Siberian Wood


Builders, contractors, do it yourself enthusiasts – everyone loves hardwood floors. Pre-cut sections  practically snap together. Flashy laminates – cost effective and abundant, fuel a growing hardwood economy. Big box chains like Lumber Liquidators happily supply oblivious consumers.

Why oblivious? Call it the Walmart, dollar store, price cutter syndrome – consumers demand low prices, something mega industrial China delivers.  Ignorance is bliss – inexpensive,  gargantuan retail offerings lull even the steadfast, into consumer bliss. Powerless in the face of skillful marketers, Home and Garden television, infallible sense of superiority, misguided notions of government regulation, and good old fashioned desire – North America fuels questionable Chinese imports with nary a blink.

Back to your pretty new hardwood floor – you might want to put on a face mask, chances are it’s giving off toxic levels of Formaldehyde – but I’m getting ahead of myself.  An 80% probability says your laminate floor once stood tall in Siberian forests. Incidentally, the same forest inhabited by Earth’s remaining 500 wild Siberian Tigers – vast stands of old growth white oak forest, some in national parks, others on private land, all home to a handful of remaining big cats. So what’s the problem?

Wood flooring translates to fortunes in coffers of those able to supply demand. Enter the Russian mafia – a highly organized criminal organization with resources and muscle to match. Dismiss cover of darkness, snatch and run operations – this is the Russian mob. Illegal logging operations on a unprecedented scale see an endless stream of train cars taking lumber across the border into China.

Suifenhe Xingjia has 3 factories and 13 sawmills in north east China – in 2011, Xingjia exported $600 million of hardwood flooring – the majority to America, followed by western Europe, Canada and Japan. Big box retailer Lumber Liquidators acquired almost all their laminate flooring from China.

Your new floor is so pretty, maybe you don’t care about losing a species of Tiger, Russian mobsters or Chinese factories. Perhaps it never occurred to you that cheap Chinese imports undermine legitimate local businesses. Oh well – not your problem – your floor looks great and didn’t break the bank. I wonder how you feel about carcinogens?

Why did your Lumber Liquidators flooring cost less than domestic hardwood? Are you a savvy shopper who knows how to find a deal, or a patsy conned into believing low cost comes without a price? The “price” of inexpensive Chinese flooring is Formaldehyde. In a random sampling over 3 years, 6 of 8 hardwood floor panels leached unacceptable levels of carcinogens. Read the link below…

http://globalnews.ca/news/1594273/high-levels-of-formaldehyde-found-in-chinese-made-floors-sold-in-north-america/

If compelled to learn about bribes, falsified documents,woefully inadequate regulation and testing of hardwood imports, indifferent government officials, toxic formaldehyde, endangered Siberian Tigers – an investigation by Canadian reporters at 16×9…..

http://globalnews.ca/news/1598958/16×9-an-investigation-into-illegal-lumber/

 

 

New South China Mall


My knowledge of modern China is limited; my mind’s eye forming images and opinion based on news stories or photographs. Past ponders on “ghost cities”, factories, use of banned pesticides, pollution and foreign investment do little to sharpen the image. I can’t speak from experience, all I can do is ponder.

New South China Mall is worth a ponder; a development that simply doesn’t make sense, another example of the China I don’t understand.

Chinese billionaire Hu Guirung  – his fortune made in instant noodles – secured a loan from the Agricultural Bank of China to build the world’s largest mall in Guandong Province. I can’t speak to relevance but find it interesting this bank was a “policy bank”, one that made loans based on government policy rather than economic feasibility. When completed in 2005 it had space for 2350 stores and a 99.5% vacancy rate.

Located in Dongguan, a massive industrial city of over 7 million residents with an area twice the size of Los Angeles – economic feasibility missed the mark and then some. Over 5 million residents classified by the government as “permanent migrants” – primarily women working in factories, with wages to match. Throw in toll highways leading to the mall, absence of public transportation, reputation for high crime in the area – it soon becomes clear why low income workers didn’t flock to shop.

Amusement park, areas designed as “cities of the world” – Rome, Paris, Amsterdam – deserted. Security guards positioned to keep people out; best of all, mall president Kun Liu announced in 2011 , a period of “strength accumulating quietness” would be broken with development of another 2 million square feet.

http://www.internationalappraiser.com/2011/05/new-south-china-mall-worlds-largest.html

All you have to do is walk into Wal-Mart or count dollar stores on your street to grasp where China is making money. A select few becoming extremely wealthy; wealthy enough to build grotesquely bloated malls or “ghost cities” driven by real estate speculation. I can’t help but find it absurd.

A link to my post on “ghost cities”….

https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/chinese-ghost-cities/

Zheng He


Zheng He;  eunuch, admiral, explorer – was one of the most remarkable figures of the Ming Dynasty. Sometimes when I look at ancient history I can’t shake the question “what if”. What if Zheng He had been allowed to continue his voyages, what if Zheng He had found the Americas?

Zheng He wasn’t even Chinese; born a Muslim Mongol in a remote province of central Asia; Ma He was captured by the Chinese in 1382. His name changed to Zheng He when he was castrated at the age of ten and sent as a eunuch to the court of Zhu Di. For the next 20 years Zheng served Zhu Di, eventually becoming his strategist in battles with the Mongols. In 1402 Zhu Di became Emperor – the greatest age in Chinese history unfolded. Zhu Di built the Forbidden City,widened the “grand canal” to accommodate well over a thousand ships a day, and constructed China’s “treasure fleet”. Under the direction of Zheng He the first voyage sailed in 1405. Almost a century before Columbus stumbled upon America, Zheng He and his treasure fleet had sailed to Arabia, Africa, and India.

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0507/feature2/

Fate has a way of shaping history – in 1424 Zhu Di died. China that followed didn’t see the world as  Zhu Di and Zheng He did; by 1433 the treasure fleet had been destroyed – every last ship burned, along with a law that forbade construction of ships with more than one mast.

 

I can’t help but ponder what might have been if Zheng He had been left to his own devices. It makes me ask – what might historians say about us a thousand years from now. Fate has a way of shaping history.

Chinese Plea


As the New Year looms, lets all ponder our priorities. Rather than feeble, half hearted promises; why not resolve to take a wider view of the world? A world crowded with mega stores, offering inexpensive goods, 24 hours a day – comes at a price. We grumble about the economy, complain about employment, whine over out sourced call centres; then flock to Wal Mart for cheap imported goods. Unfazed by recalls, faulty workmanship, lead contamination, or labour practices; we gobble up imported goods without blinking an eye. Worse still, we encourage trade to “stimulate the economy”, roll out the red carpet to foreign companies, and look the other way.

On Dec. 27 the Business Insider reported on a chilling story. A woman from Oregon discovered a letter written by a Chinese factory worker,  inside a box of Halloween decorations purchased last year at Kmart.

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“If you occasionally buy this product,  please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization.  Thousands people here who are under the persecution of the Chinese Communist  Party Government will thank and remember you forever.

People who work here have to work 15 hours a day  without Saturday, Sunday break and any holidays. Otherwise, they will suffer  torturement, beat and rude remark. Nearly no payment (10 yuan/1 month).

People who work here, suffer punishment 1-3 years  averagely, but without Court Sentence (unlaw punishment). Many of them are Falun  Gong practitioners, who are totally innocent people only because they have  different believe to CCPG. They often suffer more punishment than others.”

Read more:  http://www.businessinsider.com/kmart-shopper-finds-letter-from-china-2012-12#ixzz2GWkfzwPm

I must stress – it is alleged to have been written by a factory worker. Obviously the author must be educated as it is written almost entirely in English. The context of the letter indicates these workers are not there by choice or court sentence.

I’ve written a lot about China, and realize the situation is complicated. That said; it’s no secret certain Chinese factories had to install “suicide nets” to stop workers from jumping to their death, imported pet food sickened or killed hundreds of animals, or that thousands of products are removed from shelves each year due to lead, pesticide, or melamine contamination. Banned or restricted Chinese food products; like honey, make their way to our supermarket shelves via other countries. Laundered and relabelled, we snap them up – pleased with ourselves for being great little shoppers.

Saving a few pennies has become a fact of life for countless families; I understand that. Imported goods are inexpensive.  Given the choice between providing for my family or not, obviously family trumps conscience. The disturbing fact is how the situation has taken on a life of its own. All of us feed the flames by being oblivious.

No one said life was fair. We can’t fix all the problems or change different cultures by applying our standards. What we can do is realize we have a voice. I guarantee that speaking up won’t empty mega or dollar store shelves. Waking up and saying “enough” might just put an end to the madness condoning flagrant disregard for health and human rights.

We owe it to one Chinese factory worker to at least ponder a plea for help.

Image Source Page: http://singularityhub.com/2011/12/13/chinese-company-continues-plan-to-replace-workforce-with-500000-robots/

4179 Toutatis


On December 12, asteroid 4179 Toutatis will make its closest approach to our planet. At an impressive length of 5 Km., Toutatis is the largest PHA (potentially hazardous asteroid) on a long list of near earth calamities. Passing by at a distance of 7 million Km., Toutatis will come and go, most people none the wiser.

China may be the envy of astronomers; their Chang’E 2 lunar orbiter is estimated to pass within a few hundred Kms of Toutatis on Dec. 13. This enviable front row seat doesn’t come with a guarantee to capture the show; its unclear if the Chang’E fixed cameras will be able to capture images.

Discovered by Christian Pollas in 1989, Toutatis in known for an erratic orbit. In 2004 it came within 1.5 million Km. Still no reason to loose sleep – projections for the next 600 years show it will pass as nothing more than a streak in the night sky.

A computer-generated model of the near-Earth asteroid 4179 Toutatis.

A computer-generated model of the near-Earth asteroid 4179 Toutatis.

Image courtesy Michael Busch

Made in China


It goes without saying that China is complicated.That said; messy politics doesn’t excuse flagrant disregard for health and safety. Pursuit of the almighty dollar has gripped the Chinese, who could blame them. The west has rolled out the red carpet, trade with China has exploded. We’re left to reap what we sow.

I’ve posted about tainted Chinese honey and pondered Chinese “ghost cities“.  While the bizarre existence of ghost cities; something the Chinese credit to real estate speculation, only serves to illustrate how strange China has become – honey is the story. Honey, vitamins, pharmaceuticals, toys, jewellery, pet food, ceramics, the list is as endless as it is scary.  This is not a ponder, rather a dire warning – think very hard before you purchase anything “made in china”.

We can’t apply western standards to their factories, we all live with goods produced in many countries where conditions are deplorable. Knowing that massive Chinese factories have installed “suicide nets” in response to factory workers leaping to their death, rather than face another day; isn’t the story. The story is what the Chinese put on store shelves.

Never mind the counterfeit goods, the knock off’s of designer apparel or pirated discs. Lets think about the supposedly legitimate goods we gobble up at bargain prices. Children’s toys and jewellery contaminated with lead and cadmium. Cosmetics with ridiculous lead content, pet food snuffing out Fido because of Melamine contamination. Pharmaceuticals sub standard and lethal, food products full of illegal antibiotics and pesticides.

It is beyond me how anyone could think this is OK. I can’t imagine what it will take to snap people out of their dream world and say – enough. For anyone who doesn’t think it effects them, think again. More than half the apple juice we consume comes from China, 90 % of Vitamin C, fish, vegetables and fruit are imported in staggering amounts. Food inspectors turn back thousands of Chinese shipments a year; in reality they are only capable of inspecting 1% of the imported goods.

The west will continue to be “played the fool” until we take a stand and refuse “Made in China”

webassets/not-made-in-china.jpg
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/nov/15/chinas-poisonous-exports/

Chinese Ghost Cities


For years now, Chinese “developers” have been building massive “ghost cities”within China.  Each city, large enough to house up to half a million people, complete with schools, and retail units, sit empty. There are at least 10 of them, completely uninhabited but for a few caretakers and maintenance men. Recently Chinese built ghost cities have been constructed in Africa. The most recent, covering over 12,000 acres outside Luanda, the capital city of Angola. This new city has 750 – 8 story apartment buildings, 12 schools, and 100’s of retail units – all empty.

Certainly worth pondering.

Officially, built to supply a demand for housing. It’s only been in the last 20 years that Chinese were allowed to buy and sell property. Unofficially – something very strange to ponder.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17390729

 

photo from wnd.com