From Le Monde diplomatique, via international post blog:
China, with its unique mix of authoritarian government and rampant capitalism, is often portrayed as a fast-growing and malignant cancer that threatens the rest of the world’s economies. But the reality is far more complex. China is struggling with mass migration, skills shortages and millions of unemployed graduates.
China and its teeming armies of workers seem to have become the focus of all our economic anxieties. We worry that the People’s Republic will become the chief demon in a futur nightmare for our world: a capitalist-communist global power that combines leftwing authoritarianism with capitalist exploitation. We fear that our own people will become unemployed because of the outsourcing of production to China, the world’s workshop.
But we have to think about Chinese labour differently, and not concentrate solely on the workshop aspect of the economy. We need to take account of a disparate, sometimes contradictory mix of economic, political and cultural elements. The labour-intensive industries with their industrial revolution exploitation affect only a fraction of China’s enormous population. They cannot function on their own without interconnecting with other types of labour.
……There are few hard facts about Chinese labour. Surveys are infrequent and fragmentary and the categories used in official statistics are rarely reliable. The labour force is used according to political/economic thinking primarily motivated by stability. The existence of a state-aided sector limits competition between urban and migrant workers.
The state is able to keep part of the population in the countryside by maintaining a traditional sector of activity there, while restricting the flow to the cities. Modern jobs being developed in sectors such as telecommunications, finance and advertising provide jobs for some children of former state workers left by the wayside following the restructuring of state enterprises. The government enables these young people, who will fill future, or existing, employment needs, to join the workforce and work their way up to more sophisticated production. ‚Ä®‚Ä®This would not be possible with a fully centralised and all-knowing labour management policy which would result in growing unrest. The police are likely to have a different point of view of social stability in relation to migrant living conditions than would cadres in charge of economic policies or social security management, or ideological chiefs and the official unions. These potential differences of opinion provide opportunities for action by associations defending the rights of migrants. They can explain that the best strategy is to show local government and bosses that a well-treated workforce is both more efficient and more stable. This would gain them the support of many trade unionists who hope that the present conflicts between workers and private-sector bosses will make their movement legitimate. As one explained: “Opposing the illegal actions of capitalists does not mean opposing government policy. On the contrary, it means upholding the law.” [Full Text]‚Ä®