Steel—NOT steal—from China

I read a post on So Far From (a blog) about U.S. dependence on China for steel.

As usual, when I read a claim and/or complaint about China, I often research the issue to see if the complaint is valid.

What I discovered in this case was another lie—the type often generated and spread by Sinophobes, who fear or dislike China, its people, or its culture. Then again, these critics could be McCarthyites, who will publicize accusations of political disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard to evidence and/or the use of unfair investigatory or accusatory methods in order to suppress opposition.

So Far From Heaven’s post complained that the poor quality of tools in the United States was because of Chinese steel, which, I discovered, probably has nothing to do with steel produced in China, but more to do with capitalism/consumerism and planned obsolescence. says of planned obsolescence that “This term was supposedly coined after World War II by American industrial designers and writers to indicate industry’s desire to produce consumer items that would be replaced.”

For example, if a U.S. company wants its tools to wear out within a specific time frame, the company’s designers and engineers are told to come up with products that will need to be replaced, which helps boosts profits when customers have to buy a replacement—that is called capitalism 101.

In addition, since most products manufactured in China for the U.S. market are ordered by American companies such as Wal-Mart, Apple, Home Depot and Lowe’s, the contracts often specify exactly how the product is to be manufactured, and the American side of the manufacturing equation decides the quality and life span of the product. If you want to learn more about this business practice, I suggest visiting the China Law Blog to discover how it works.

To discover if the U.S. depends on Chinese produced steel for manufacturing products sold to U.S. consumers, I spent some time Googling (another term is research) for facts—something Sinophobes and/or McCarthyites should do before spreading opinions that are false.

What I discovered about Chinese steel may surprise you.

From, I learned the U.S. produced about half of the world’s steel in 1945.

“After World War II,” said, “the U.S. steel industry faced increased competition from Japanese and European producers, who rebuilt and modernized their industries. Later, many Third World countries, such as Brazil, built their own steel industries, and large U.S. steelmakers faced increased competition from smaller, nonunion mills (“mini-mills”) that recycle scrap steel.” Did you notice that China or Communism wasn’t mentioned once in this paragraph?

CRS Report for the US Congress said, “China’s steel industry has grown significantly since the mid-1990s. China is now the world’s largest steelmaker and steel consumer. In 2009, China produced over 567 million tons of crude steel, nearly half of the world’s steel. That was 10 times the U.S. production.”

However, CRS reported, “The majority of Chinese steel has been used to meet domestic demand in China.”

Today, the United States is in third place for steel production while Japan is the second largest producer of steel. Source: Index

Here’s the surprise—the United States steel industry exports steel to China. For example, in 2004, the U.S. exported 8 million tons of steel to China up from 5 million tons in 2000 and by 2010, China was buying $34.5 billion in steel from countries such as the U.S., Australia, and Brazil to meet its domestic needs.

I wonder what the Chinese were doing with the U.S. steel being exported to China. Is it possible that products made in China to be sold in the U.S. were being produced using steel made in the U.S.?

In fact, John Surma, president and CEO of US Steel Corp, said, “China generally has been good for our industry.”

Meanwhile, we learn from Qingfeng Zhang writing for Perspectives that the United States produces approximately 80% of its domestic steel demand.

In addition, the US imports finished steel products from a large number of countries. The EU has been the biggest exporter with about five-million tons shipped to the United States in 2001. Canada is the second largest exporter shipping four-million tons, followed by South Korea (2 million tons), Japan (1.8 million tons) and Mexico (1.5 million tons).

China does import steel to the U.S.  The US Department of Commerce reported, “U.S. imports from China represent a total of 4.9 percent of all U.S. steel imports.” In 2010, steel imports to the U.S. totaled 23.9 million tons while America produced nearly 88.5 million tons of steel between January and December 2010. China’s share of steel imports to the U.S. would have been 1.17 million tons, or about 1 percent of that 112.4 million tons of domestic plus imported steel.

You tell me, does the U.S. depend on China for steel to meet domestic demand?


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.


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4 Responses to Steel—NOT steal—from China

  1. I used to work for Morgan Construction. They were at that time (about 7 years ago) the top builder of steel mills in the world … and their primary customers were all in China. Morgan would not do business with producers of low quality steel. They were the best and proud of it, the last family owned business of that size in Massachusetts — now, sadly, gone But there is no way that one of their mills … and they were the builders of most of the Chinese mills would be sub par. They did say the Chinese safety standards really needed upgrading, that they didn’t protect the workers very well, but no problem with quality of the steel.

    • Thank you for that info. China has used a lot of their own steel building new cities all over China and rebuilding old ones. They have also expanded the rail network and added high speed rail in addition to roads and bridges. We haven’t heard about all of that falling apart and collapsing yet, but there have been a few bridges in the U.S. that collapsed in recent years because they were old and should have been replaced.

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