NEW YORK – China’s continued detainment of the crew of a downed U.S. surveillance plane was straining more than the diplomatic relationship between the two nations Monday. Trade with China represents billions of dollars for U.S. businesses each year, and fears that the chilly political situation would freeze U.S.-China commerce was percolating.
Either as importers or exporters, most of the Dow Jones components do business with China. Giant retail chain Wal-Mart, for example, imports half of its goods from China.
As Americans appear to become increasingly outraged by China’s refusal to release the 24 U.S. service men and women captured when their plane was forced to make an emergency landing on the Chinese island of Hianan April 1, the prospect that Americans may begin rejecting the "Made in China" label was beginning to take hold.
"We absolutely refuse to buy things made in China until our boys and girls are home," a viewer told Fox News during a call-in program Monday afternoon.
The caller said she had contacted Wal-Mart and the drug-store chain Walgreens to state she would not purchase products made in China, and said she and her children were manning the phones organizing boycotts of other stores who sold Chinese-made products.
"I believe people should boycott, boycott until this thing is over," the caller said.
Some members of Congress have also been vocal in calling for boycotts of Chinese products. A group of congressman, slated to visit China this month, have canceled their trip, while others have publicly stated they would stop buying goods made in China.
Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo has publicly called for the boycott of Chinese products. Meanwhile, the first signs of a Chinese boycott of American products has shown up on the Chinese web site www.sine.com. With talks of boycotts emerging after just nine days of the stand-off, many American businessmen were rethinking investing in China.
Depending on the scope and scale any boycott would take, the economic consequences could be severe. China imports goods ranging from electrical machinery, plastics and aircraft to medical equipment from the U.S., while the U.S. looks to China for toys, electronics and iron.
However, there is so far little evidence that full-scale boycotts are materializing on either side of the Pacific. According to the U.S. China Business Council, the principal organization of U.S. companies engaged in trade and investment in the People’s Republic of China, business is being conducted as usual. The group’s 240 members claim they have made no movement to participate in boycotts right now, and that the prospect of boycotts is unlikely in the short term.
But there is no way to predict what will happen to U.S.-China trade relations if angry and outraged Americans start looking at labels.