If you could peek inside an 18-wheeler barreling out of Miami’s seaport these days, you would more likely find goods from a Chinese factory than from Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Colombia or Venezuela — traditionally considered the port’s top trading partners.
Buying a hair dryer or an electric toaster? You’d be hard-pressed to find one in American stores that isn’t made in China. About 92 percent of the toasters sold in the United States and 82 percent of the hair dryers come from China, along with the bulk of laptop computers and athletic shoes, and just about every fourth item of clothing.
Whether you are a consumer embracing cheap Chinese goods, an executive rushing to cash in on the Chinese boom, or a domestic manufacturer fighting Chinese competition, it is becoming clear that the country of 1.3 billion people is changing the rules of global commerce, and with them the American way of life.
”In 2000, China just wasn’t on our radar screen,” said Brian Neff, vice president of the South Florida Manufacturers Association. “Today, it’s global, global, global. Big-time shifts are happening.”
For some local businesses, the ascendancy of China as an economic superpower is a source of anxiety.
”They scare me to death on everything,” said Leon Silverstein, president and chief executive of Tamarac-based Arch Aluminum & Glass Co., a family-owned firm whose custom-designed windows and storefronts remain competitive despite the rising tide of Chinese glass and mirror imports.