by Austin Bay
September 29, 2010
Chinese "workers are becoming harder to find and to
keep," The Economist magazine recently reported. "Strikes have been
unusual in their frequency ... their longevity and their targets ... ."
The Economist argued this is ultimately good news for planet Earth.
This labor "bolshiness" (wonderful ironic word
choice) will lead to higher Chinese wages. "What the world lacks,"
Economist editors concluded, "is willing customers, not willing workers.
Higher Chinese wages will have a similar effect to the stronger exchange rate
that America has been calling for, shrinking China's trade surplus and boosting
its spending. "
In other words, Chinese workers will spend, benefiting the
global economy. This is good news, if it works out so niftily.
Demographic issues, however, also factor into the reduction
in willing cheap labor. China's population is aging. Reuters reported (citing
official figures) that "the proportion of people aged 60 and above in
China rose at the fastest clip in history" in 2009. "They now
represent more than 12 percent of the population."
Reuters quoted Wu Yushao, deputy head of the China National
Committee on Aging, as saying that the increase in aged people "will be a
huge challenge. ... The economy, the retirement system and services for the elderly
are still too weak to handle the challenge."
Is China the ultimate Greece, with too many promises and not
enough cash? When it comes to economic forecasts, there are lies, damned lies,
productivity statistics and age demographics. Reuters mentioned one culprit:
Chinese government policy, specifically China's notorious "one-child
policy," which was supposed to promote zero population growth. In my
opinion, it resulted in the murder of a lot of baby girls and contributed to
China's demographic conundrum.
Other domestic problems haunt China, and the list of ills is
China's primary threat is not the United
States, or any other foreign power, but internal disorder. There are more angry
people in China every day, and the government knows that this could blossom
into widespread uprisings. It has happened so many times before in Chinese
history. Protesting factory workers are an indicator.
Corruption: Corruption is the biggest complaint among
China's discontented; government officials, who are more interested in
enriching themselves than in taking care of "the people" are
particular targets. Many of the demonstrations and labor disruptions are the
result of corruption among local officials, including the police.
Dilemma: In 2007, Chinese Internet
use grew to over 210 million users. Cell phones are also increasingly
available. China is the world's largest cell phone market. The Internet is an
economic and educational tool. However, it also undermines an authoritarian
government's ability to control (deny and spin) information. China's 2010
"war with Google.com" illustrated this dilemma.
Ethnic Minorities and
Language: China has a population of
1.4 billion. Han Chinese ("ethnic Han") constitute approximately 92
percent of China's population. China also has 55 "minority
nationalities," however, amounting to 100 million people. The 2009 Uighur
riots in Xinjiang province (western China) and resistance in Tibet are
symptomatic of the problem. They are resisting "Hanicization."
Pollution and Water:
In early 2008, China began shutting down
"high pollution" factories. The reason? To clear the air for the 2008
Beijing Olympics. The growing wealth of the Chinese people is causing enormous
pollution problems and water shortages. Effective pollution controls mean more
expensive production methods. That makes Chinese goods less competitive.
The Marriage Gap: China's "one child" policy crimped
population growth, all right. More boys were born than girls; Chinese culture
"favors" sons. As a result, there is a serious imbalance between men
and women. In some places, there are 120 men per 100 women. Marriageable
daughters are, reportedly, going largely to the upper social groups within each
village or district. The sons of the poorest families are, to an extent, not
finding wives. This is an indicator of future social trouble.
The domestic ills suggest China is on the verge of another
revolution, this one caused by its failed communist regime's inability to
transform itself into a more accommodating system that can satisfy (and shape)
China's growing economic and political needs.