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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
going back to our discussion on Taiwanese parts from quite some time ago.... :p

In 2001, China and Taiwan together accounted for 85% of the $1billion of bicycles and parts imported into the US. 62% of imported bicycles and parts come from China.1
Serious concerns about humans rights and environmental responsibility in Asia are justifiable. “Respiratory diseases related to air pollution are the leading cause of death in China. Almost all of the nation’s rivers are considered polluted to some degree, and half of the population lacks access to clean water.“2 The decision makers at bike companies whose design and marketing is based in the US, but whose manufacturing is based in China, Taiwan and elsewhere can and will shape policies and practices, including the treatment of their workers and the environmental practices of their factories. The influence of foreign industry in Asian countries is very real.

Some companies think that you will confuse “designed and tested in USA” plus a little clever wording with “Made in the USA”. We don’t think that you are so gullible. If it doesn’t say “Made in the USA”, it wasn’t. This is not to say that you should only buy American made products, that would be unreasonable, nearly impossible and totally unnecessary. But look beyond the marketing and catalogs. Full knowledge of where and how a thing is made, by whom and under what conditions, that is the requirement of the responsible enlightened consumer.

For many Asian manufacturers, fair treatment of their workforce is a big deal. There are many Asian factories that treat their employees well. They work in clean, dignified environments with sophisticated equipment, they are well paid and cared for with good benefits and training. However, this is not the norm, nor is it common. Since the governments of most Asian countries have not yet developed far reaching worker’s rights laws or environmental pollution laws and meaningful enforcement (Japan is an obvious exception), the decision to be a decent and dignified employer is left up to the managers of the factories (Asian factories) and their customers (the bike companies). This makes it incredibly difficult to know whether you are buying a product made by a 12 year old boy working 70 hour weeks under a bare light bulb with no safety equipment or training, or by a 40 year old, trained professional working in a clean factory. Especially difficult if the company has a polished “Americanized” image. Most companies will go to some lengths to mislead the consumer into thinking that their product is of US manufacture. Watch carefully for “designed and tested in the USA” and “assembled in the USA”, that doesn’t mean it was made in a sweat shop, but it does mean that it wasn’t made in America. To further confuse the issue, a company could put a “made in the USA” decal on a bike frame that was made in China but painted in the US.

As potential consumers of those companies’ products, it becomes your responsibility to ask and be informed about the labor management and environmental practices involved in the manufacture of your bike part or frame. In many cases, the outlook is good. Some Asian manufacturing companies pay careful attention to health and work safety issues, training and wages. But there will always be those that will do anything to maximize a profit. Expressing your concerns about fair and responsible manufacturing to your favorite bike company is the best way to promote positive change in Asia.
The governments and trade unions of China, Taiwan and other emerging economies are competing among themselves -- and they are themselves partially responsible for the decline in wages and labor standards among their own workers. Countries bent on economic growth through export markets are pursuing policies that foster the rapid and unregulated building of foreign-invested factories. As a result these countries have gained millions of new jobs in their export industries.

However, more jobs have not necessarily lead to higher wages or rising labor standards for workers in these export industries. In many areas, wages have fallen, and working conditions have worsened as a result of intensified competition (to demonstrate lower labor and operational costs) in order to attract new factories that produce goods to sell in the US markets. Bicycle parts and frames are certainly among them.

Many US companies have been taking advantage of this discount labor pool and loose environmental and safety regulations, and in turn, passed the savings to you the consumer. They are also passing the buck, saying the US domestic labor pool’s output can not meet the ravenous demands of the American consumer. Or that they simply can’t compete in the bike market without taking advantage of the savings that Asian manufacturing offers them. It is a circular argument and it leads back to some simple questions: What is the true cost of making something with the economic, social and environmental costs included? Are consumers willing to face the facts about why that Taiwanese or Chinese part is so much cheaper than the US made one? If everybody is absolutely intent on making things as cheaply as possible, and the consumer buying the product doesn’t care about the economic, social and environmental costs of making things in poorly run factories, then we are doomed to continue this ridiculous charade.
1. Top 24 US Import Sources for Bicycles and Parts.
2. Source:
The typical bike-related purchase is based on 3 factors:

What about the social cost of your purchase? What is life like for the people who made your bike part? Does the worker that made your bike part have insurance, an opportunity to get promoted at work or a way to save for his family or future? Does he work in a factory that is safe and dignified towards its employees? Do they get reasonable breaks and work a decent number of hours a week?
What is the environmental cost of your purchase? Is the country where it is made regulating manufacturing waste and emissions? Does the factory where your bike part was made take pollution control seriously or are they contributing to the enormous problems of pollution in Asia?
The enlightened list has 5 factors:
Working environment and social conditions where the part was made
Environmental responsibility of the manufacturer of the part

The bike part you bought last week for $60, that was made in the USA
Was made by a skilled worker, earning between $12-20 or more/hr.
Who works a 40 hour week (with nationalized overtime laws), with health insurance and retirement benefits.
Works in a safe environment that is heavily regulated and monitored by local, state and federal agencies.
They are trained. They are likely on a track that promotes growth, increases in pay, and increases in responsibilities.
The US has highest literacy (above 99.9% of the population), highest education level (95%) and GDP ($34,142 per capita) in the world.3

That same bike part that you almost bought last week at such a great low price of $40, that was manufactured and/or assembled in an Asian NIE (newly industrialized economy)
Was likely to have been made by an untrained worker, earning less than one fourth of his US counterpart ($2-5 per hour).4
He is unlikely to have health insurance or retirement benefits. Complex, under-funded and erratic reforms have so far failed to increase the number of people genuinely insured.
His workplace environment and its safety regulations are inconsistent and not well enforced. He’ll work a 60-70hr work week and is not allowed to join or create a trade union.5
He is likely to "retire” by the age of 27, due to injury, burnout or fatigue.6
He is working in an environment where rapid industrial development is leading to increased pollution and degradation of natural resources, without adequate governmental regulation or oversight.7
Only 84% of China’s people are literate, 73% have some form of education, GDP $8976 per capita.3

"One of the most serious negative consequences of China’s rapid industrial development has been increased pollution and degradation of natural resources. A 1998 World Health Organization report on air quality in 272 cities worldwide found that seven of the world’s 10 most polluted cities were in China. According to China’s own evaluation, two-thirds of the 338 cities for which air-quality data are available are considered polluted."9
3. Source: U.N. - The Human Development Report, 2002.
4. Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2001.
5. Source:
6. Source:\CHINA
7. Source:
8. Source: U.N. - The Human Development Report, 2002.
9. Source:
Growing labor unrest in China is being met with repression, including imprisonment and torture, and a denial of basic human rights such as freedom of association and expression. Protests by angry workers over layoffs, wage arrears, poor working conditions and management corruption have been met with repression and force. Clashes between workers and armed police have resulted in casualties and arrests. Independent trade union movements have been suppressed since the late 1980s. As of April, 2002 Independent Trade Unions are not permitted in China.10

About 53% of the Peoples Republic of China population lives on $2/day US.
Estimated earned income for an American female/male for 2000 = $26,255/$42,246 ($US) 11
Estimated earned income for a Chinese female/male for 2000 = $3,132/$4,773 ($US) (about than 1/8 of their US equivalent) 12

Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Taipei were among the top 15 highest cost of living cities in the world in 2002. Higher than: Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC, Boston and Denver. 13

As the global labor market supports our nation’s fabricated need to consume cheap junk, as foreign labor conditions grow harsher, as living wages around the world lessen, consumers seem less interested in these issues than ever. We feel that it is the responsibility of every thinking person to know exactly what it is that they are buying, where it came from and what is the real cost of that product and its production. Was it made in a dignified and decent working environment? Are the people working in that factory being treated and paid fairly? Is their health and well being a concern for their employers? Are they paid enough to support their families and save for their future? Please consider these factors whenever you buy something at the store. Bike parts or anything else.

Emerging Asian economies have no real choice but to build themselves via utilization of their natural resources (mining, timber, oil and coal) and their vast expanses of land and willing labor. That China and other Asian countries must manufacture hard goods in order to grow is obvious. The rest of the world should not benefit from this situation without taking an informed and firm position on the human and environmental costs to the people that live in these developing countries. Asian manufacturing needs oversight and it needs concerned consumers to keep it from oppressing its workers and destroying its own environment.

Do not avoid Asian made products. Call or email your favorite bike companies before you buy. Insist on fair treatment of people and the environment regardless of nationality.

Please buy consciously.

10. Source:
13. Source:
By no means an exhaustive list, but a good start.
Labor and Safety
National Labor Council
Bureau of Labor Statistics
U.S. Department of Labor
National Labor Relations Board
International Labor Organization
Child Labor Coalition
Human Rights
Business & Human Rights
Amnesty International Online
Advocacy and Watchdog Sites
Corporate Watch
Ethical Consumer
They Rule
Economics and Development
Economic Policy Institute
International Institute for Environment and Development
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
US Department of Commerce
The World Bank
The International Monetary Fund
United Nations Human Development Report
United States Government Resources
U.S. State Department
U.S. Library of Congress Country Studies
The CIA World Factbook
The U.S. Energy Information Administration
Congressional contact information

2,460 Posts

World Domination or World Salvation? What's it to be, I'm confused :confused:

But not as confused as PeeWee fortunately :)

Oh yeah, and no more Wal Mart shopping either for you.

hispanic mechanic
2,626 Posts
serious issues at hand...

the temptation is great to get something that works 90% as well for 45% of the monetary cost. but chris brings up some great points; money isn't the only factor.
one thing that i thought i'd add to this is disposability. sure, you can buy x part for half of the price of y part, but if y part lasts 3 times as long, it just makes more economic, as well as environmental, sense to purchase it.
try to buy stuff that won't end up in a landfill in a year. not just bike stuff- everything!
i know how hard this can be if you don't make a lot of money. i work in a bike shop, and am not exactly raking it in!

the los
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