One step forward, another step back.
I want China to be a strong nation — look what happened to it when it wasn't. Never again do I want to see it on its knees, wracked by famine, torn apart by civil war, having chunks bitten out of it by every nasty imperial power that wants a bit of the action. Never again do I want to see signs saying, "No Dogs or Chinamen" in its own land, or wars forcing its people to take opium, or beheading contests of its civilians held by fascist invaders. This is a sentiment felt by most Chinese, for many of whom these events exist in living memory.
But China has to be strong in spirit, not just in might. Remember Spider-Man: with great power comes great responsibility. China once held the idea that all its people should share in its good fortune (and, in a spirit of internationalism, hoped that the rest of the world would rise on the same tide). So it is deeply frustrating to learn, following the encouraging news that China is allowing the Honda strike at four plants to take its course unimpeded by the state, that there's another strike where 20 women cotton mill workers in Henan have been detained by police.
The China Labour Bulletin reports:
The strikers have four basic demands: That employees get a fair share of the proceeds from the restructuring of the enterprise and the sale of assets; that holiday pay and bonuses conform with the provisions of the Labour Law: that wages (especially for front line workers) be increased and that workers get paid annual leave; and that elderly and infirm workers be allowed to retire early on a basic subsistence allowance.
Seems a pretty fair group of demands in a country set to be the new superpower and where a tiny stratum of lucky bleeders are rolling in untold riches.
China has lifted 600 million people out of absolute poverty. But every yin has its yang. In this Golden Age, reminiscent of America at the end of the 19th century, there are also (at the last count) 6,000 yuan billionaires, many of whom are the children of the bureaucrats who once ran the state assets now in private hands. Princesses ride around in Lamborghinis decked out in the style of Hello Kitty (yum! Classy!) in futuristic cities that have sprung up overnight, so I think the communists could chuck a bit more wedge the workers' way.
Not that the West can crow. Microsoft have been treating one set of teenagers as slave labour so they can provide amusement for another set of teenagers with production of the Xbox. And it took a damaging barrage of negative press over the spate of suicides at the Foxconn factory that services Apple for Steve Jobs to agree a thirty percent rise in wages, whatever he may say about the factory being "pretty nice".
I've said it before and I'll say it again: capitalism in all forms is destructive. Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man, and Communism is the exact opposite. In post-millennial China, they've managed to combine the two.
Meanwhile, it's June 4th ... er, May 35th. I do believe that there is an anniversary today. Jamie on "incident recalled". He also found this fascinating item illustrating the cat and mouse game between authorities and dissidents.
UPDATE: Renegade Eye informs us the Honda workers have returned to work but named today as a deadline for agreement to their demands.
UPDATE 2: Newsweek: " ... Lee Chang-hee, at Beijing's International Labor Office, predicts that unions and collective bargaining are inevitably going to become part of China's landscape, driving up wages." "'We used to think it was some version of the American Dream—liberalize, open up, grow. But then you had your crisis. We can say, it proves we're strong. But where do we go now?'"