cities like this one, Chinese factories churn out waves of exports that improve the lives of countless consumers in the United States and Europe: DVD’s, microwave ovens, furniture, washing machines, shoes and more.

So it is no surprise that as China’s industrial revolution advances, Western automakers and their workers have begun to worry seriously about the competition they will face as American car buyers will soon enjoy even greater choice as a result of the Chinese offering their cars for sale in the U.S.

It turns out it probably will not be so soon after all.

Despite growing anxiety that the Chinese would excel at satisfying consumer desires in yet another industry often nebulously alleged to be “important,” it now looks as if it will be at least another several years before Chinese automakers start exporting large numbers of cars they both design and make. They had intended to start selling their own brands in the United States as soon as 2007 but have pushed off their plans by a couple of years.

And now, some Chinese auto executives admit it could be as late as 2020 before they will be ready to take on the world auto market.  This delay is unfortunate, for it means that Americans must wait longer than expected for the gains that inevitably come from having access to a greater supply of automobiles, as well as from the added competition that Chinese producers would put on GM, Toyota, Hyundai, Volkswagen, and other long established auto producers.

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