Saturday, September 29, 2012

Is China On A Tinderbox Ready To Explode From Labor Unrest?

China's Dorm Room Discontent Emerges As New Labor Flashpoint -- Reuters

(Reuters) - Twenty-three-year old factory worker Wang spends up to 12 hours a day making iPhone components in China, but his major complaint is not about the monotony of the production line - it is about his degrading worker-bee life inside the dormitory.

Wang, who did not want his full name published, is among thousands of workers housed in a vast complex where tensions aggravated by regimented and cramped living conditions boiled over on Sunday into a violent mass riot.

"The bathrooms are simply disgusting and people are constantly stealing things," Wang said as he stood outside of the factory in the northern city of Taiyuan, owned by Apple Inc's largest contract manufacturer, Taiwan firm Foxconn.

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My Comment: This story is important to me because it confirms to me that unrest in China is growing .... and the reason why this Reuters story caught my eye was because I saw the same thing happened in the dormitories of Fujian Province when I was living there in 1988. While all of my travels and contacts were restricted (and watched) when I was in China in the 1980s, I did have the opportunity to see and understand China through my interpreters. One such occasion occurred when we visited a university, and a student told me what life was like in these places .... specifically the dormitories. In short .... his only belongings were a few t-shirts, shorts and pants, underwear and socks, and a simple jacket. No electronics. No money. No hope. He was living in a small and dirty room with three other men .... and all of them were frustrated with their lives, no longer caring about China and their role in it but yearning for change .... and there were tens of thousands of these men who felt this way. This was the first sign (for me) that there was growing unrest and frustration in China at the time .... an unrest that grew and grew until it culminated a year later in the Tienanmen massacre.

Is history repeating itself? Will a Chinese Spring burst out in the next year or two? I do not know the answer .... but I do know that when I was in China a few weeks ago .... I sensed growing unrest, and the same issues and grievances that were voiced in 1988 are being voiced today.

Update: The New York Times is also picking up on this growing unrest in China.

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