Is there nothing sacred about beach culture that the Chinese won't infiltrate with their relentless manufacturing machine? First you had them testing the Brazilian bikini industry. Now you have them putting Australia's equally famed surfboard makers to the test with inexpensive boards.
It may be odd that the Bloomberg article I excerpt here was the main story on the site front page, but closer inspection reveals that it's quite a straightforward application of resource curse theory: Enduringly strong global and in particular Chinese demand for Aussie minerals and deposits has appreciated the Australian dollar (AUD) massively, promoting both a decline in domestic manufacturing and an influx of foreign goods (that are often substitutes as the article notes). Given how seriously Australians take their surfing, emotions are running high as PRC-made wares come ashore in larger quantities:
On Australia’s Gold Coast, a 22-mile- long (35-kilometer) stretch of beaches named Surfers Paradise and Rainbow Bay, Neil Rech opened a surf shop in December and unwittingly disturbed the peace. His store, Sedition Surfboards [an apt name IMHO], sells Chinese imports for A$250 ($259), one-third the cost of some Australian-made boards that competitors are offering. Rival retailers averse to discounts and upset about local job losses questioned his patriotism, and even threatened violence, he said.And then we have a backgrounder on the economics of it all that are definitely unfavourable to the domestic industry:
“It’s quite heavy,” Rech, 34, said of the backlash. After teaching for two years in China before opening a store in Coolangatta, Queensland, “I realized how cheap you can actually get these boards so I thought it’d be a great opportunity to bring them here and sell them to the public cheaper.”
Inexpensive imports from Asia, coupled with a 54 percent jump in the local dollar since October 2008, are delivering a double dose of pain to one of Australia’s most iconic industries. The struggles at surfboard makers are playing out at manufacturers across a country where China’s demand for iron ore and fuel has spurred a mining boom while leaving non-resource businesses behind.Chalk another one up for China. Now, if they only had a Beach Boys-like ensemble singing in Mandarin it would be a total appropriation of beach culture. Heaven knows, they've already got the beachwear arena, er, covered.
Manufacturers are on the wrong side of a divide in Australia’s economy, which has avoided a recession since 1991 and boasts an unemployment rate of 5.3 percent, about half the level in Europe. While the number of mining jobs (AULQMINN) soared 21 percent to 242,400 in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, manufacturing employment slumped 4.4 percent to 953,500 and retail positions sank 2.2 percent to 1.21 million.