Here's an item that should interest American public relations agency executives.
China Confidential has learned that certain officials in Beijing are concerned about the ways in which Wal-Mart affects China's international image, especially in the United States, where the company has become synonymous with products--and, in the eyes of millions of Americans and many of their elected representatives--unemployment--made in China. The official Chinese thinking supposedly goes like this:
(1) Wal-Mart in the US serves as both an awesome pipeline for Chinese products and a constant, in-your-face reminder of a politically potent issue--America's ballooning trade deficit with China. More than 70% of the products sold in Wal-Mart stores are made in China, and the company alone accounts for a whopping 10% of America's trade deficit with China.
(2) The world's largest retailer may be feared and respected, but it is not liked--even by many of its customers. PR-savvy Chinese officials suspect that even while filling their Wal-Mart shopping carts, average Americans actually despise and resent the American giant for crushing competition and wiping out Main Street stores in communities across America. Feeling powerless in the face of Wal-Mart's staggering size and success, American consumers--and lawmakers--according to the Chinese, increasingly direct their anger at Beijing.
(3) Wal-Mart's hard-line labor policies--the company is notoriously anti-union and short on benefits--no matter how understandable in the context of contemporary global competitiveness--attract unwanted media interest in China's harsh treatment of a huge segment of its own workforce. A recently released documentary film, for example, Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price, focuses on both ends of the Wal-Mart-China pipeline, taking viewers inside a Chinese factory that manufactures goods for Chinese companies that supply Wal-Mart's suppliers. The film features Chinese workers who make less than $3 a day--and must work seven days a week for six days' pay--pleading on camera with American consumers to consider the conditions that make it possible for them to enjoy the inexpensive, Chinese-made consumer products to which they are addicted.