Subject: china, chocolate, and consumerism
I like chocolate. I'm pleased that there is evidence that it has health benefits. That's in moderation of course. The wrapper of one of my favorite dark chocolates (the healthier sort) dictates that 3 squares is what one should ingest for the optimum benefit versus the fat intake.
I eat the three squares. I may be able to go a half-an-hour without touching the rest of the chocolate. Inevitably, it all gets eaten. Eventually, the whole bar succumbs, or should I say I succumb to the bar.
The Chinese are chocolate fans as well. When I first arrived here several years ago the local shop had a variety of local brands. They were cheap and crap. The reason for this was their total lack of cocoa butter and often cocoa powder. The result was candy bars that were crumbly, rather than silky, had poor flavor, and didn't melt in your mouth.
I discovered at the bigger stores that there were foreign brands (Dove and Cadbury) and good domestic ones with foreign sounding names like Conte. The variety was good as well with types ranging from white to dark, those festooned with fruits and nuts, and one flecked with coffee.
By Western standards they are inexpensive, about a buck. For the average Chinese worker they are a luxury. For the 300 million or so who are making a good living, it is not.
To that end the demand for cocoa powder and butter from the People's Republic is way up. This may not be earth shattering news, but I think it's worth noting. While world population growth is always a worry, china has begun to plateau. The One-Child-Policy has made a difference. Here it is not a rising number of people, but their rising incomes. These increasingly affluent folks want to live the American dream and are consuming. We are told part of the price increase in oil is driven by higher demand in China and India (I imagined speculators, greedy oil companies, and limited refining capacity is bigger factors). What about other commodities?
We know that the inefficient boondoggle of ethanol production has made the price of all grains sky rocket, but what about the other favorites of a well heeled population. The Chinese are developing a taste for all things Western, from coffee to Bordeaux wine. When might we find world prices affected by this new consuming sector? More importantly, what is going to be the result when placed against the needs of the world's poorest?
We have already seen how the ethanol mess has made shortages of basic grains in impoverished nations a critical problem. This also increases the price of meat through rising feed costs. The impending catastrophe is real.
The Chinese envy us.
I'm often told by them how rich and powerful my country is (its' odd being
told by your creditor how rich you are when it's currently being funded
on his dime). They dream the American dream. Sadly, we can
no longer afford that dream, and if world cannot sustain a planet that
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