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When talking of the “China Model”, it’s important to remember the role of migrant workers

A new book has hit the shelves in China, and is causing controversy. “The China Model” (中国模式), a collection of essay about China’s unique development model, is one of many new books that is part of an effort to put forth a “China model”, a model of development that is in opposition to the much maligned “Washington Consensus”. The Economist notes that the while Chinese officials are keen to downplay talk of the China Model, people peddling books aren’t quite as humble

PBS’s Bill Moyers airs last broadcast...a reminder that China and the US aren't always too different

Sometimes it’s easy to “exoticize” China, and think that China’s issues are completely unique. We may find it odd that officials have a structural incentive to either squash legitimate protests, which take the name “mass incidents”, or to buy off the petitioners with money from specially allocated “social stability” funds, rather than dealing with the root of the grievance itself. Likewise, we may find it bizarre than even China (yes China!) has things like cross dressing pop artists. Sometimes it seems like every art gallery in Hong Kong is required to have a kitschy Mao portrait or some post-modern take on sexy 1970’s-era female Red Guards – to appeal to the foreign demand for exoticized kitsch combined with absurd cruelty.

Danwei: Migrant worker who was stabbed by thugs while apprehending thief now caught in limbo

Danwei, in a translation from the Shenzhen Evening News, has an amazing story about a migrant worker who’s life has been turned upside-down simply because he’s trying to do the right thing. Danwei writes that, “Li Zhanfeng (李展锋), a security guard,…was hospitalized after being stabbed while trying to stop a robbery. His company had not registered him for work-related injury insurance, so he was treated at the hospital under the name of another employee who did have insurance. He reclaimed his name but now owes more than 30,000 RMB in outstanding medical bills that his former employer refuses to pay.”

Time Magazine’s short listing of Han Han as potential “Most Influential Person of the Year” sparks controversy, raises questions

Popular Chinese writer, blogger, and race car driver Han Han has been short listed as one of the possible candidates for the top 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. Right now there are 200 people on the list, and internet users are free to vote for, “leaders, artists, innovators and icons who you think merit spots on this year's list”.

Will the Palermo Protocol help China’s victims of forced labour?

On 26 December last year, without much fanfare, China’s National People’s Congress ratified the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, one of two anti-trafficking protocols adopted by the UN in Palermo in 2000. The protocol is primarily concerned with transnational trafficking and is broadly in line with Beijing’s high profile efforts to crack down on the trafficking of women into prostitution and the trafficking of children. However, it has a very broad definition of trafficking and could, if implemented fully, be of great help to the victims of forced labour inside China.

As China amends Election Law, real reform remains elusive

This week China finally amended its Election Law, which had previously skewed power towards urban residents at a ratio of 4:1. Meanwhile, in the United States, Barack Obama is making a putting all his political capital into trying to pass health care reform legislation. In the U.S., American presidents having been (unsuccessfully) pushing for health care reform for over 60 years, and yet their efforts are consistently blocked by entrenched political and economic internets. In China, implementing hukou reform and addressing urban-rural equality is proving to be similarly difficult.

Beijing education officials fail to honour pledge to help migrant children

Well into the second week of the spring semester, hundreds of migrant children in Beijing’s Chaoyang district still have no school to go to. This despite a pledge made last week by the Chaoyang education committee that; “no school-age child will be out of school.” It seems all the Chaoyang government has done to honour its promise so far is to put up a notice listing the township offices where parents who had yet to find a school for their children could register. However, when questioned by the media, neither parents nor the township offices concerned were even aware of this notice.

Apple's labour report stirs up controversy

Last week, Malcolm Moore of the Daily Telegraph reported on Apple’s own report on labour conditions in its supplier factories. It was revealed that Apple’s suppliers had used child labour and were involved in other widespread labour violations, involving minimum wage, overtime, and excessive working hours.

Paradoxes in China’s job market increasingly apparent

Two recent news reports underscored paradoxes in China’s economic structure, with too few people to work in construction, manufacturing, cleaning and the restaurant sector – positions typically reserved for “migrant workers”. Meanwhile, college graduates face bleak employment prospects, even as the economy hums along at well above 8 percent GDP growth. Women graduates, in particular, are facing difficult employment prospects, and according to a high ranking official of the All-China Women’s Federation, there are five major reasons behind it:

Life in Gansu’s villages goes from bad to worse

Life has always been hard for the villagers of Gulang county in Gansu. But now it has got a lot worse. Many of the young men who went down the mines in order to earn a little extra cash for their families are now middle-aged men suffering from the chronic and fatal lung disease pneumoconiosis. They are unable to work and are crippled by debt from their medical bills.


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