THE OUTCRY of American lawmakers about the decision of the US Olympic Committee to source the uniforms of the country’s Olympic athletes from China has given a new spin to US-China relations. While China is yet to respond to the outcry, and rightly so, the debate that’s brewing in US on whether it was right to give Chinese firms the order to manufacture the uniforms presents another side of the globalisation narrative that America has always flaunted.
For the US lawmakers, the fact that Chinese textile units are providing the uniforms is a severe grouse for the simple reason that many textile units in the country are going through a prolonged period of crisis with some having gone belly up and facing bankruptcy. Americans are are losing their jobs, and here is China, stepping in to manufacture uniforms when these surviving units could very well have made them, the lawmakers contend.
The US Olympic Committee says the decision was all about sponsorship support, adding that the US Olympic team is privately funded. Now that the issue has come out in the open, the debate has become one of national pride versus China’s long hand in virtually every affairs of the world.
The Olympic Committee’s decision might have made prudent financial sense, given that the Chinese manufactured uniforms no doubt is cheaper than if they were manufactured in the US. But from a wider perspective, it shames the lawmakers that their athletes have to wear uniforms that were made in a country which is one of the biggest contenders at the Games itself.
It is only logical to think what America’s reaction would be to the very fact that most athletes in other countries use sports gear that is made by American companies or patented to them. In an increasingly globalised world such give-and-take is only natural.
After all, in its quest to be the global power, America has put a finger in every global pie — from politics to economy. China’s rise might be worrying for the US, especially on the economic front, but there’s no choice but to live with the fact that the world has changed.
The axis of economic might is shifting. China, through its cost-effective manufacturing model, lead in no mean measure by the availability of cheap labour, is taking centrestage. Even when the country’s economy is cooling, as per current data, the growth rate is still far higher than US or Europe.
The uniform controversy is a stark reminder to America that when it comes to a truly globalised world order, there is little room for sentiments. The consideration here is money, and that is the lesson America has been teaching the world for a long time now.
Perhaps it would be worthwhile to ponder over whether sentimental values come to the fore only when one’s financial luck is down. When the going is good, few really bother about matters of the heart. America has just learnt it.