China accuses the US of Olympic hypocrisy

US Olympic athletes from left: swimmer Ryan Lochte, decathlete Bryan Clay, rower Giuseppe Lanzone and soccer player Heather Mitts The Team USA opening ceremony parade uniform by Ralph Lauren has caused controversy

The London games have yet to begin, not a single starting gun has been fired, and already the US and China are slugging it out.

The issue that's got everyone fired up is not who is likely to be top of the medals table or who is the true sporting superpower.

But it is, in a way, about US fears that China is cheating, not on the sporting field but in the economic one, about fears America is losing out to a rival who does not play fair.

It's a row over the blazers and berets, slacks and scarves the US team will wear at the opening ceremony. You can see them here, and a slideshow here. Designed and paid for by the clothing firm Ralph Lauren, they are made in China.

Start Quote

How could he not get it - that manufacturing Team USA in a country that half owns us and has wrecked the domestic garment industry would be like choking on a chicken bone? ”

End Quote Stu Bykofsky Commentator
Congressional outrage

At a time when unemployment in America is 8%, members of Congress said they were outraged that the jackets were not stitched in America.

"I think they should take all the outfits, put them in a big pile and burn them and start over," said the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, last week.

China's official Xinhua news agency has hit back. "Some US politicians have displayed shades of hypocrisy" said the official Xinhua news agency, in a commentary (which is not the same thing as an official government statement).

"The Olympic spirit, which has nothing to do with politics, chants mutual understanding and fair play, so tagging the uniforms with politics by those US politicians exposes narrow nationalism and ignorance, and violates the original Olympic Spirit" said Xinhua.

But fair play is exactly what many in America worry about. They fear that China, through an undervalued currency, trade barriers and state subsidies to its exporters - in the form of cheap land, cheap loans, export rebates and other help - is hollowing out US industry and jobs.

'Gut punch'

Ralph Lauren was accused of delivering "a gut-punch to most Americans" by Stu Bykofsky, a commentator for the Philadelphia Daily News, who wrote: "How could he not get it - that manufacturing Team USA in a country that half owns us and has wrecked the domestic garment industry would be like choking on a chicken bone? There's something like 600,000 American textile workers looking for jobs."

File photo: US Republican candidate Mitt Romney Mr Romney has called President Obama the "outsourcer-in-chief"

The clothing company now says Team USA uniforms for the next Olympics, the winter games in 2014, will be made in America.

Xinhua put all this down to US sensitivities in what is an election year, saying it is "just another example of the fierce, and sometimes ridiculous, political fighting going on the Capitol Hill in the year of election, which is dominated by economic growth and job creation."

In the past week, President Obama's campaign has attacked Mitt Romney, claiming his firm Bain Capital was responsible for "outsourcing" jobs to China a decade ago.

Romney has fired back, calling President Obama the "outsourcer-in-chief", alleging that US government stimulus money helped create jobs in China rather than America.

Democrat senators now want to introduce legislation to ensure uniforms worn by US teams are produced in the United States.

Economic worries

But the row over jobs and trade has the potential to get much more serious. Romney has, in past months, said he will get tough on China over its trade and currency practices, threatening to declare it a currency manipulator as soon as he enters office.

The Obama administration has begun half a dozen trade complaints against China at the WTO, over rare earth minerals, and solar and wind power subsidies.

Volunteers waiting to greet arriving teams at Heathrow Airport in London The US and China are in a row even before the Olympic games begin

Beneath all the rhetoric lie fears in the US that America is in decline, and China is rising but not playing fair.

In The Beijing Times on Monday Jia Xudong, a researcher at a think tank linked to China's Foreign Ministry, said "due to ideological mischief-making, some Americans intentionally or unintentionally see China as the enemy... Wearing ideological blinkers they look at China, seeing China as a competitive rival, and practising trade protectionism."

But in China, too, there are economic worries. China's economy has been slowing for the past year-and-a-half. Figures last week showed growth at its lowest level since the financial crisis.

At the weekend, Premier Wen Jiabao warned "hardship" may continue.

Right now, China does not need more disputes with the US, but things could get worse. Both countries, concerned about their economies and where growth will come from, will continue to compete for every job and every dollar of trade just as seriously as their athletes fight it out at the Olympics, and that means more trade disputes and more political tensions.

Damian Grammaticas Article written by Damian Grammaticas Damian Grammaticas China correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    #156 Mark - The company is a USA team sponsor. They had the uniforms made and gave them to team USA. There's no profit in the transaction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Outsourcing didn't put the U.S. garment workers out of business...Union instigated greed put them out of business, just as the UAW came close to putting the U.S. auto workers out of business...the people shopping at WalMart, Target, KMart and the like are saying, "We won't pay the inflated Union wages to garment workers!" China is just another choice. If you don't like it, move to Venezuela where the elections AND the prices are fixed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    If Congress wants to find fault with the Ralph Lauren designed Olympic uniforms they should start with those hats. Do they look like the kind of headgear that an athlete would proudly keep and wear after the games? I can't imagine an American athlete wearing those silly looking things a second longer than they have to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    The US is failing because the US Federal and state governments are failures. California whines for a Federal bailout for a situation that they made all on their own. They could go along way towards getting out of it by using eminent domain and seizing all the houses with non-performing mortgages and then taking up the loansat a rate that the borrowers can afford.

    As for the US unemployment rate 8% is the LameSWtream Media number the real number is 16%+, and that doesn't count the nearly 1million illegals that Obama has "legitimized" to buy votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    You reap what you sow. The hypocrisy here is that America has played unfairly for years. It is rich precisely because it has played unfairly, going to war for oil and outsouricing all of it's manufacturing jobs to immoral sweatshop labour overseas. Its corporations (who in many cases pay low or no tax) then sell the goods back to its own people for massively inflated prices.


Comments 5 of 162



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