Wednesday's announcement that Chinese companies have agreed to buy $45 billion worth of American-made stuff is a soothing gesture in an often tense business relationship.
But notice how China is mostly buying useful items such as Boeing (NYSE:BA) jets, Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) equipment, General Electric (NYSE:GE) locomotives and Duke Energy's (NYSE:DUK) clean-coal technology.
If China was serious about assuaging our fears of foreign commercial domination, it would buy more of our junk.
How many billions of dollars a year do Americans spend on cheap, plastic baubles from China?
I know. The Chinese love KFC and McDonald's. But how many Chinese restaurants do we have over here?
Can't China at least commit to buying a few million egg-shaped containers of Silly Putty?
Silly Putty has millions of uses. Did you know you can throw it at stock listings in a newspaper and it will pick up whatever stocks it hits? This works in any language. It is much safer than darts. And the Chinese could use it to manage all the money we're sending their way.
One way China could show it's not just here to unfairly exploit its position as a giant U.S. debt holder would be to buy some American-made electronic gadgets.
What American-made electronic gadgets, you ask. Fair question. How about MuteMagic by All American Gadgets Inc. in Los Gatos, Calif., only $34.95?
It automatically mutes TV commercials. If Chinese consumers keep aspiring to be just like us, they're going to need MagicMute for all those Viagra commercials.
MagicMute looks like the only gadget All American Gadgets has for sale on its website. But at least this is a start.
The Chinese also could purchase personal computers at unionbuiltpc.com. This would help America's struggling union labor force, and quite likely it will help China, too. Read the fine print: "Union Final Assembly in USA from domestic and foreign components by members of IBEW Local 17."
Hey, how about the American-made Slinky instead? "A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing! Everyone knows it's Slinky." And everyone knows how to knock one off, although the plastic ones aren't as good as the original metal ones.
It's tough finding stuff that is completely made in the USA, but China can make use of plenty of websites dedicated to this cause, including MadeInUSA.org, AmericansWorking.com, StillMadeInUSA.com, BuyAmerican.com and USStuff.com.
"Sometimes U.S. Stuff gets it totally wrong," the website warns users. "Always verify before ordering. Always verify after receiving. Always check the labels."
All American Clothing Co. of Arcanum, Ohio, is more confident. It recently launched what it calls its "USA Traceability" technology.
"For the first time, consumers will receive proof their jeans are 100% USA 'grown and sewn' by Americans," the company boasts. "We are the first jean company in the world that can trace your jean all the way back to the American farmers who grew the cotton." See, now this could be America's future right here: "Jeanetic" engineering.
Here's another item of confusing origin I found while trolling the Internet for American-made goods: Fortune Cookie Soap. It's made in Tulsa, Okla. It comes with messages inside. Some sound like they were written in China: "Freedom of speech is wonderful--right up there with the freedom not to listen."
Oppenheim Plastics Co. of Saddle River, N.J., sells a complete line of plastic boxes. A lot of them are clear, but they also come in opaque.
China should also remember to buy Scotch tape, invented and still made in Minnesota by the 3M Co. (NYSE:MMM). It's sticky. It's invisible. It's perfect for any state-run enterprise bent on global domination.
(Editors Note: This column is certified 100% written in the USA.)
(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. Contact Al at email@example.com or tellittoal.com)