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  1. #1
    Registered User dukenukem7777's Avatar
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    Manufacturing in the USA vs China vs Anywhere Else

    The question is inspired from some conversation over on the Rogue Barbell Club thread, but didn't want to derail it by posting there.

    I'm curious about your guys' perspective of country of origin for manufacturing, especially those who avoid Made in China. Your responses will help shape some decisions we have coming up, so I appreciate your time.

    1) It seems like the biggest problem is Made in China. Any other countries that would be a turn off?

    2) When you think of "Made in," is the biggest concern supporting jobs in a particular country, or simply _not_ supporting an undesirable country?

    3) If the concern is jobs, what if the unemployment rate is extremely low in the USA and few people actually want those manufacturing jobs? Does that matter? Does that answer change when unemployment is higher?

    4) If you knew that many of those manufacturing jobs in the USA were automated away by robotics imported from another country, would that change your perspective at all, or would you still feel that the remaining jobs are important? What if they're primarily lower-skill, lower-pay jobs compared to what used to exist?

    5) Do you feel the manufacturing jobs are more important, equally important, or less important than all the other jobs that it takes to run a company such as the engineering, marketing, finance, customer support, warehousing/fulfillment, tech, etc...?

    6) Do you associate buying something made by a business in a country as supporting the government of that country? For example, if you owned a business and someone in Europe said they weren't going to purchase from you because of a Biden or Trump policy, would you feel that's fair? Do you feel less inclined to support a Made in USA product if you dislike our government, or does that only apply to other countries and their governments?

    7) Do you view Made in China quality as the same or similar from one brand to another? What about Made in USA? Made in USA vs China?

    8) If you believe there is a difference in quality between the USA and China, would your opinion change if you knew a particular product was made primarily by robots both in China and in the USA?

    9) Do you think there is special attention being paid to country of origin for gym equipment compared to other industries such as automotive or tech? Why do you think that is or is not true?

    Manufacturing in the USA is difficult not only for the cost, but for simply finding skilled labor. We do a pretty poor job of promoting the trades in school--college is pushed as the only solution.

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  2. #2
    Registered User ncsuLuke's Avatar
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    There are multiple reasons I avoid made in China. The main one is I despise how China has no regard for intellectual property among a host of other political reasons. The second is the quality is on average worse than made in the US (obviously not always true but on average).

    For your questions directly:

    1) If other countries engaged in politics and theft of intellectual property I would not want to support them either, since China is the biggest and one most used for gym equipment it gets the most attention in this regard. I would buy from Canada for example though and have no issue.

    2) I believe in free trade so I don't have a problem with jobs being in other countries, it is not supporting an undesirable country that means the most to me. Even though it's impossible to not buy plenty of things made in China throughout day to day life, when it's easy to choose I'll choose not China.

    3) Not of a concern to me

    4) Would not change my mind and isn't part of my reasoning as discussed

    5) I feel like the manufacturing jobs are important in that it needs to be done well and have good quality control, without that it doesn't matter how good your finance department is but I wouldn't rank the importance of any as they all play a crucial part

    6) I feel this is a loaded question. I do not want to support products out of China because their government actively engages in intellectual property theft among other things. If I owned a business and someone in Europe didn't want to support me because of a Trump or Biden policy that's their prerogative. If that policy hurts their country/economy then it makes sense to me. I disagree with A LOT of our government and I don't buy made in the USA to support our government, I typically do it because the best equipment is made in the USA and while our economical and intellectual property policies aren't perfect, they are better than most.

    7) There are some companies that are better than others in both categories. I feel on average made in the USA is going to have higher quality than made in China for gym equipment based on my purchases and equipment I have used.

    8) Don't care about robots or humans making equipment

    9) When discussing gym equipment, something that anyone regularly reading a forum on gym equipment has a passion for, I would expect special attention being paid to gym equipment. It's also a much simpler product. A steel rack is a couple pieces of steel bolted or welded together. Compare that to something like a vehicle that has components made all over the place and can be manufactured in a myriad of countries it's much more complex. In many industries you don't have much of a choice, with gym equipment you have a choice for a lot of things.
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    Registered User rpark's Avatar
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    Obviously this is a very complex subject. Americans on the whole want cheaper goods..... try buying something from Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Amazon and you'll be challenged to find any goods made in the USA, or NOT made in any one Asian country. American trends of outsourcing overseas has been happening for decades and it's unlikely to change significantly. The US consumer generally cares about price..... not the society cost of outsourcing overseas.

    The cost of doing business in America is so much more expensive with all the regulations, taxes, safety compliance, etc compared to most Asian countries. It's surprising to me that the consumer turns a blind eye to the reasons behind why a product costs so much less when it's manufactured overseas. How can they possibly manufacture anything, put it on a ship to travel thousands of miles to port, more logistics to get to warehouses and eventually the consumer....... because they cut out a TON of the regulation that we have here in the US.

    I am at a stage of life where I can be more selective and pay more for certain goods that support an economy that I prefer, but it is nearly impossible to 100% avoid China made products.

    Also agree with ncsuLuke on his points.
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    Han shot first! TolerantLactose's Avatar
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    Voting with our feet and with our wallets is about the only real way we have a say these days. I'm Canadian and I'd rather support the US than China.
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    Multi-Platinum User radrd's Avatar
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    First and foremost, I like quality equipment and I have no issue with import gear that comes from any country friendly to the US. We have to compete with the rest of the world, both in quality and value. With that said, China falls into the category of not being friendly to the US and I would never buy equipment from a company headquartered in China.

    Buying equipment manufactured in China for companies headquartered outside of China is a gray area for me. Again, I like quality, and I have pieces that are top quality and manufactured in China that I'm not going to part with. I am tending to look at the US first these days, but not exclusively. We have labor shortage problem in the US for a number of reasons. If we can't find people trained and interested in making quality equipment that's a good value and highly in demand, then we deserve to lose out overseas - even to China.
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    heavily caffeinated grapegorilla's Avatar
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    1) I don't see "made in china" as the problem. I see the loss of capability in North America as the biggest problem. I am in Canada and manufacturing is disappearing. The inertia required to re-start is pretty substantial.

    2) My first thought on major purchases is if it will benefit my community, region, country. So yeah, if I can buy Canadian made I will try to do that. After that, I look for made in USA.

    3) That's a complex question. In terms of my purchasing, I don't consider employment rate. Why wouldn't I buy local to benefit those that are working (to keep them working).

    4) This is a bit of a circular problem. Automation lowers costs. If we can't manufacture that automation then I can't see how paying more for manual labour benefits the company. You refer to "lower-skill" remaining jobs, but automation normally replaces those first. Automation will require higher skills and skilled trades for operation, maintenance, and repair.

    5) Without manufacturing then you're running down the path of the "knowledge" or "innovation" based economy -- basically IP. It's important to all economies, but if you can't build it then you risk it being stolen or quickly copied. Kind of a hamster wheel to keep generating ideas for others to steal.

    6) That's a good questions. Honestly it's not something I think about.

    7) There is a lot of cheap crap that comes out of China, but I don't automatically assume a product will be poor quality because it's from China. Conversely, I do assume Made in Canada/USA equate to quality.

    8) A product primarily made by robots makes a lot of assumptions. Robots or humans, if it's made the same it's made the same.

    9) When I first started I bought what I could afford and I didn't really appreciate the differences. Now, yes I pay a lot of attention. In general, I am surprised how little the public relate the price of an item with employment, opportunity, and environment.

    Same challenge in Canada. It's a chicken-egg problem. If there's no manufacturing, there's no manufacturing jobs, and there isn't incentive to train as skilled labour. If there's no incentive to train as skilled labour, there's no people for manufacturing jobs, then there's no manufacturing...
    Last edited by grapegorilla; 09-29-2021 at 06:55 PM.
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    The more important question that any company in your situation should be asking right now is....... "How do we feel about selling 'Made in China' products to our customers?". How you approach that answer, will determine what type of company you will become.
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    1) Any of the usual countries that are known for prioritizing cost over quality, turning a blind eye to egregiously awful working conditions, etc. have me going in particularly skeptical (China,Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan, etc.). Obviously, they all can produce items to the same standards as, say, Japan, but that's not the aim of most of the manufacturing done in these places.

    2) My primary concerns are quality and fair labor practices. That said, I'm not rich enough or young enough to afford being a staunch idealist.

    3) This is a loaded question that sounds destined for Misc material. The manner in which the unemployment rate is calculated borders on the absurd, so it means very little to me. That said, it's not that people here don't want said jobs. It's that many are unwilling and, more importantly, unable to work for wages anywhere near what those in the aforementioned countries with poor labor practices can/will work for. If it makes some CEO/CFO sleep better at night to rationalize that no one here wants said jobs, then that's what they will do.

    4) Progressive automation is just something we all need to accept. It's moving forward whether we like it or not. You can either adapt by learning new skills or you can be replaced.

    5) A job is a job and every department contributes to the company's success. Undervaluing one's employees because they're low on the totem pole will cost everyone, especially the people at the top.

    6) No.

    7) No, of course not. See response to Q1.

    8) No. See response to Q1.

    9) No. I don't think it's true because it isn't true. There isn't more scrutiny or concern with COO in regards to gym equipment. Choose pretty much any sector and you will find that most believe MIC to be synonymous with low quality.
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    Originally Posted by radrd View Post
    We have labor shortage problem in the US for a number of reasons. If we can't find people trained and interested in making quality equipment that's a good value and highly in demand, then we deserve to lose out overseas - even to China.
    The issue we have right now isn't really a labor shortage, there are plenty of people out there willing to work, it's more a shortage of good companies to work for. People are tired of working themselves to death for companies that only care abut their bottom line and not about the wellbeing of their employees. The pandemic has cause ALOT of people to step back and re-evaluate their path in life, they are leaving jobs in record numbers in search of a better situation and until companies wake up and start acting right it's going to get ugly.
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    Originally Posted by Duplicitous View Post
    1) Any of the usual countries that are known for prioritizing cost over quality, turning a blind eye to egregiously awful working conditions, etc. have me going in particularly skeptical (China,Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan, etc.). Obviously, they all can produce items to the same standards as, say, Japan, but that's not the aim of most of the manufacturing done in these places.

    2) My primary concerns are quality and fair labor practices. That said, I'm not rich enough or young enough to afford being a staunch idealist.

    3) This is a loaded question that sounds destined for Misc material. The manner in which the unemployment rate is calculated borders on the absurd, so it means very little to me. That said, it's not that people here don't want said jobs. It's that many are unwilling and, more importantly, unable to work for wages anywhere near what those in the aforementioned countries with poor labor practices can/will work for. If it makes some CEO/CFO sleep better at night to rationalize that no one here wants said jobs, then that's what they will do.

    4) Progressive automation is just something we all need to accept. It's moving forward whether we like it or not. You can either adapt by learning new skills or you can be replaced.

    5) A job is a job and every department contributes to the company's success. Undervaluing one's employees because they're low on the totem pole will cost everyone, especially the people at the top.

    6) No.

    7) No, of course not. See response to Q1.

    8) No. See response to Q1.

    9) No. I don't think it's true because it isn't true. There isn't more scrutiny or concern with COO in regards to gym equipment. Choose pretty much any sector and you will find that most believe MIC to be synonymous with low quality.
    I minored in economics in college, and it's always been a casual interest even if I'm only passingly acquainted.

    Learning how the Department of Labor calculates official unemployment was one of a few notable eye-opener moments in my education.
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    Without being to verbious, my opinions are in line with the 2nd post.

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    Originally Posted by urbanlifter View Post
    The issue we have right now isn't really a labor shortage, there are plenty of people out there willing to work, it's more a shortage of good companies to work for. People are tired of working themselves to death for companies that only care abut their bottom line and not about the wellbeing of their employees. The pandemic has cause ALOT of people to step back and re-evaluate their path in life, they are leaving jobs in record numbers in search of a better situation and until companies wake up and start acting right it's going to get ugly.
    I mostly agree but people being unwilling to work for good or bad reasons is still a labor shortage. Should companies do a better job incentivizing people to work? Yes, in most cases. I work for a company that has a leadership team that's perpetually out of touch and we're seeing a lot of turnover right now with good reason. We reap what we sow.
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    Originally Posted by radrd View Post
    I completely agree but people being unwilling to work for good or bad reasons is still a labor shortage.
    Didn't say anything out the unwilling workforce, they have always opted for unemployment and now is no different. Many companies are short because people left for better companies. Companies with better pay, better benefits, offering work/life balance, that promote a positive organizational culture. If a company says something like, 'We can't find good people because of the labor shortage", it probably means they suck at retaining their workforce.
    Last edited by urbanlifter; 09-30-2021 at 09:58 AM.
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    Originally Posted by urbanlifter View Post
    'We can't find good people because of the labor shortage", it probably means they suck at retaining their workforce.
    Dude, not true at all.
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    Originally Posted by urbanlifter View Post
    Didn't say anything out the unwilling workforce, they have always opted for unemployment and now is no different. Many companies are short because people left for better companies. Companies with better pay, better benefits, offering work/life balance, that promote a positive organizational culture. If a company says something like, 'We can't find good people because of the labor shortage", it probably means they suck at retaining their workforce.
    If they aren't willing to work for companies because they want better working conditions then that's an unwilling workforce. The Covid stimulus packages have helped create an even less willing workforce because more people could make more money for doing nothing and it devalued the work they were doing before.
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    Originally Posted by urbanlifter View Post
    Didn't say anything out the unwilling workforce, they have always opted for unemployment and now is no different. Many companies are short because people left for better companies. Companies with better pay, better benefits, offering work/life balance, that promote a positive organizational culture. If a company says something like, 'We can't find good people because of the labor shortage", it probably means they suck at retaining their workforce.
    There are industries that now have more demand than they have employees to fill said demand, but there are also a lot of companies struggling because, as you said, people have left for better jobs.

    The owner of a local equipment rental place that has been around for decades posted a long rant on his website last year about how he was selling off a lot of the equipment and semi-retiring because people don't want to work anymore. Well, he doesn't offer any benefits and he pays $9/hr. Rents in this area have skyrocketed in recent years and a 2BR in the ghetto will run you near $1,500/mth. You don't need to crush any more numbers at that point; you're not living on that wage unless you live with your parents or in a halfway house.

    My wife works in the warehouse industry. Her last company had a very hard time staffing because they paid their worker bees $14/hr whereas every other warehouse in the area pays $15-25/hr. They opened a new warehouse last year and made my wife the acting regional manager - 3x the workload without increasing her compensation or even reimbursing her for gas to drive between sites. She finally had enough and took a new job last month. Her new employer pays its worker bees $23/hr. They have over 120 qualified applicants for 30 positions on their day shift. This is the same industry and the warehouses are less than 15 minutes apart. The one that pays s**t has a hard time staffing and is constantly battling a continuous exodus of employees. The one that pays well has more than 4x as many qualified applicants as they have jobs.
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    ^^^That's exactly what I'm saying, and my wife just left her employer of almost 20 years because the company no longer values its employees. She's an emergency room nurse and the Hospital is trying to claim 'labor shortage' for their overworked staff. But what's really happening is ALL of the nurses are leaving to get paid almost double traveling or for other networks.

    I don't buy the 'labor shortage' excuse like there aren't enough people willing to work. Unemployment is down to almost pre-COVID levels last I checked. Sounds like companies are making excuses for not valuing their employees. It's easier to cry labor shortage "because nobody wants to work anymore", than it is to admit the company is garbage.
    Last edited by urbanlifter; 09-30-2021 at 09:05 PM.
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    My wife has received travel offers for 5000 a week as a nurse..
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    Originally Posted by urbanlifter View Post
    ^^^That's exactly what I'm saying, and my wife just left her employer of almost 20 years because the company no longer values its employees. She's an emergency room nurse and the Hospital is trying to claim 'labor shortage' for their overworked staff. But what's really happening is ALL of the nurses are leaving to get paid almost double traveling or for other networks.

    I don't buy the 'labor shortage' excuse like there aren't enough people willing to work. Unemployment is down to almost pre-COVID levels last I checked. Sounds like companies are making excuses for not valuing their employees. It's easier to cry labor shortage "because nobody wants to work anymore", than it is to admit the company is garbage.
    My workers can be high school grads all the way up to retirement age…. In a road construction environment…. Very physical and very safety oriented. Starting wage is over $33/wages per hour in Ohio (plus $12-16 in fringes benefits). No problems with retaining good longtime employees, as many have started and retired from here. We have many families that are 3rd generation family workers, but we have difficulty finding new help after guys retire.

    Our labor shortage is that people looking for work are lazy…. They refuse to get the proper qualifications to become a worker. So we have to sacrifice and hire kids that don’t have a clue, aren’t willing to get a CDL license, won’t go to safety classes to become vocationally trained, and just hope that some other qualified candidate will magically appear. In the meantime, we are stuck with unproductive workers that can’t live 10 hours without their phone and social media.

    Too many American workers have an entitlement mentality and feel that they are entitled to a huge paycheck just by showing up, without even getting their hands dirty. There is a real labor problem in the US.
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    Originally Posted by rpark View Post
    Too many American workers have an entitlement mentality and feel that they are entitled to a huge paycheck just by showing up, without even getting their hands dirty. There is a real labor problem in the US.
    For custruction I could see this being an issue, we live in a digital age and kids these days aren't growing up thinking about manual labor jobs. Even if they looked into a skilled trade job like HVAC, plumbing, masonry, or carpentry those really aren't viable long term solutions unless you plan to transition to owning your own company one day. Physically they wear you down, I've met so many middle aged people looking to get out of those jobs because of bad backs/knees.

    Kids are all on social media thinking about becoming a digital nomad and traveling the country in a van working on a laptop. Employers that provide telework opportunities have a serious advantage with having access to a larger talent pool, I'd expect that trend to continue lokg after COVID.
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    Originally Posted by urbanlifter View Post
    The more important question that any company in your situation should be asking right now is....... "How do we feel about selling 'Made in China' products to our customers?". How you approach that answer, will determine what type of company you will become.
    The issue with that idea goes to my #6 question. I think a lot of people view a product made in a particular country as though it's made by the government there. The reality is that the products are made by people working a job like the rest of us, and many of them don't like their government's policies. You have to judge the ethics of a particular factory on its own merits and the people who work there. I can guarantee no one here would want to be judged on whether to do business with you based on our own government's particular polices at any given time. At the same time, I get what you're saying that some percentage of what we pay is going to taxes to support that government. It's waaaay down the list after our company and our factory, but it's there.

    Originally Posted by rpark View Post
    Too many American workers have an entitlement mentality and feel that they are entitled to a huge paycheck just by showing up, without even getting their hands dirty. There is a real labor problem in the US.
    This is the same complaint in the rest of the world. Factory owners worldwide, including China, tell me the same thing. The workforce is aging and the younger generation wants to work in an office or at home.



    Originally Posted by Duplicitous View Post
    1) Any of the usual countries that are known for prioritizing cost over quality, turning a blind eye to egregiously awful working conditions, etc. have me going in particularly skeptical (China,Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan, etc.). Obviously, they all can produce items to the same standards as, say, Japan, but that's not the aim of most of the manufacturing done in these places.

    2) My primary concerns are quality and fair labor practices. That said, I'm not rich enough or young enough to afford being a staunch idealist.
    If it's any consolation, wages have tripled in the last 10 years in China and working conditions at any factory I've done business with wouldn't give me pause to work there myself.


    Thanks again for all of the discussion so far, and I appreciate keeping it on the rails since I know it's a sensitive topic for a lot of people.
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    Originally Posted by dukenukem7777 View Post
    The issue with that idea goes to my #6 question. I think a lot of people view a product made in a particular country as though it's made by the government there. The reality is that the products are made by people working a job like the rest of us, and many of them don't like their government's policies. You have to judge the ethics of a particular factory on its own merits and the people who work there. I can guarantee no one here would want to be judged on whether to do business with you based on our own government's particular polices at any given time. At the same time, I get what you're saying that some percentage of what we pay is going to taxes to support that government. It's waaaay down the list after our company and our factory, but it's there.






    True enough but political and military power follow from economic strength, and the Communist Party of China has proven that it is no friend of mine. I will buy made-in- USA unless there is no reasonable alternative. For example, I sold my made-in-China calibrated plates during COVID and replaced them with made-in-USA plates. On the other hand, I had a made-in-USA Rogue basic flat bench that I hated; I shopped for a replacement for months & ended up with a Rep FB-5000 with the fat pad, & it's great, no regrets (except that I could not find a made-in-USA equivalent). YMMV.
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    Originally Posted by dukenukem7777 View Post
    The issue with that idea goes to my #6 question. I think a lot of people view a product made in a particular country as though it's made by the government there. The reality is that the products are made by people working a job like the rest of us, and many of them don't like their government's policies. You have to judge the ethics of a particular factory on its own merits and the people who work there. I can guarantee no one here would want to be judged on whether to do business with you based on our own government's particular polices at any given time. At the same time, I get what you're saying that some percentage of what we pay is going to taxes to support that government. It's waaaay down the list after our company and our factory, but it's there.






    It should be noted though, to start a manufacturing business in China, requires having a CCP member office in each business. But their position is actually very similar to "diversity office", that's a lot of US businesses now have.
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    Originally Posted by sera310 View Post
    True enough but political and military power follow from economic strength, and the Communist Party of China has proven that it is no friend of mine. I will buy made-in- USA unless there is no reasonable alternative.
    Pretty much sums it up for me, over the past couple years it has become CRYSTAL clear what China's future intentions are. The aggression and rhetoric coming out of the CCP has been increasingly bold and my stance on contributing to their economy has changed.
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    China makes OK stuff if it's a proper brand. Don't buy any Chinese brand, but stuff made on behalf of American companies can be good. Quite a lot of the quality is determined by the best machines now, and China can have the best machines since they have the economy of scale.
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    Originally Posted by urbanlifter View Post
    Pretty much sums it up for me, over the past couple years it has become CRYSTAL clear what China's future intentions are. The aggression and rhetoric coming out of the CCP has been increasingly bold and my stance on contributing to their economy has changed.
    Problem is China's economy affects the world's economy. The reality of globalization. Then consider how difficult it is to get reliable info regarding China's economy, the world ends up playing catch up in terms of bracing for economic changes. The Evergrande crash barely got a day of coverage globally for example, but it's consequences are likely to last for years. Then we also have to consider what took the US give or take 100 years to reach, in terms of debt to GDP ratio. China did it in 30 years, and there's no historical precedent to tell us what consequences that could entail.
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    To the OPs question: my primary concern is quality, which makes it kind of hard to buy stuff made in the US. But Rogue and a few others make good stuff. Couple of high-end places in Europe like Watson. ATX has good quality in terms of build if not always in style (depends on your tastes). Some of these companies manufacture… let’s call it locally, or in the West, and some in China. Don’t really care which, if what I get is quality.

    Somebody above made the point about supporting intellectual property thieves, and I agree with not doing that. However, rather than lump a billion people into a single bucket, I rather look at the companies that blatantly copy others’ work (not looking at any companies named after the fathers of Greek gods, of course) and avoid them.
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    Hey, I recommend you gym equipment market by Fact.MR which has a detailed country analysis. It describes the market share acquired by US and China and future Forecasts.
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