Tag Archives: china

Economist on Labor in China

Via Mike Daisey’s blog I was led to the following bit by the Economist:

Anyway, that’s one angle: sweatshops are awful, but working a tiny rice farm is clearly worse, judging by the workers’ own preferences. However, the stance one takes on this depends on the question one is asking. An article on hardships in the garment industry in New York in 1909 might have elicited the response that things couldn’t be too bad since people were still immigrating from eastern Europe by the millions to take these jobs. Clearly they were better off working in a sweatshop in Manhattan than leading a miserable existence of poverty and repression in a shtetl in Poland. But at the same time, these workers were angry enough at the conditions they were subjected to that they staged the massive shirtwaist strike that year. Needless to say, that kind of politically free labour organisation is much harder to conduct in China because the state bans the formation of independent unions not controlled by the Communist Party. There’s a sequence in Mr Daisey’s piece where he describes seeing Foxconn’s perfectly open blacklist of employees who are to be immediately fired and not accepted at other factories because they are “troublemakers”; Mr Daisey notes that in a fascist dictatorship, you don’t have to resort to euphemisms the way management does in democracies. And that, too, rings true from my talks with underground Vietnamese labour activists. It’s hard to say how big the discount is on the manufacturing price of an iPhone due to the Chinese state’s ability to repress the formation of labour unions, but it’s not zero.

And I think that really hits an important point. Manufacturing in a totalitarian state means that there is an extra pressure against wage increase because labor organizing is a punishable crime.

There is some other great stuff in the article as well, so you should read the whole thing.

NYTimes: The New Sputnik

A quite interesting Op-Ed from Thomas Friedman a couple weeks ago that I missed makes the point that China is starting to shift their economy hard in the direction of green endeavors.

Well, folks. Sputnik just went up again: China’s going clean-tech. The
view of China in the U.S. Congress — that China is going to try to
leapfrog us by out-polluting us — is out of date. It’s going to try to
out-green us. Right now, China is focused on low-cost manufacturing of
solar, wind and batteries and building the world’s biggest market for
these products. It still badly lags U.S. innovation. But research will
follow the market. America’s premier solar equipment maker, Applied
Materials, is about to open the world’s largest privately funded solar
research facility — in Xian, China.

I suspect that the effort to clean up Beijing for the 2008 games is part of what spurred this notion there.  They had to basically shut down the city for months to get the air quality to levels that the long distance runners would compete.  That probably brought some of the environmentalists to the forefront of the party.

On an unrelated front, I thought nytimes was going to get rid of their stupid sign in form.  Get with the 21st century nytimes.