Ed Rendell is a Wuss about China

Opinion Zone,Iain Murray

For the record, I agree wholeheartedly with virtually everything Pennsylvania Governer Ed Rendell says about the NFL's silly cancellation of the Sunday Night Football game in Philly. It spat in the face of decades of football tradition and showed disregard for fans (who'd already seen the game time changed once owing to "flex" rules) rather than concern for their safety. However, there's one part of the op/ed that makes no sense:

Will Bunch, a writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, said that if football were played in China, 60,000 Chinese would have walked through the snow to the stadium doing advanced calculus as they did so. He's probably right, and it's no secret why the Chinese are dominating on the world stage.

Actually, Bunch is dead wrong. Soccer is by far the most popular sport in China, but people don't walk through snow to get to matches. They barely show up at all, even when their team is winning. Here's an idiosyncratically-written summary from wikipedia:

The Chinese football market is an incredibly fickle one. One example is the Guangzhou Taiyangshen team from the major commercial centre of southern China. Its debut in the inaugural season of Jia A was nothing short of successful. ... It was no surprise that, due to the team's success, attendance was high in Guangzhou's Yuexiushan Stadium. However, Taiyangsheng sold their reserve/youth team to Songre for $20 million yuan and the talent pipe soon dried up. Old legs were not replaced by younger ones and were forced to play on pass their expiry date. In the first season they came second, then fifth and middle table mediocrity and then, inevitably, relegation to Jia B. Attendance followed a similar pattern: 15000, 8000, 1000 then nil. There was to be no loyalty of any kind from the fans. Life in Jia B was not easy either, attendance could only creep past 200 for a team from the city of six million people. It was naturally labeled a disgrace. However, their former reserve team Guangzhou Songre replaced them in the top flight. ...

To be fair, the teams near the top of the table consistently gets good crowds in the tens of thousands. But mid-table teams can only attract a hardcore 3000 to 8000 while yo-yos and relegation battlers can manage just about 1000.

Chinese football has until now resisted true market economy values. For one, the Football Association of China is a government entity, not an independent company. The league is not administered independently. The Chinese FA often sets the league into recess so the national team can prepare for major tournaments.

On a more basic level, teams failed to nurture true loyal fans and ties with their local communities are minimal. Teams often change their names from season to season as major sponsors go bankrupt or were unwilling to participate in the overly expensive football market. As a result building a strong brand name remain extremely difficult. In the 10 years of Jia A, only Shanghai Shenhua kept its name to this day, even 7 time champion Dalian changed its name from Wanda to Haicheng.

As for Ed's comments that China is dominating us, that's a myth. As Forbes' Helen Wang has written, China is trailing us, not leading us, in manufacturing, for one very important reason:

In the United States and Europe, the manufacturing industry was created due to technology innovation. For example, railways came into existence because of the invention of the steam engine and automobiles were created because of technology breakthroughs in automobile engines.

In China, the manufacturing industry is being created in response to global demand. Chinese manufacturers take orders from Western companies that have designed products for their home markets. They have no involvement with product development, innovation, market research, and even packaging. Chinese manufacturers have no experience in bringing their own products to overseas markets. 

Unlike the manufacturing industry in the West that gave birth to a middle class of both white-collar and blue-collar workers, manufacturers in China mostly absorb surplus labor from rural areas with few skills. Those rural migrant workers live in dormitories, earn about $100 to $200 a month, and hardly fit into the category of the middle class.

I can only conclude that Ed Rendell is a wuss about China.

But I repeat that I agree with the broad thrust of his op/ed. Now, perhaps Ed can turn his attention away from the NFL and towards the people in his own party who are imposing more and more nanny state rules on us.

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