Whether you’re firing up the grill, letting off a barrage of fireworks or simply wrapping yourself in multiple U.S. flags, chances are you’ll be using something made in China to celebrate America’s independence today.
With the decline of the traditional U.S. manufacturing base and China’s breakneck industrialization, the country now produces a huge amount of America’s commercial goods. From this development, China has emerged as one of the globe’s powerhouses, its national economy second only to that of the United States.
This growth has made its rivals nervous. President Donald Trump is on the verge of launching a wide-reaching trade war against China, claiming that protectionist measures are needed to rebalance what he sees as an unfair international marketplace. The trade imbalance between the two nations is a constant bugbear for economic nationalists.
But starting a trade war with Beijing could have unintended consequences. Trade conflicts escalate as nations retaliate, targeting vital products and goods they believe will make their rivals squirm. A sudden drop off of imports from China might leave Americans without a range of day-to-day products—as well as a number of key supplies for a certain special occasion celebrating the red, white and blue.
Even as Americans celebrate their nation’s independence on July 4, their patriotic purchases will reaffirm the reach of Chinese industry.
One of the best ways to usher in yet another year of freedom is by blowing something up. Every July Fourth, there are some 14,000 public fireworks shows and countless more in backyards across the nation.
According to research by Statista and ValuePenguin, 96 percent of America’s fireworks imports come from China. This accounts for more than $268 million each year. The next largest source of fireworks is Spain, but only $5 million come from there. The dominance of Chinese suppliers in America’s $280 million pyrotechnics industry is clear. American companies export less than $7 million worth of fireworks each year.
The country will be decked out with millions of flags as patriots salute Old Glory today—what could possibly be more American than the Star-Spangled Banner? But as it turns out, many of the national flags in the U.S. were made in China.
In 2014, $3.9 million of the $4 million spent on imported American flags went to China. This sparked outrage among patriotic lawmakers, who have introduced new legislation—with mixed success—to discourage the purchase of foreign-made flags in favor of those made in the U.S. The American military, for example, has banned the use of any foreign flags.
Their actions have made a difference, and the U.S. is now a net-exporter of American flags. But Chinese companies still do a healthy trade in the Red, White and Blue. The U.S. still buys $5.4 million worth of its own banners from abroad each year, the vast majority—$5.3 million—coming from China.
A huge number of Americans will spend the day sweating over a grill, serving up mountains of hot dogs and burgers on the most popular cookout day of the year. Most of the outdoor grills sold in the U.S. come from overseas, and the market is dominated by Chinese models. Whether made by Chinese companies or American companies that have moved production to China, the country’s grills have become a vital part of July 4 celebrations.
It’s even gotten Kid Rock hot under the collar. His new brand of U.S.-made grills is marketed to be better than those from the foreign competition because they are American. One commercial even showed the singer shooting multiple Chinese products to pieces. Still, even the “American Badass Grill” website reveals that some parts of the cooker were made overseas.
Though none of these goods are yet in line for Trumpian tariffs, the administration will soon unveil an expanded list of targeted products, and it is possible these industries will find themselves in the firing line. Whether this would galvanize American production or simply benefit other countries that supply the same goods is the question to ask.