Globalism Gone Bad
According to Pun Ngai and Xu Yi’s article Legal Activism or class action, post-socialist China suffers from a political economy run by “no boss” and no labour, boss and system, when it comes to their construction industry. Workers have no way to be paid delayed wages unless they pursue “legal action or non-legal collective action.” This article argues that 40 million Chinese peasants have no other recourse but to but to deal with this “double absence”, due to sub-contracting. As functional as capitalism is in the United States, capitalism is not working in China because there is too much difference between the rich and the poor. Middle class does not exist, and for this reason, shows how globalization has gone bad.
Post Mao Tse Tung, China went from a communistic government to totalitarians, with party state. Tier level government ruled that were not democratic, and human rights’ laws were developed, but not necessarily executed. The problem stems from exploitive labor subcontracting. Labor systems began with “quasi-labour”(Ngai), businessmen creating social relationships with worker peasants from the countryside, who trusted these men. These peasants left farming with promises of making more money in urban sub-contracting jobs. They could earn more money, faster working construction in urban areas for production. But this eventually became a lie and failed due to the system of hiring. In 1980, “international competitive bidding” (Ngai) changed how the construction business worked. Construction was discovered to be profitable, as capitalistic ideas were introduced. The state was in control. Workers separated from management, skilled workers replace fixed workers, and general contractors were introduced. In late 1990’s a “multi-tiered subcontracting system” (Ngai) was established. This is good for “top-tier” capitalistic ventures but bad for workers, (low wages, more risk.) The 5 tier system consisted of a Property Developer (state or private), Construction Company (does bidding, dabao), a Contractor, Labour-supplier Subcontractor (xiabao), and worker peasants. Yet the workers left in the dark about labor contracts or their rights. They were given no formal contract, and as a result sub-contractors would care for workers. Workers were given “paper of debt” that said they would be paid, while China’s construction business exploded, but workers were not seeing the money. But why didn’t workers go to their boss and ask for the money? They had no idea who was the boss. The social origins of the sub-contracting system was the backbone of the “collective action” for the construction workers. As a result, badly protected workers then destroy property and took violent action in response to no pay.
But nothing could be done. Sometimes the payment would not be made by upper tier executives until all construction was completed, and that could take years. Trust between tiers was now destroyed and as a result construction workers were doing free labor because they don’t even know who to ask money from.
In January 1, 2008 (Reform Period) most significant Chinese labor law went into effect: The Labor Contract Law. This made upper tier developers liable to pay migrant workers through court system and legal procedures. Yet even with a legal system it did not help the peasants because they are not trained how to understand how it works and furthermore laws are not always on their side. As a result all labor struggles revolved around this construction pyramid.
Therefore, for a capitalistic economic system to work, to the extent it does in America, there has to be more equality, communication, humanity and transparency in the country itself. Countries that don’t have this will fail using a capitalistic system. What ever keeps this subcontracting system in check, whether it is democracy, religion or a code of ethics, worker relations rely on this trust. If this is not addressed, problems of violence and militant labor action will result. It is not the fault of capitalism, but rather the greed and the lack of humanity of the developers. The truth is that just because you have an idea that works in one part of the world, doesn’t mean it will work the same way in another part of the world. Countries cannot discount cultural, political and social issues when taking on global ideas.
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