30 June 2015

Chinese Amazon anyone?

The Chinese are incredibly astute at commerce, by and large. Already, they're starting to go around the Walmarts of the World. I confess I've actually tried this myself. AliExpress, the Chinese Amazon (except it's much, much bigger than Amazon; there are five Chinese consumers for every American one), will sell you Chinese products directly, (mostly) free shipping to North America, priced in USD and charged to a credit card. They don't deliver in 2 days like Amazon does (if you're Prime, which is $100 a year; the Chinese just do it free but it takes a bit longer). If you can wait 1-2 weeks, China Post Air Express or E-packet are about the lowest cost overseas package shippers in the world. Packages arrive to addresses in major cities in the US in about a week. Generally, small packages are delivered by the post office.

The website is mildly comical in its use of English (occasionally), with things like "Please not to dip too long in water as for damaging the wood", and "due to computer monitor color may be not what you see, thanks for understanding." (Actually, that's perfectly clear and good English, but somehow not quite the way we would say it.) But their customer service/feedback/return system and checkout system are modeled on Amazon and apparently work pretty flawlessly. They have this figured out.

Oh, and of course, I REALIZE this promotes exploitation and the illiberal Chinese state economy, etc. etc. But face it, we ALL buy Chinese products, one way or another. China has probably already become the preeminent industrial power in the world, and their consumer economy will surpass that of the US very soon. No question about it. I submit that it is futile to think that by not buying stuff from them we will be able to resist this trend. The only way for us to remain a strong economy is by publicly investing in our own technology and infrastructure and crafting trade policy to favor living wages. But consumers will not voluntarily buy more expensive products because of bad policies. Just doesn't happen. (Remember the ILGWU "Look for the Union Label" tv commercials in the 70s? Best of intentions, but it just doesn't work. Has to be done by a system of laws).

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