Monday, January 31, 2011

Hu's Number One?

So China is the dominant country? Not even close. Despite the general unease over China's rise and the not uncommon belief that China has overtaken us economically, we remain the number one manufacturing country:

U.S. factories are closing. American manufacturing jobs are reappearing overseas. China's industrial might is growing each year.

And it might seem as if the United States doesn't make world-class goods as well as some other nations.

"There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products," President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union policy address last week.

Yet America remains by far the No. 1 manufacturing country. It out-produces No. 2 China by more than 40 percent. U.S. manufacturers cranked out nearly $1.7 trillion in goods in 2009, according to the United Nations.

The story of American factories essentially boils down to this: They've managed to make more goods with fewer workers.

No, we don't have acres of floor space occupied by recent peasants brought in from the countryside to make cheap plastic toys for the Western market, but we're still holding our own.

I mentioned this before. By all means, we should do better. But China's rise should motivate us to extend our lead and not curl up in the fetal position moaning about our poor future.

UPDATE: Someone gets it:

A vast amount of “stuff’’ is still made in the USA, albeit not the inexpensive consumer goods that fill the shelves in Target or Walgreens. American factories make fighter jets and air conditioners, automobiles and pharmaceuticals, industrial lathes and semiconductors. Not the sort of things on your weekly shopping list? Maybe not. But that doesn’t change economic reality. They may have “clos[ed] down the textile mill across the railroad tracks.’’ But America’s manufacturing glory is far from a thing of the past.

China will move up the manufacturing ladder and lose their own low-cost "stuff" factories to other countries. Hopefully we keep moving up, too, and retain our manufacturing edge.