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Causes and Consequences of Sweat Shop Labor in Post Mao Era

By hyuneekim May 01, 2013 771 Words
Causes and Consequences of Sweat Shop Labor in Post Mao China Hyun Jung Kim and Khalil Campbell

The film China Blue presented to us several key perspectives in post-Mao China. These perspectives shined a light on the Chinese people as they transitioned from farm-life to an oriented urban manufacturing lifestyle. First, the policies and developmental strategies in China’s economic reform that led to the poor sweat-shop conditions encountered by the migrant workers in coastal China? Lastly, the implications of cheap sweat-shop labor in China for the rest of the world, particularly the U.S. Deng Xiaoping persevered many goals during his rise in the post-Mao period; 3 of these goals in particular set the stage for sweatshops. “The structural reform period began on a high note with Deng Xiaoping’s visit to the U.S in January, 1979, immediately after diplomatic relations were established on the first of the year.” His goals involved reducing the trade barriers by creating an “open door policy” to allow for foreign investments. “Deng Xiaoping set economic targets measured by income per person. One way to get there was fewer persons. So, on Sept. 25, 1980, the one-child policy ceased to be voluntary. Parents who didn’t comply could lose their jobs; they faced hefty fines and penalties.” Lastly, decollectivization in the rural areas of China had detrimental impacts both social and economically. The rural collectives, or communes were disbanded. The households could not sustain there living expenses due to a decrease in agricultural production and an increase in expenditures, both household and production. The three aforementioned policies could be viewed as the catalysts to the birth of sweat-shops across China. Along with the loose labor laws and an increase in privatized companies, sweat-shops grew at a rapid rate as more and more foreign investors traded with factory owners in China. A great example of the impact of these policies is Orchid. She was left with only two options, work on the farm or work in the city, after her family chose her brother to attend school. Another example would be migrant workers with falsified documentation; this falsified documentation could be a result of the one child law in which they are an undocumented person or the result of not being of age to legally work. Because these migrant workers go to work with so much risk, they also have no power or voice to improve the conditions in which they are working or the pay that they are receiving. Hence, the implications of cheap sweat-shop labor in China. The overall goal in business is to make a profit. This goal is universal both domestically and foreign. Foreign investors, including in the U.S, who have consumers who are always looking for cheap goods place pressure on factory owners in China for cheaper production to make big profits. Factory owners in China place pressure on laborers by holding first pay, not paying for overtime, and only offering the bear minimums to survive on for living expenses. These types of exploitations are almost nonexistent in the west, whereas they are rampant in China, and difficult for manufacturers in the west to compete with. This results in a loss of manufacturing jobs in the west due to the cheap labor. The economic reform era policies and development strategies contributed to the village workers leaving their homes and migrating to the developing urban cities where they worked voicelessly in what people in the Western world would think of as horrible unthinkable conditions. Manufacturers exploited workers to create products so cheap that Western manufacturers could not compete with which also in turn gave consumers a product that was low in price in exchange for brutal work conditions. In conclusion, one can say the working conditions cannot improve unless there is a balance or equilibrium met between consumers, retailers and the manufacturers.

Blecher, M. J. (2010). China against the tides: Restructuring through revolution, radicalism, and reform. New York, NY: Continuum. Friedman, E. D. (2007). China blue study guide [Study guide]. Oley. One child policy. (2008). Facts and Details. Retrieved March 16, 2013, from Open Door Policy. (n.d.). BBC News. Retrieved March 16, 2013, from Tong, S. (2010, June 21). Retrieved from Wen, D. (n.d.). China copes with globalization (Rep.). San Francisco, CA: International Forum on Globalization.

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