My Raleigh dealer told me my spokes keep breaking because China is dumping spokes made with cheap metal on American markets that rust from the inside. I'm being charged $100 US dollars to swap Chinese spokes for American spokes on the front wheel only. He says this is a problem across the country, but especially here in NE Florida. What should I do?
The short answer is, "Find a dealer you trust."
Whether what he told you is right or wrong, you clearly believe he is having you on.
That will not result in a good relationship, no matter whether he is scamming you, or not.
Most likely, he is either poorly educated on the cause of the spokes breaking, and is having difficulty explaining something to you in an effective manner, and is therefore making stuff up, or he is having you on.
Either way, move on.
There are a lot of Chinese parts on the market as well as Taiwanese parts but then again, that could be said about any product that is sold in the US these days. Plus, quality of Chinese and Taiwanese parts are respectable for the most part. I would suspect that the real problem is how the wheel is being built and/or how it is being used. I have come across some really cheap and worthless wheels that were made here in the states and super nice wheels that were made in a different country.
If an austenitic stainless steel such as Grade 304 contains carbon towards the upper end of the permissible range, then it will contain patches of ferrite in the austenite. These will rust if given a chance. This is the reason that "Stainless" wire rope can develop patches of brown, and frequently does on dinghies and small boats. As the wire-drawing process elongates the metal, a "thread" of ferrite can start rusting on the surface and rot away inside the austenite sheath. I'd say a batch of high-carbon wire came out of the steelworks, and nobody knew until the spokes had started rotting a year later. 304L - L for Low carbon - would be ideal, but you need the wire to come from somewhere with better foundry practice... I am planning to lace wheels with Chinese made spokes, but I also intend to give them a coat of Linseed oil to prevent rot; and - I am making my own hubs - use more of them than the average bike wheel!