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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  • Comment number 82.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    How many outfits are the USA's Olympians going to wear??! Surely not enough for to help the "600,000 American textile workers looking for jobs"

    Those senators need to think a little bit bigger if they are seriously trying to help their country, otherwise it seems like all they are doing is creating fights for fightings sake. No country needs leadership like that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    I wonder if the US is as fussy about where their performance enhancing drugs come from...

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    To BBC readers.

    What is the more important issue: 1. Made in China or 2. President Barack Hussein stifling criticism of islam and promoting the Muslim Brotherhood cause in the States?

    Made in China is an utter non-issue compared with our national security at stake.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Get a grip USA - cheap clothing means production in lower wage economies. The Lancashire cotton workers found this out in the 1950's & 1960's, and the US did the same in the 1970's. Its been decades since any western country produced its own clothes, China may be cheating in Hi Tech, but 'made in Hong Kong is an old label.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Hypocrisy is not restricted to US politicians: the regular flow of anti-Chinese racist comments is at best bemusing.

    All western consumers have the right NOT to buy: if the Chinese are so evil & pathetic, then these anti-Chinese racists can simply put their money where their mouths are, and do not buy or use any consumer products that has any Chinese association.

    Otherwise, any racist who fails to achieve personal embargo against all Chinese goods must exercise dignity, shut up & spare others from their idiocy.

    Next, French & Italian fashion banned by US wives on the "support USA" crusade?

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    1 Hour ago

    I remember when clothes were made in usa,canada, england, italy, japan, france. They lasted so much longer."

    I remember when shoes were made in England it usually rips open after 3 weeks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Ralph Lauren uniforms worn by ballboys/girlsand umpire uniforms are all made in China, it is a fact textile companies are based there and no one has problem except USA which has a warped sensitivity. Chinese officials drove western made cars, Chinese military flew foreign made fighters and float foerign made warships. USA should accept global commerce, grow up and move on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    MakeLove-NOT war
    16TH JULY 2012 - 20:21
    It is a fact; China owns 50% of America, Saudi Arabia 25% and Israel the other 25%. Americans should quit complaining and be innovative. Not just drive cars made in Germany or China by ex-American companies. Be innovative please....let your children not spend their time playing the PS3 which is made by Japanese....Make Love, Not war out of stupidity

    hahaha. America owns china. Without US corporations, china would tank. Look around you, most of the stuff you use are American or have American technology written all over them. FACT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    I remember when clothes were made in usa,canada, england, italy, japan, france. They lasted so much longer. Although if you look hard enough, you can still find clothes made from those countries Now made in china, asean countries, india, sri lanka, pakistan, turkey are just plain crap. You get what you pay for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    I think the real bad guy in this story is whatever craven person or persons forced the US to buy foreign made clothing for their olympic team. Americans would never put profit before helping out good ole blue collar workers. The culprit must be found.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    I am not saying that China is good and America is evil.
    Just that on the ranking list of evilness, America is #1 and China is # 2.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    I don't care where the Olympic uniforms were made. I agree with # 53 tx-wiseman. I buy my 4 1/2 year old daughter Chinese made clothes because they don't need to last more than 6 months. For me, I would rather buy less and better made clothes and items. I've had too many Chinese products break. Recently, it was my garden pruners. I wish I hadn't lost my Swiss ones. Not all Americans like shopping at Walmart. I say this as a person who is not wealthy, just careful with money. I think people want a wider choice of products and quality...and Americans aren't alone in that thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Damian Grammaticas, how come you only wrote your report after China responsed. Good job for trying to make China look like the aggresser. Americans accuses everyone else for playing unfair and being bullies. Actual fact: Americans are best at it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Shareholder greed is behind the loss of domestic jobs and the move of business to China.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Given the sad state of the MacOlympics, it comes as no surprise that even the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appears blissfully unaware of what the Olympics stands for. The Olympic flame, lit in Olympia by the sun's rays, travels around the world prior to the Games. The flame is passed between runners of different nationalities to convey peace and friendship. Highlight of the opening ceremony is the entry of the flame into the stadium where the final relay runner lights the cauldron symbolizing friendship.Thankfully he did not suggest piling the offending uniforms into the Olympic cauldron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    I agree with many of the comments made here re: China not being to blame. Look at it this way - were the Chinese factories going to say "oh, Mr Lauren, thanks for the kind offer of asking us to make the American uniforms but, come on, surely you'll be wanting an American company to make them"? Of course not.....

    Secondly, while I don't doubt that Americans want to witness economic growth do they REALLY care where a few hundred athletes' uniforms are made? What they really care about is how much they spend for their own clothes. Until America makes it as cheap as China, they'll buy Chinese.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Anyone complaining about Made in China products, should start by blaming their own countrymen. No-one, anywhere is FORCED to buy Chinese products, but they all do... Just like blaming supermarkets for emptying towns, or Post Offices closing ! If people didn't use supermarkets they would close; if people needed Post Offices they would stay open. People are using Free Will, not taking into account the effect on their own economies, jobs, etc. So don't take the easy option of blaming another country, or your politicians, blame your own citizens!

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Political grandstanding. I work in the sports shoe manufacturing business in China so I find it laughable how the USA can complain about Chinese underhandedness in trade. Lets not forget that it is American companies that have driven the manufacturing sector to developing countries to save cost(as they should). It's this cost saving that has allowed WalMart to continue to sell clothing at very low prices. It's the nature of global trade, costs in American will never compete with that and it's naive to suggest it. American firms can survive by their strengths, i.e. innovation and creativity

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Add your comment...33.Trollicus
    2 Hours ago
    And put those poor Chinese kids out of work? Shame on them.

    But some of them are BILLIONAIRES or millionaires now.

    So why do you care?

    They are rich, and you and me are not.


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