The ancient Greeks’ lesson on moderation useful in our relationship to Asia

We can probably all learn a valuable lesson or two from Aristotle and his peers. 

The ancient Greeks believed in what they called the Four Cardinal Virtues of Greek thought: Justice, Wisdom, Courage and Moderation.

Their concept of moderation resonates soundly with me. In a nutshell, their view of moderation says that one would do best by living his or her life by choosing the mean — and by extension — avoiding the extremes on either side.

So, what does ancient Greek wisdom have to do with the home furnishings sector? Quite a bit, actually.

One of the lessons that I took away from the pandemic was how costly our reliance on Asia was and is. 

With the bulk of case goods — and a steadily growing amount of upholstery — coming from Vietnam, China and Thailand, our inventory levels and businesses were turned upside down as Asia grappled with the impact of Covid-19.

Watching how severely our businesses were crippled as a result of the disruption Asian manufacturers faced because of the pandemic prompted me to question the risk/reward ratio of being increasingly dependent on Asia and China for many of the other products we rely on.

Take medication as just one example. According to the Commerce Department, last year, China accounted for about 95% of U.S. imports of ibuprofen, 91% of U.S. imports of hydrocortisone and almost half of U.S. imports of penicillin and heparin.

Remember the recent shortage of baby formula? New mothers here were in a panic as the supply of baby formula seemingly vanished overnight. According to Euromonitor International Data, Chinese infant formula represents over half (53% specifically) of all the formula consumed here in the States.

Based on investments, China also has a voracious appetite for American brands. Floorcare leaders Hoover USA, Dirt Devil and Royal Appliances are owned by Chinese investors.  China also owns or has made a major investment in AMC Theaters, Smithfield Foods, Motorola, General Motors. GE Appliances, the Waldorf Astoria and Hilton Hotels.

But wait … there’s more! China has been buying up American farmlands, and that has apparently worried two U.S. senators enough that they introduced a bill to halt future sales.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, China currently owns in excess of 352,000 acres of American land.

A number of lawmakers, including Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who introduced the bill to halt future Chinese ownership of U.S. farmland, noted that 14 states already have some types of restriction in place.

Cotton, and others, have voiced concern that by buying up American farmland, Chinese investors could someday jeopardize the distribution of food here in the States.

Others, including geopolitical analyst Brandon Weichert, agree. He has gone on the record stating, “The Chinese do not come at an adversary as large and as powerful as the United States directly.”

Instead, he maintains, they will usually find a “sideway route.”

Yours truly openly confesses to not being smart enough to know if that is true or not.

But what I do know is that whoever controls production and distribution typically calls the shots.

Let’s take a page from Aristotle’s playbook and be purposely and mindfully moderate in terms of whom we do business with.

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