Tell the Chinese Government to stop the oppression of labor activists! What a joke of “socialist” country. The Chinese state controlled unions do nothing for workers, and when workers try to actually better the conditions of their fellow human, they suddenly “commit suicide” and their bodies are rushed away. It’s defacto support for countries like these that is part of the reason I no longer associate with certain groups on the left (*cough*CPUSA*cough*).
Two days after the 23rd anniversary of the June 4th Massacre, Li Wangyang, a labour activist since the 1980s, was found dead in a hospital in which he was being detained, in Shaoyang City of Hunan Province. The police claimed that it was a suicide and forcibly took his body away. Li’s family is not convinced by the police version and requests an investigation into his death. However, the Chinese Government disregarded the public concern and cremated Li’s body. Just a few days before his mysterious death, Li gave an interview to a Hong Kong television station, publicly criticizing the Chinese government for oppressing dissidents. Many believe that his death could be retaliation by the authorities. Li Wangyang’s fate is shared by many dissidents in China. The Chinese government has a long tradition of outlawing labour activists and brutally cracking down on their actions. According to the ITUC/GUF Hong Kong Liaison Office’s information, at least 36 labour activists are imprisoned, due to their involvement in organising strikes, protests or independent workers’ organisations. This figure is just the tip of the iceberg, as many of them are detained without any legal proceeding or simply cracked down by the police. Very often, their stories are never heard. We call upon the international labour unions and civil society to show us solidarity, by joining us in sending this message to the Chinese government.
osted on May 18, 2012 by paulgarver
China Labour Bulletin
On 8 May, around 1,000 shoe factory workers in Dongguan walked out in protest at management plans to cut their monthly bonus from the usual 500 yuan to just 100 yuan. Management refused to talk so one worker posted their grievances on his micro-blog.
China Labour Bulletin contacted the worker and posted an account of the strike on our microblog. This story was then retweeted more than 50 times within the hour and soon five reporters had gathered outside the factory gate demanding to know what was going on. They were refused entry but the very next day the management, under pressure from local government officials to make the story go away, agreed to increase the workers’ bonus to 300 yuan and the strikers returned to work.
While the international media in the last few months has been understandably focused on Wang Lijun, Bo Xilai and Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese media continues to cover the burgeoning workers’ movement in China. And this media attention itself is helping to drive the movement.
A glance at China Labour Bulletin’s new interactive strike map clearly shows how strikes have increased over the last six months, and how these disputes have expanded across different sectors and encompass a broadening range of issues. In March, for example, a sudden increase in the price of fuel led to an upsurge in strikes by bus and taxi drivers. The following month, the manufacturing sector once again took centre stage as workers protested low pay and plans by their employer to relocate, merge or downsize.
The growing number of strikes has prompted a lively debate on the key issues currently plaguing labour relations in China. The journal Collective Bargaining Research for example focused on a particularly emblematic dispute at the Korean-owned LG factory in Nanjing. The large-scale strike illustrated all the problems inherent in the current ad hoc model for resolving labour disputes in China in which an isolated incident leads to employees walking out, management panicking and threatening to sack workers unless they return to work and local government and trade union officials rushing to the scene in an effort to “maintain stability.”
The writers pointed out that labour relations at the LG factory were generally quite good and that the losses incurred on all sides as a result of the strike, including the sacking of several dozen workers, could have been avoided if a formal system of collective bargaining had been in place.
To put these recent developments in perspective, CLB published in late March a research report that shows how demographic shifts combined with economic growth and social change over the last decade have given China’s workers more bargaining power, and how a younger, better educated, more aspirational workforce that is more aware of its legal rights has learnt to use that bargaining power to its advantage. Workers are not only more confident in their ability to organize strikes and protests, they are increasingly willing to sit down with their employer and negotiate a settlement on behalf of their co-workers. Indeed, in some factories, workers have already established an embryonic system of collective bargaining.
A Decade of Change: The Workers’ Movement in China 2000-2010 is now available as a downloadable PDF.
Almost everyone I know owns something made by Apple, and while most of us spend a fair bit of time obsessing about our gadgets—which apps are worth paying for? Is Siri useful or annoying?—rarely do we talk about where they came from. In part, that’s because Apple wants it that way: The company is famously tight-lipped about its manufacturing process, and few outsiders have ever made it into their factories.
But now, Apple’s tough facade has finally begun to crack: Recent coverage (more on this below) has provided a glimpse into Apple’s vast supply chain and the massive profits it produces—more than $400,000 for every employee, according to a New York Times investigation. Here at Mother Jones, we’ve got a somewhat related investigation in the pipeline—come back in a few weeks for the details. Meanwhile, my colleague Dave Gilson made this handy tool.
We’ve loaded this iPhone up with 10 apps you won’t find on a real smart phone. Click on an app to learn where your phone’s electronic components really came from.
President Barack Obama blew a kiss to Apple in last night’s State of the Union speech, praising the entrepreneurial spirit of its founder, the late Steve Jobs, as the cameras panned to his widow in the audience.
Obama’s timing couldn’t be weirder. In the last month, Apple has released a damning audit that found almost 100 of its supplier factories force more than half their workers to exceed a 60-hour week. The company announced responsibility for aluminum dust explosions in Chinese supplier factories that killed four workers and injured 77. Hundreds more in China have been injured cleaning iPad screens with a chemical that causes nerve damage.
I’ve been wondering about this being a possibility. The DPRK is so ridiculously poor, and so very strange. I recently watched the Nat Geo documentary on North Korea, it was amazing. The thing is, even if there was a Deng reformer around, it would only mean an improved economy, they would still have a complete totalitarian state.
Probably not under Kim Jong Un, but a Deng Xiaoping-style reformer could be around the corner
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gestures to several generals / Reuters
Not too long ago, a communist despot dominating a closed, nuclear-armed country died. His death caused an outpouring of grief within his society, where his cult of personality was all-encompassing. This despot was replaced by his handpicked successor, who had little experience and was unknown to the outside world. The successor was acclaimed by the people and the party and rapidly assumed all of the top positions and titles.
I’m not referring to recent events in North Korea. The despot in question was Mao Zedong, who died in 1976. The similarities between then and now, China and North Korea, are striking.
On September 9, 1976, the closing of an era came when Mao, who had ruled China since the 1949 revolution he led, succumbed to various illnesses. Mao had always resisted naming a successor for fear of being overshadowed while still alive. Candidates who did emerge such as Liu Shaoqi or Lin Biao met with grisly ends. Future paramount leader Deng Xiaoping spent four years exiled in remote Jiangxi Province as Mao constantly vacillated between the need for competent leadership after his death and his desire to keep down anyone who might outshine him.
Mao’s solution came in the form of Hua Guofeng, a regional nabob from Hunan Province. Hua had neither international experience nor a power base in Beijing and posed no threat. After all, he would be completely reliant on Mao for his legitimacy. In 1973, Hua was hastily elevated to the Politburo and only became firmly established as Mao’s successor mere months before the leader’s death. Sound familiar?
The aura of Mao protected Hua’s position for a few years. As party discipline required, Hua was acclaimed as leader and showered with praise and titles. Owing everything to Mao, Hua confidently proclaimed his “Two Whatevers” policy: “We will resolutely uphold whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made and unswervingly follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave.” But the ground rapidly shifted beneath his feet as other Chinese leaders realized the colossal scale of Mao’s failures. Despite retaining many of his titles, Hua was muscled out of real power by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 and died in obscurity as China celebrated the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Deng would go on to usher in China’s storied economic opening and transform the country.
Is Kim Jong-un the next Hua Guofeng? If so, could a North Korean Deng Xiaoping and subsequent reform be just around the corner?
The new Kim suffers from the same drawbacks that doomed Hua. He has no independent power base. His military support is not deep. And, unlike Hua, who was at least a competent party official before his elevation, Kim Jong-un has no political experience to speak of. Unless North Korea’s generals have bought into the infallibility of the Kim brand, it is nothing short of fantastical to assume that this pudgy neophyte will be able to navigate the treacherous straits of Communist Party politics. The vigorous affirmations of the army, their pledges of loyalty, and the rush to titles are a sham and belie the fundamental weakness of Kim Jong Eun’s true power position. Hua Guofeng had titles too. He was the only person in the history of the People’s Republic to hold simultaneously the top three posts of party chairman, premier and chairman of the Central Military Commission. The experience of Hua should be instructive: titles matter only as much as the institutions they represent. In a nation like North Korea today or China in 1976 where institutions are immature, don’t expect an ambitious general to show deference to any leader on the basis of titles alone.
Of course, Kim will remain physically unharmed throughout his undoing. Like Hua, his position as “the chosen one” will insulate him from the worst of Stalinist purging. Indeed, his bodily safety is especially critical since (in full Louis XIV fashion) he is the state. The cult of personality that envelopes him has inexorably fused the fate of the Kim family with that of North Korea. There could never be any form of public Khrushchev-style renunciation as it would undermine the very raison d’être of the state itself.
However, the absence of public friction should not lead us to believe that serious disagreements do not exist in private. If the Chinese model is any guide, the question of reforms has most likely been simmering for years, waiting for an opening like the one provided by Kim Jong-il’s death.
A North Korean opening in the near future is probable for two reasons. First, it can be done. When Deng initiated his reforms in 1978, he was grasping in the dark. It wasn’t known how market economics would affect the communist monopoly on power. In 2012, the verdict of history seems clear. China’s three decades of economic growth and relative political stability have embarrassed more than a few Western Cassandras. If North Korea were to engage in a Chinese-style opening, it would have the entire Chinese experience as a road map, as well as an eager mentor and trading partner.
Second, Chinese pressure for an opening has increased powerfully in the last few years and likely will intensify with the new leadership. In his twilight, Kim Jong-il took numerous trips to China, and he wasn’t just visiting the Great Wall. He was there to see the fruits of China’s economic miracle. Beijing would stand to gain the most from a North Korean economic opening. Access to markets, cheap labor and investment opportunities are all tantalizingly within grasp just beyond the Yalu River. China would also benefit from the stability of having its neighbor not perennially on the brink of bankruptcy and famine.
Who could play the role of Deng? The most obvious candidates are those dubbed by The Economist “the troika of regents.” They are Kim Jong Eun’s aunt Kim Kyong-hui, her husband Jang Song-taek, and Army Chief of Staff General Ri Yong-ho. Their conspicuous presence behind the new king attests to their potential role in shaping the future. But there is room for skepticism.
At the time of Hua Guofeng’s elevation to the top job, Deng Xiaoping had been stripped of all leadership posts within the party and had come within a hair’s breadth of being expelled. Hua too had “guides,” such as Marshal Ye Jianying and Wang Dongxing, Maoists who helped him solidify his position. Though Deng had previously been in positions of prominence, few could have predicted his Phoenix-like return to power in 1977. In assessing North Korea’s future, we should be mindful of how little we know. If there is a North Korean reformer waiting in the wings, he may still be invisible to us now, like Deng was in 1976.
North Korea isn’t likely to collapse anytime soon. Too many actors, foreign and domestic, have vested interests in preventing that. Nor will North Korea face an internal rebellion such as those presently convulsing the Middle East. North Korea’s communication and transport systems are too primitive for effective mass mobilization. Democratic reform will also remain an “End of History” liberal pipe dream. The Chinese economic model should serve as abundant evidence that economic reform and political reform do not necessarily go hand in hand. Yet despite these factors, which would seem to favor stagnancy, change could be afoot. If history does indeed repeat itself, North Korea could be moving toward a new era.
This article originally appeared at NationalInterest.org, an Atlantic partner site.
6 people have the equivalent wealth of 30% of the population, or 93,000,000 people. They did nothing to earn that money, other than being related to Sam Walton. All they’ve done is ensure that Wal-Mart keeps a culture of poverty wages, union busting, unpaid overtime, and sexism. Aside from paying low wages here, they ramp up the race to the bottom by filling their store with products made with near slave labor from China.
Click the link for some Rachel Maddow goodness via MoveOn.org
If China Attacks America (JUST IMAGINE)
Unfortunately this is a Ron Paul campaign add, but it is damn good. Well done, and a good point, but Ron Paul the racist can go fuck himself.
THUNDER BAY – There appears to be another possible bump on the road for Ontario, regarding the “Ring of Fire”. Queen’s Park will squander huge potential benefits of the so-called “Ring of Fire” mining discovery in the James Bay lowlands if it allows the lion’s share of raw materials to be siphoned off and sent to China for refining, says the head of Teamsters Canada Rail Conference Maintenance of Way Employees.
“A senior executive of Cliffs Natural Resources told CBC news this week that it plans to ship much of the raw chromite to Asia for refining and will seek an exemption to the Ontario Mining Act because the law prevents materials mined in Ontario being refined outside Canada,” says William Brehl, president of the union representing maintenance workers on several short line railways in Northern Ontario that may carry Ring of Fire minerals.
Our Northern neighbors are taking a cue from our bosses: Bust the union, and send as much work to slave labor China as possible.