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Author Topic: sweatchops and china
Mr. Anonymous
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posted 05 January 2004 02:04 AM      Profile for Mr. Anonymous     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
While suggesting to people on an yahoo group that they stop buying things made in china, i made some claims that were disputed by someone on the list. While I suspect that I was more correct than not, I have not researched (so to speak) the topic for a couple of years and do not have references available to back up my understandings at this point in time...

My question to those on this site who are well informed about the topic(s) is if you could please post for myself and others (I will reach about 300 people total on this and other groups/mailing lists, as well as those viewing the babble site) the most reliable information on these topics that you know of. I am sure many others here will also find solid and compact research helpfull in educating people on the facts as they currently exist.

I am thinking specifically of overall (as opposed to specific (and therefore perhaps isolated)) statistics, idependent first hand reports, and commentary from the most respectable and well researched sources, perhaps groups such as the UN, Amnesty international, (solid) government sources, etc. I think a listing all in one place (ie. here) could go a reasonably long way in helping to educate people and getting fairer buying/manufacturing practices adopted.

The relevant portion of my e-mail is immediately below, followed by the response I recieved today...

Thanks in advance;
r

(My post)
------------------------------------------------
Might I also respectfully suggest that those recieving this e-mail also consider reducing your purchases of Chinese made goods? The long shipping distances cause tremendous polution (I recall someone saying 60-90% of the worlds oceans are essentially now dead, according to the person due to pollution), most of the labour is essentially slave labour, the money supports a corrupt and brutal fascist regeime which has humiliated, tortured and killed (tibetan) monks and nuns tried to commit cultural genocide by mass killings and migration of chinese citizens into tibet, looted and destroyed their places of worship, and dumped thier toxic waste in tibet. The money is sucked away from the economies of democratic countries which previously produces similar goods, resulting in increases in poverty and social problems (which in turn result in economic costs) in these countries. Furthermore, the wages are so small for the factory (read: sweatshop) workers that many are malnourished (ie. they can't even afford 3 basic meals), and the conditions in the factories are appauling on many levels. The toxic environment inside these factories and external pollution resulting from many of the by-products undoubtedly will have great costs long into the future, although the top 1% or so will gain, which is probably why these conditions continue.
------------------------------------------------

(Reply)
>I recall someone saying 60-90% of the worlds oceans are essentially now dead, (according to the person due to pollution),

I recall a lot of stupid undocumented things people have said.

> most of the labour is essentially slave labour,

Not any more. In Shanghai, the income level of the middle class now approaches that of the US.

> dumped thier toxic waste in tibet.

Sorry, they are too cheap to haul it to Tibet, the dump it locally.

> The money is sucked away from the economies of democratic countries which previously produces similar goods, resulting in increases in poverty and social problems (which in turn result in economic costs) in these countries.

Didn't "they" say this about Japan, when "made in Japan" was a joke about quality?

> Furthermore, the wages are so small for the factory (read: sweatshop) workers that many are malnourished (ie. they can't even afford 3 basic meals), and the conditions in the factories are appauling on many levels.

Not any more. Factories are new, clean and highly productive due to good working conditions. Most workers live in apartments built by the company, next door, so they can walk (or bicycle) to work. There is usually a hospital and school close by, also built by the company (the government is part of the ownership of every large company in China, often by Joint Venture).

Jeff
-------------------------------------------------


From: Somewhere out there... Hey, why are you logging my IP address? | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 05 January 2004 02:50 AM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
That must be why China maintains an internal passport system and, in effect, tolerates although does not openly discuss a de facto 10% unemployment rate.
From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
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posted 05 January 2004 11:19 AM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
in effect, tolerates although does not openly discuss a de facto 10% unemployment rate.

Really? That's no better than Capitalism. Where's the Worker's Paradise?


From: `,_,`,_,,_,, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
vickyinottawa
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posted 05 January 2004 11:23 AM      Profile for vickyinottawa   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
check out the Maquila Solidarity Network
From: lost in the supermarket | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 05 January 2004 04:13 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Magoo:
Really? That's no better than Capitalism. Where's the Worker's Paradise?

You must be confusing me for someone who actually likes the Chinese government.

You also must be confusing me for a die-hard Communist.

I am a die-hard socialist. Please to be noting this difference.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
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posted 05 January 2004 04:36 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
No, I'm not assuming you're a Commie Pinko or anything... but it's fer sure that there's someone or other that'll read this thread who probably never considered the possibility that unemployment could exist under anything but awful ol' capitalism. If it turns out that disease and hunger also exist under communism, I'd say communism's sunk.
From: `,_,`,_,,_,, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 05 January 2004 04:49 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
It should be noted, however, that people have been trumpeting the "conversion" of China into a capitalist society, although the process is excruciatingly slow, by rush-this-package Western standards, so it is no surprise that the Chinese government has learned the value of maintaining a nonzero unemployment rate in order to depress wages.
From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
radiorahim
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posted 05 January 2004 09:02 PM      Profile for radiorahim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The China Labour Bulletin based in Hong Kong is a good source of information about labour issues in China.

China Labour Bulletin

Since Deng Xiaoping, China has basically been turned into a gigantic sweatshop for western multinational corporations. The "iron rice bowl" is long gone.

And yes it would be true to say that the introduction of capitalism in China has created a new yuppy middle class that is doing very well.

But for many working class folks, conditions are not unlike those faced by turn of the century workers in North America.


From: a Micro$oft-free computer | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
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posted 06 January 2004 08:31 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The point is not that their lives are unpleasant. The point is whether or not they would be better off if all those factories closed their doors.
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DrConway
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posted 06 January 2004 09:44 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I just rolled my eyes so hard they hit the ceiling.
From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
'lance
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posted 06 January 2004 10:18 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
But Doc, don't you know that the development of a free-market society -- scratch that, of a free market, as there's no such thing as society -- is not only a desirable, but a natural and inevitable process, exactly analogous to the development of an organism? That in this process, there can never, by definition, be a time in which the lot of any worker is worse than it was earlier in the process? That -- always provided, of course, that all government and bureaucratic restrictions on the market are removed, and the sooner the better -- all will invariably be for the best in the best of all possible markets?
From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
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posted 06 January 2004 10:38 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
In my world, rolling eyes and sarcasm carry very little intellectual weight. That's why academics abandoned the usenet to cranks.

China is exporting goods and receiving much-needed capital in return. Literally hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of crushing poverty over the past twenty years. Before dismissing these results out of hand, it might be worth trying to come up with an even better policy.


From: . | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged
'lance
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posted 06 January 2004 10:55 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Condescension carries even less weight in my world, OC. (And the record of the historical Cromwell less still).

A better policy than sweated labour is free trade unions. But the suffering endured in sweatshops, by workers forbidden by law and organized violence from forming such unions, is too often airily dismissed, by academics and a good many others not actually subject to it, as a "necessary" part of the inevitable "transition" to a capitalist or market system. Such out-of-hand dismissals have been issued on a regular basis, in one form or another, for nigh upon two hundred years now.


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radiorahim
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posted 07 January 2004 01:32 AM      Profile for radiorahim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yes if China can "free the market"...then they can "free the labour movement" too.
From: a Micro$oft-free computer | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
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posted 07 January 2004 08:50 AM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Of course. And I have no problem with Chinese workers forming trade unions and trying to improve their conditions. It's just that these arguments tend to end up in demands to restrict imports from China.
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radiorahim
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posted 08 January 2004 02:31 AM      Profile for radiorahim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well I for one am not opposed to using trade as a means to apply pressure on China to move towards accepting ILO standards.
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Willowdale Wizard
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posted 24 March 2004 09:48 AM      Profile for Willowdale Wizard   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
actually, it's the low wages, not labour unions, that provoke people to say they are inable to compete with chinese manufacturing. it's what fuelled part of the edwards drive to be the democratic nominee.

with the sheer amount of manufacturing that has relocated to china (plus chinese foreign exchange reserves and US debt), there is a distinct chance that they will soon have the bargaining power against transnational capital to unionise much of the country. whether the communist government will allow that is a different matter.

quote:
Factories are new, clean and highly productive due to good working conditions. There is usually a hospital and school close by, also built by the company

good thing that there are hospitals near by ...

quote:
Accidents in mines and factories killed 11,449 people in the first nine months of 2003, despite a nationwide safety crackdown. The number of deaths in non-mining industries rose by 19.1 percent, to 5,203.

Some analysts blame the rise in accidents on China's shift to a market-style economy.

"Workers are working longer hours since state owned industries were privatised, and they have no knowledge of health and safety issues," said Han Dongfang, director of the China Labour Bulletin, based in Hong Kong.



From: england (hometown of toronto) | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged
UrsaMinor
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posted 24 March 2004 12:51 PM      Profile for UrsaMinor     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Tan'si,

I had the good fortune to be called a 'stupid foreign boy' by a factory owner in China, right after I recieved a tour of his factory. During the tour, I was not allowed into certain areas which were marked as 'unhealthy', however, there were lots of unprotected workers in there.
The factory owner told me that his people are going through the same industrial, social, and economic changes that North Americans went through 2-3 generations ago, when our grandfathers died of black lung, improper safety precautions and other work related illness. He said I should not judge China by North American standards, until China has reached a comparable level of technology that North America enjoys now. I would also add that North Americans shouldn't be too judgemental until they have come up with effective systems of governance for running a country of a billion people. You maybe surprised to find that the Canada you know today may look nothing like a Canada that has a population of a billion.

Another factory owner I spoke to, said that he once gave his employess 5 days off for Chinese New Years - two-thirds of his employees went out and got other jobs rather than take the holidays, many of his employees did not come back.

While China is run by a communist party, it definitly not the communism I was expecting (read: it didn't jive with the Cold War propaganda I was fed all through my youth), certainly not while I was ordering Pizza Hut in Guangjao.

The politicians in China are just like the politicians here, some are in for the good of the people, some are in it for themselves. The members of Communist party that I met honestly believed that if they filled the party with the best and brightest the party will do a good job of governing. They were not thinking of, how can I exploit the peseants? They were wondering, how can I make my country better.

While I did see a lot of problems in China - economic, social and political - I also see a lot of problems in Canada. I can buy a dime-bag of whatever and 17-year-old hooker two blocks from the Canadian Parliament buildings.
If you think the Canadian government is beyond Chairman Mao-like programs, I suggest you take a good look at how our government treats First Nations - a people with little to no democracy in Canada and who are at the mercy of the appointed Minister of Indian Affairs.


From: Canada | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Anonymous
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posted 26 March 2004 06:16 AM      Profile for Mr. Anonymous     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Oops, looks like I forgot to thank those who linked sites re. my question. My appologies, and belated thanks.

It seems to me that if those working in low-level positions in these factories are making only enough to live on, and sometimes not even that (enough for two small meals a day, but not three), that any benefit accrued is going solely to the wealthy factory owners and a few management personelle native to the country in question. If the money is being sucked away from those losing their jobs in more industrialized nations to this 1% of people, how much is it actually helping the people of the country/world as a whole, especially if pollution and disease results from unsafe conditions? How many goods/services will this 1% or so of people buy, how much of this will "trickle down" in any country, and how much of the rest will end up in Swiss bank accounts, doing no good for anyone? For more on this, check these threads here: http://www.rabble.ca/babble/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic&f=3&t=001073 (on the real main cause of unemployment) and here http://www.rabble.ca/babble/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic&f=3&t=001074 (on the real main cause of inflation, closely linked to unemployment in the IMHO warped understanding of our esteemed Federal govt.

It seems to me that it would be simple enough to buy goods and materials only from countries that ensured safe conditions and a decent wage (relative to the individual country in question), if only we had the will to do so, either on a personal or national level. Perhaps education is the key?

The invasion and ongoing occupation of Tibet is truly a disgrace, as is Canada's historical and current treatment of native peoples. I would encourage anyone at all interested in human rights and ethical shopping to look into these tragic ongoing events.


From: Somewhere out there... Hey, why are you logging my IP address? | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged
UrsaMinor
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posted 26 March 2004 07:54 PM      Profile for UrsaMinor     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Tan'si,

I think the cell phone has great potential to change China. It is a piece of technology that is cheap enough for many middle-class Chinese to afford and it over comes the challenge of trying to make expensive land calls from cities that only have a few lines to connect them. It also taps into strong cultural factors such as keeping family close and what First Nations call, the moccasin telegraph. With cell phone, China can no longer keep one portion of its population ignorant of the benefits of the Chinese enjoy.
At a very modern computer factory I toured, Legend computers, the staff were brought in from the poorer western provinces, to the closer-to-seaway eastern provinces. The factory, like the majority of the factories in China, had dormatories and cafeterias. Staff were not encouraged to talk to the better educated locals who wouldn't work at the factory. Due to the modernity of this paticular factory it also had restaurants, a golf course and and staff entertainment facilities. If I remember correctly the low end staff made $300Cdn a month. The could be docked for a third of their pay if they were caught sleeping at work. The Chinese have an afternoon Siesta period.
I also went to a clothing factory, I expected a sweat shop, but found a fastidiously clean, well lighted, non-back-breaking work environment. The staff were paid the best of all the factories I went to, because the were considered skilled labour (staff I talked to made $1000Cdn a month). This is the factory where the owner gave the staff the holidays and they just went out and found other jobs. The owner told me many workers come to his factory, work for 10-15 years and then move back to their home communites to live middle-class lives. This is probably possible due to the ability to live really economically in China. They are treated better because they are also in the ocean-side provinces where there is media bleed and they demand what Hong Kong has. It is in the provinces near the ocean where you find Pizza Huts and KFC. SOOOooo, to get back to my original point, I think cell phones are good for China.


From: Canada | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
UrsaMinor
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posted 26 March 2004 09:56 PM      Profile for UrsaMinor     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Tan'si,

I have to apologize, I went back and looked at my notes and I shouldn't have put Cdn behind the wage figures.

From my notes:

Legend Computer starting staff: 350RMB ($70Cdn per month)
Clothing factory: 1000RMB ($200Cdn)

A Coca-cola was 3RMB.

In China, when they say 'sausage' expect weiner.


From: Canada | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged

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