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 depressing:
Internal Disorder: 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.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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