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Chinese Virtual Economy A Threat To Middleman

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[ Business]

The Middleman may never be terminated, but he is cruisin’ for a bruisin’ in the digital age. The latest assault will come, surprisingly, from China, as the government unveils plans to produce a 3D virtual world that allows consumers to order directly from the manufacturer.

That may or may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view. Direct from Chinese manufacturers has its risks when you take out middlemen like Wal-Mart and ToysRUs. At least you know you can hold them accountable for toxic toys and flipflops.

But what are you going to do if a Chinese product you buy directly kills your dog? The government over there doesn’t seem to show much sympathy (or regulation, for that matter, unless it’s an issue of free speech).

Beijing Cyber Recreation District, what the virtual world has been dubbed may take a while to come to pass, and even then, critics argue its "just-in-time manufacturing" model is doomed from the outset, as the shopping experience requires a certain amount of tangibility.

But didn’t they say that about online retailing in general? The model proposed in Beijing just sounds like the next evolution of e-tailing, a massive made-to-order warehouse that works so long as there are enough people ordering a certain kind of shirt.

Personally, whenever possible (and it’s really, really difficult), I avoid buying things made in China. I have my high-horse moral reasons for that. The model, however, doesn’t have to stay in China. It can be applied anywhere, like even (gasp) America, and may even revitalize manufacturing in this country.

No more worries about ridiculous store markups on merchandise, just a sort of made-at-home service fee. I already pay that tax when I can find an American-made product, because I have known and loved people that demand a livable wage here.

And when we look at this model, we have to ask: Whom does it hurt?

Well, we’d have to say the Wal-Marts of the world; doubtful all those mom-and-pop shops out there that were run out of their own home towns will care. They may even have a new avenue for business, a way to compete.

That is, of course, until our corporate governors decide even Wal-Mart needs some kind of protection from those that would fire the Middlemen. And don’t think that couldn’t happen – corporatism is still alive and thriving in America.  

Chinese Virtual Economy A Threat To Middleman
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