Monday, February 23, 2009

Migrants, the NYT, and social stability

The New York Times has another piece on the potential for migrant unrest in China this year. While there are clearly many migrants out of work, all this reporting on migrants as a brewing pot of discontent is starting to get on my nerves. Nowhere in the piece does Andrew Jacobs quote any migrants who are actually angry, or even talking about stirring up trouble. The strongest quote probably comes from Tan Liangsheng, a 52 year-old man who lost his construction job. "We have no savings," Jacobs quotes Tan as saying. "All our hard work and bitterness is invested in this house." The piece quotes an academic saying that these guys have very low expectations, and makes the fair point that there is little land for many to go back to. But what Jacobs misses is that the migrants he interviews don't seem to be angry - that there is a real gap between what the government is saying and what he is hearing in his interviews. Sure, these migrants are worried. But they're not angry, not now. All this talk of migrants as potential sources for unrest makes me think back to the old discussion of migrants as the floating population, creating problems for people in the cities. For more on this, see Dorothy Solinger's excellent book, Contesting Citizenship in Urban China. Totally unrelated to this, check out this piece on my recent speech at the University of Delaware. (Picture courtesy of via Flickr)

C-SPAN's Washington Journal

I can't bear to watch it (who likes watching themselves on television?) but if you're interested, you can watch me take calls from around America about "the China price" and what it means to all of us here. On the right side of the page, there is a box that says "Watch" - click there and it will call up a screen. Yikes!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Adorable Grace, Fox News and more

Back in Hong Kong, I am slowly posting links from my trip to the US. I will post my testimony before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission shortly, but for now, click here for the press release and federal register notice. Click here for my appearance on Fox News radio. The very cute Grace Manalo (see the photo I snagged from her blog) blogged about my speech here. Back in Hong Kong talking to people, I'm struck by the amount of uncertainty that is stalking every industry I encounter. With so many surprises in the last six months, everyone is reluctant to commit, whether it is buying advertising space or placing a large order with a Chinese factory. That can't be good for business, whether you're an investor or a steel maker or anyone else.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

China Price on the radio

Do you live in Fort Myers, Florida, Hartford, Connecticut, Minnesota or Tulsa? If so, tune in this morning to hear me talk about Chinese factories. I'll be doing a series of radio interviews starting in the next few minutes on stations like WGUF, WHJX, and KFAQ, which you can probably pick up later online. I'll put it all on the calendar below as well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What is "good value"?

I'll blog a bit about my testimony before Congress today later on, but the University of Delaware paper has already posted their article about my speech on campus there last night (hard to believe that was only 24 hours ago). I spoke to a full house about what "good value" really means, and whether the prices we expect to pay for our everyday products are now too low. Read the article here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Everything in moderation

I'm in Ann Arbor, Michigan to give a speech at the University of Michigan and it's certainly a thought-provoking place to be. Kyle, the kind man who picked me up from the airport, is a former designer for GM who was laid off three years ago when his job was moved to Mexico. Before my speech last night, a man walked up to me and told me he had just been laid off as a business development executive at University Bank. No wonder so many people turned up for the food and drink at the reception beforehand! As I've been preparing my Congressional testimony, I've been thinking about my earlier post about what China needs to do, and actually, I think we should give Beijing credit for paying attention to the needs of workers - retraining, loans - in the middle of this economic downturn. Talking to workers, they're not angry, at least not the ones I'm meeting. They have very positive views of the government, and are strangely optimistic about their own prospects. I think living in such insecurity for so long - not ever knowing where their next job might be - has better prepared them for this downturn than Americans accustomed to a steady job with benefits. (Photo credit: Flickr,

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

China's migrants and 毎日新聞

I'm just back from Bejiing, where everyone is very concerned about China's 26 million unemployed migrant workers. More to come, but I will say this: instead of temporary handouts, China needs to help create long-term job opportunities outside the factories for these hard-working people. It's not just that many have lost or sold their land. These workers have been an engine of economic growth for China for the past 20 years, but still have too few options beyond factory work. They need education and retraining, which the Chinese government has acknowledged. They also need security, in the form of a social safety net - another point Beijing has sagely realized. Most of all, they need to be treated equally to China's permanent urban residents. They must not be treated as second-class citizens. 日本語が読める方、毎日新聞の「中国貧困絶望工場」についての記事はこちらにあります。