China’s Labour Strikes

China on strike

By James Griffiths, CNN, March 29, 2016
Read the full article here.

Country in revolt
From 2011 to 2013, China Labor Bulletin (CLB), a Hong Kong-based workers’ rights group, recorded around 1,200 strikes and protests across the country. In 2014 alone, there were more than 1,300 incidents. The following year, that number rose to over 2,700 — more than one a day in Guangdong province — a pattern that has continued into 2016. A glance at the map of incidents shows no province of China unaffected by strikes or worker protests, a far sight from the image of technocratic control and permanent growth that the ruling Communist Party likes to present to the world. “The fundamental cause has been the systematic failure of employers to respect the basic rights of employees, such as being paid on time and receiving their legally mandated benefits, and the failure of local government officials to enforce labor law,” according to CLB. With protests already at record rates according to CLB, Beijing is preparing for a mass-downsizing of China’s bloated state-owned industries, beginning with the laying off of more than 1.8 million steel and coal workers. The government has promised to allocate up to 100 billion yuan ($15.4 billion) in two years to help laid-off workers find new employment, according to state media. While some strikes — generally those involving foreign companies, such as a September 2014 walkout involving more than 10,000 workers at an Apple supplier in Dongguan — are widely reported, most go largely unreported outside their immediate areas, with information only seeping out later via human rights monitors and activist groups.

Worst to come?
While the economic slowdown saw 2015 become a banner year for worker protests, it may seem just a blip compared to what is to come, as Beijing prepares to cut millions of jobs across multiple state-owned industries. With millions of more jobs on the line, according to Reuters, the restructuring would be the most significant reform of the state sector since the late 1990s and early 2000s, at which time 28 million workers were laid off and the government paid out more than 73 billion yuan ($11.2 billion) in severance packages.

China: Strikes and protest numbers jump 20%

Financial Times, Hudson Lockett, July 14, 2016
Read the full article here.

Strikes and protests in China during the first half of 2016 rose almost 20 per cent compared to a year earlier as an early boom in construction-sector unrest gave way to sustained growth in collective action by workers in transportation….

The geographic spread of worker action also continued as the manufacturing nexus of Guangdong, a long-time hotbed for strikes and protests, was joined by the coastal provinces of Shandong and Jiangsu as well as the inland province of Henan in witnessing more than 100 incidents over the last six months.

Further inland, the relatively more-developed province of Sichuan wasn’t far behind. Together with 26 other administrative regions they brought the national average per region to 46.6 in H1 2016, a marked increase from the average of 39.5 a year prior.




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Globalization in Retreat: The Case of Free Trade

By Bob Davis and Jon Hilsenrath
Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2017.

“After World War II, the global economy rose on a wave of trade and finance, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in developing countries and providing rich countries with cheaper goods, lucrative investments and hopes for a more peaceful planet.

“That tide is now receding.

“Nine years after the financial crisis, global trade is barely growing when compared with overall economic output. Cross-border bank lending is down sharply, as are international capital flows. Immigration in the U.S. and Western Europe faces a deepening public backlash.

“Nationalist politicians are on the ascent. On Wednesday, the U.K. formally started proceedings to remove itself from the European Union. In the U.S., President Donald Trump pulled out of a Pacific trade pact on his first working day in the Oval Office, declaring, ‘Great thing for the American worker, what we just did.’

“For traditional economists, globalization is a pathway to prosperity. Rooted in the works of Adam Smith in 1776 and David Ricardo in 1817, the classical canon has embraced the idea that trade is the basis of wealth, because it makes nations more efficient by allowing each to specialize at what its workers do best.

“Few of them fully grasped globalization’s downsides in a modern economy. Tying together disparate nations economically also expanded the labor pool globally, pitting workers in wealthy nations against poorly paid ones in developing nations. That greatly boosted the fortunes of the world’s poor, but also created a backlash in the U.S. and Europe. At the same time, freeing financial flows led to debilitating financial excesses that ended in crisis.”

Posted in globalization | Tagged ,

How Wealthy Donors Drive Aggressive Foreign Policy

How Wealthy Donors Drive Aggressive Foreign Policy
As the influence of high-dollar donors grows, so too will our bellicosity.
By Sean McElwee, Brian Schaffner and Jesse Rhodes

From: The Nation, March 1, 2017

The enthusiasm of the most wealthy and influential private actors in American politics provides a durable reservoir of support for the assertion of American power abroad….

“elite donors” and wealthy Americans are more supportive of American military spending than are ordinary Americans. When requested to indicate whether they preferred to balance the federal budget primarily through cuts to defense spending, domestic spending cuts, or tax increases, 42 percent of American adults indicated that they preferred defense cuts. But only 25 percent of elite donors, and 36 percent of wealthy Americans, preferred that route….

“Elite donors” and the wealthy are noticeably more likely to support a military intervention to prevent genocide (50 percent and 51 percent, respectively) compared to the general public (40 percent). And elite donors and wealthy Americans are also much more likely to express support for military interventions to destroy terrorist training camps. Sixty-four percent of American adults supported this hypothetical; but 80 percent of “elite donors” and 76 percent of wealthy Americans did….

we found that elite donors and wealthy Americans are more likely to express support for military interventions to ensure the American oil supply. While just 25 percent of American adults expressed support for such interventions, 35 percent of elite donors did, and nearly half (48 percent) of Republican elite donors did….

Recent scholarship on representation in politics strongly suggests that large donors and wealthy Americans exercise disproportionate influence on politicians, and that this bias is most notable on matters of national security and foreign policy. One reason that this might occur is that Americans feel less confident in judging debates over foreign interventions and often defer to elites on such matters, especially during conflicts….

Political scientists Matt Grossmann and William Isaac also found the wealthy are more likely to favor of “international intervention, international institutions, foreign aid, and trade agreement, and policy prefers their preferences.” They also assert the place where the wealthy have the most disproportionate impact is on foreign policy: “affluent support for foreign policy proposals without average support leads to a very high adoption rate (69 percent) compared to foreign policy proposals with only average citizen support (38 percent).”


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Americanization, from a European Perspective

Renato Carosone: “Tu Vuò Fa’ L’Americano” (Naples, Italy, 1956)

Rammstein: “Amerika” (Germany, 2004)

Posted in anti-globalization

Defending Globalization (but now with some reservations)

Fareed Zakaria has an article titled, “In defense of globalization,” which even with its stated aim is not the standard sort of endorsement of globalization to which we grew accustomed in the 1990s. Note the instances where he recognizes that at least some of the criticisms of globalization are valid, but others also miss the mark. Also note that in discussing wealth generated from the increase in global trade, he says “nations” when speaking of who benefits, not specific classes. Aside from that, what stands out in particular was this passage, containing the kind of message and details that have been generally suppressed by the mainstream US media over the past two decades:

“It took a Chinese billionaire to speak frankly on this topic. Jack Ma, the founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, estimated that over the last three decades the U.S. government spent $14.2 trillion fighting 13 wars. That money could easily have been invested in America, building infrastructure and creating jobs. ‘You’re supposed to spend money on your own people,’he said. ‘It’s not [that] the other countries steal jobs from you guys — it is your strategy.’He pointed out that globalization produced massive profits for the American economy but much of that money ended up on Wall Street. ‘And what happened? Year 2008. The financial crisis wiped out $19.2 trillion [in the] USA alone. … What if the money [was] spent on the Midwest of the United States developing the industry there?’ “

Continue reading here.

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Pan-Am, TWA, and Coca-Cola: Visions of Globalization

The significance of these videos will be explained and contextualized in class during the second part of Session 1.

Pan-Am (technology and globalization):

Pan-Am (diaspora, culture):

Pan-Am (recognizing economic stress, sustaining consumption with credit):

Coca-Cola (teach the world to sing):

Coca-Cola (on the move, with TWA):

Posted in globalization | Tagged , ,

Three articles from The Atlantic in the 1990s, presenting critiques of globalization

With relevance to the first sessions of this course, here are three articles from the 1990s presenting perspectives critical of globalization, in the The Atlantic Monthly.

(1) “The Voice of Economic Nationalism,” by Eyal Press
Extract: “In part one of The Great Betrayal, Buchanan attempts to show that free trade is turning America into “two nations”: an elite of professionals “prospering beyond their dreams,” and a mass of workers suffering “middle-class anxiety, downsized hopes, and vanished dreams.” The book opens with Buchanan touring Acadia Parish, Louisiana, in the heart of Catholic Cajun country, where a Fruit of the Loom plant recently closed, while the company opened two new factories in Mexico. “Who killed that plant?” Buchanan asks, pointing a finger at “both parties.” To illustrate the need for tariffs, he provides a chart showing that since the early 1970s, as America’s duties on imports have fallen, workers’ average weekly earnings have plummeted, creating an entire nation of Acadias….”

(2) “Jihad vs. McWorld,” by Benjamin R. Barber
Extract: “The tendencies of what I am here calling the forces of Jihad and the forces of McWorld operate with equal strength in opposite directions, the one driven by parochial hatreds, the other by universalizing markets, the one re-creating ancient subnational and ethnic borders from within, the other making national borders porous from without. They have one thing in common: neither offers much hope to citizens looking for practical ways to govern themselves democratically. If the global future is to pit Jihad’s centrifugal whirlwind against McWorld’s centripetal black hole, the outcome is unlikely to be democratic—or so I will argue.”

(3) “How the World Works,” by James Fallows
Extract: “Americans persist in thinking that Adam Smith’s rules for free trade are the only legitimate ones. But today’s fastest-growing economies are using a very different set of rules. Once, we knew them—knew them so well that we played by them, and won. Now we seem to have forgotten.”

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Aid in reverse: how poor countries develop rich countries

Aid in reverse: how poor countries develop rich countries, was published in The Guardian on January 14, 2017, and was written by Jason Hickel. In that article, among other things we learn the following (follow the links to the original reports):

The US-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and the Centre for Applied Research at the Norwegian School of Economics recently published some fascinating data. They tallied up all of the financial resources that get transferred between rich countries and poor countries each year: not just aid, foreign investment and trade flows (as previous studies have done) but also non-financial transfers such as debt cancellation, unrequited transfers like workers’ remittances, and unrecorded capital flight (more of this later). As far as I am aware, it is the most comprehensive assessment of resource transfers ever undertaken.

What they discovered is that the flow of money from rich countries to poor countries pales in comparison to the flow that runs in the other direction.

In 2012, the last year of recorded data, developing countries received a total of $1.3tn, including all aid, investment, and income from abroad. But that same year some $3.3tn flowed out of them. In other words, developing countries sent $2tn more to the rest of the world than they received. If we look at all years since 1980, these net outflows add up to an eye-popping total of $16.3tn – that’s how much money has been drained out of the global south over the past few decades….

What this means is that the usual development narrative has it backwards. Aid is effectively flowing in reverse. Rich countries aren’t developing poor countries; poor countries are developing rich ones.

Read further here.


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About This Course News Page

Whenever a significant item of current news appears that is directly relevant to this course, or if publications, reports, and documents of relevance are published during the time the course is being offered, then a link and short extract will be posted here. This is done merely to enhance the information supplied to students who may be interested in specific topics. Nothing that appears here will be “required reading” for students.

Posted in Uncategorized