This sounds like a contradiction at first, seeing as China profits off producing roughly 70% of Walmart’s goods, but a feature in the newest edition of The Atlantic provides an in-depth look at Walmart’s unprecedented influence on China’s domestic economy.
I’m going to spin a few of that feature’s themes into something slightly more militant, but true, nonetheless.
If you didn’t know it already, Walmart now operates 352 stores in 130 Chinese cities (the Walmart-owned Sam’s Club is known there as Shijingshan Shanmuhui). They’ve built a reliable consumer base who trust in the quality and reliability of their products. They hold the ideal, once held in North America, that a global brand like Walmart has to stand so firmly by their products that quality is all but assured, unlike the quality of products at smaller vendors (the complete opposite of our thought in North America, these days, especially when it comes to food).
And the Chinese are totally right in thinking this way. Whatever your thoughts are on Walmart, they are, by China’s standards, one of the most ecologically-sound companies in the market, and also among the country’s most favourable employers.
Their presence is a good deal for China, too. Not only have Chinese suppliers been forced (and helped) to become more green (something they desperately need), but transportation costs are cut down significantly when distributing to domestic locations.
The most interesting thing about this, though, is that it’s changing the consumer identities of the Chinese people. China is slowly being fed the free market, and what, after all, is a better example of mass consumption than Walmart?
What this may do is turn some Chinese citizens into consumers first and Chinese citizens second. This sounds like an ugly transformation, but it’s the poison that comes with modern democracy. Walmart may be very gradually transforming a collectivist population into an individualist population, like ours (but hopefully not moving their largely atheist population to worship the dollar first).
The best way these days to beat an evil global power (as the U.S. has learned) is to make it devour itself from the inside out. Who needs nukes when you can plant an ideology?