At the world’s ports, rows of stacks of shipping containers in an array of colors create a rich metallic vibrancy. On construction sites they are used as storage boxes. They can be seen lying prone and rusting in abandoned plots. They perch on the back of trucks speeding down the motorway. On flatbed cars they trundle through railway stations, box upon box upon box.
As a child living in relatively close proximity to a port, the sight of these large metal boxes offered a sense of wonderment, both an aesthetic joy at their geometric simplicity, and bafflement at what was in there behind those heavy doors. The geographer David Harvey has argued that these objects play a critical role in the changing nature of our cities, our politics, our labor, as well as our shopping habits. Without the container, cities like the Port of London would not have changed in such a dramatic manner. Harvey calls this process deindustrialization—the removal of a region’s heavy industry. Likewise, without the container and deindustrialization, the availability of cheap imports from China and other emerging economies would not have been possible.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Outside Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, lie two major transit hubs. To the west is the Manas Transit Center, the United States’ main waypoint for soldiers coming in and out of Afghanistan. And to the north is the Dordoi bazaar, said to be the largest re-export market in Central Asia, a funnel for cheap Chinese goods to the relatively rich consumers of Kazakhstan and Russia. The Manas Transit Center is set to close in 2014, marking the end of Washington’s major security presence in the region. Dordoi, meanwhile, will be open indefinitely, an enduring symbol of the region’s Chinese-dominated future.
With more than ten thousand traders packed into endless rows of shipping containers, Dordoi has the chaotic feel of an ancient Silk Road bazaar. Central Asia’s various ethnic groups—including the Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, Turks, Russians, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Uighurs, and Iranians—are present here, distinguished by their dress, language, and physiognomy. But the group that stands out most is the Chinese, a group that, in spite of racism and harassment from locals, continue to arrive, their trading networks behind them. For the Chinese, this is the promised land: a place with little government oversight where they can make money hand over fist.
The Chinese presence is disruptive.
Read more. [Image: rapidtravelchai/Flickr]
Michael Froman is bullish about the American economy. Of course, that’s part of his public job description—as the U.S. Trade Representative, he’s responsible for negotiating trade standards with other countries and making sure that American companies can compete in the global economy. But at the Washington Ideas Forum on Wednesday, he argued that the United States is in a strong position to set trading standards with China.
“The U.S is among the most open economies for trade and investment in the world,” he said. “Our tariff rates are very low, at 3.5 percent, when a lot of the emerging economies have much higher rates than that.”
Read more. [Image: The Atlantic]
For decades, every trend in manufacturing favored the developing world and worked against the United States. But new tools that greatly speed up development from idea to finished product encourage start-up companies to locate here, not in Asia. Could global trade winds finally be blowing toward America again?
Read more. [Image: David Hogsholt]