Change has added a lot of new words to the Mandarin vocabulary, and the most ominous is “guolaosi,” or death from over-working.
Although China is ostensibly still a communist country, independent trade unions are banned here and every night 200 million Chinese workers go to bed in overcrowded dormitory rooms after working 15- to 18-hour days in Dickensian factories. And their lot is likely to get worse before it gets any better.
Cheap labor — along with market reforms, disdain for intellectual rights, disregard for the environment and cheap capital from state-controlled banks — is what has allowed China to offer global investors a unique combination of 19th-century business practices and 21st-century infrastructure that has attracted more than $800 billion in investment since 1979. [Full Text]