Thursday, June 07, 2007

America Should Welcome China's Rise

From the current July/August issue of The Atlantic, an excellent article "China Makes, The World Takes: A Look Inside the World's Manufacturing Center Shows that America Should Welcome China's Rise" (subscription required for the article, the slide show here should be available free), here are some excerpts:

"Most of what has been good about China over the past generation has come directly or indirectly from its factories. The country has public money with which to build roads, houses, and schools—especially roads. The vast population in the countryside has what their forebears acutely lacked, and peasants elsewhere today still do: a chance at paying jobs, which means a chance to escape rural poverty.

Americans complain about cheap junk pouring out of Chinese mills, but they rely on China for a lot that is not junk, and whose cheap price is important to American industrial and domestic life. Modern consumer culture rests on the assumption that the nicest, most advanced goods—computers, audio systems, wall-sized TVs—will get cheaper year by year. Moore’s Law, which in one version says that the price of computing power will be cut in half every 18 months or so, is part of the reason, but China’s factories are a big part too.

At the electronics and household-goods factories, the pay is between 900 and 1,200 RMB per month, or about $115 to $155. In the villages the workers left, a farm family’s cash earnings might be a few thousand RMB per year.

A factory work shift is typically 12 hours, usually with two breaks for meals (subsidized or free), six or seven days per week. Chinese law says that the standard workweek is 40 hours, so this means a lot of overtime, which is included in the pay rates above. Since their home village may be several days’ travel by train and bus, workers from the hinterland usually go back only once a year. They all go at the same time—during the “Spring Festival,” or Chinese New Year, when ports and factories effectively close for a week or so and the nation’s transport system is choked.

“The people here work hard,” an American manager in a U.S.-owned plant told me. “They’re young. They’re quick. There’s none of this ‘I have to go pick up the kids’ nonsense you get in the States.”

In case the point isn’t clear: Chinese workers making $1,000 a year have been helping American designers, marketers, engineers, and retailers making $1,000 a week (and up) earn even more. Plus, they have helped shareholders of U.S.-based companies."


At 6/08/2007 7:26 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Well there is one thing if nothing else to be said for the Chinese making money and Chinese workers having some spendable income, the politicos might be somewhat less than eager to take Taiwan by force...

The Chinese would have something lose if a shooting war broke out...

At 6/08/2007 1:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, from a economic standpoint we should welcome China's rise. But on the other hand, they are still Communists. By increasing its economy they are increasing the size and capabilities of the its military. Whether its 10 years, 20 years or 40 years from now we (the US and the rest of the somewhat free countries throughout the world) are setting ourselves up for defeat in a war with China.

At 6/08/2007 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there anyone who read this article that would want that life? Rural poverty may not provide the currency, but they actually spent time with their families and communities, which is not quantified. Those factories spew toxics causing cancer rates in many areas to skyrocket. This sounds like near slavery. Shame on you for being happy about it

At 6/09/2007 8:49 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

If you are right and the people would prefer dying in rural poverty, they had that choice. They all moved to the factory voluntarily. Hell, the Chinese Government is there to stop most of them from making the trip (peasants are supposed to stay on the farm; many of the ones that make it to the city did so illegaly).

The reason is obvious. Those that move to the factory did so out of sacrifice; they are leaving their family behind so their family can have a better life.

As that is the case, I am very happy they are now free to help their family however they can.

As for setting us up for war with China: I don't see it. Wars are started when two rivals disagree about how the world should be organized. WW1 and WW2 occured because Germany felt the German way was supperior to the Anglo-Saxon corporate dominated world-markets. Germany felt the only way it could persue national-socialism was if it could conquer enough of the world to reject the unplanned English speaking world economy.

China is not following such a strategy; it has abandoned socialist planning; all it wants now is access for its corporations overseas. All we want is access for our corporations overseas (when you see "corporations" think "People"). Both countries can get what they want 100% of the time. So where is the inevitable conflict?

At 6/09/2007 10:43 AM, Blogger juandos said...

anonymous whines: "Rural poverty may not provide the currency, but they actually spent time with their families and communities, which is not quantified"...LOL!

Hmmm, 'spending time with one's family'? Ever heard that old saying, "familiarity breeds contempt"?

When one is so poor that the simple act of getting drink of potable water is quite a chore do you think anything else matters?

Given time and some free market place environmnet the rural poor of China will get a better quality life...

Well sir, don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way to proletariat paradise...


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