10 November 2021, The Tablet

The true cost of ‘Made in China’

COP26 in Glasgow


When castigated for failing to abandon the use of coal in its power stations, China is entitled to question whether the West is guilty of double standards. Every year Western consumers are happy to buy more and more devices, gadgets and gizmos made in China. They are often designed in the West, in the United States in particular, and carry Western brand names. But because manufacturers have found labour and raw materials cheaper in China, together with a well-educated workforce, they have found it profitable to export abroad the production of these goods, boosting the Chinese economy so that it is now the world’s second largest. With that economic might comes political and military leverage to bend the world to Chinese ways and serve Chinese interests.

But manufacturing demands enormous amounts of electrical energy, of which China has a shortage. Fossil fuel, coal especially, is plentiful and cheap. So the manufacture of goods for Western markets necessarily involves using coal-fired power stations as a source of electricity. Every consumer of goods made in China is complicit, probably unwittingly, in China’s continued pollution of the atmosphere by burning coal.

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