[Marxism] Re: Chinese Success Story Chokes on Its Own Growth

Haines Brown brownh at hartford-hwp.com
Wed Dec 20 05:40:13 MST 2006

David, I much appreciate your description of Shenzhen. Perhaps you
will consider adding to it. I'll ask some questions to encourage you. 

You distinguished workers employed in the maquiladora-like Shenzhen
Economic Zone (SEZ) and unemployed immigrants. When you spoke of
"workers slums around the downtown", does that refer to the housing of
both groups?  Or do these unemployed immigrants have no real housing
at all?

When you say "slums", that is an ambivalent word, and I wonder if you
would be more specific. I was on a social-tour bus one time and it
drove by where I happened to be living (in Copenhagen) and pointed to
the building as an example as a slum; I thought I was living fairly
comfortably! Is the housing in Shenzhen publically constructed
multi-unit high rises or make-do shacks constructed wherever there is
open space and without license?

To what extent do these slums have a proper modern infrastructure:
water, sewage, and electricity? For example, in Soweto, South Africa,
shacks seem just to be thrown up privately, but people living in them
often go to some pain to make them comfortable and there is apparently
a very positive spirit in the community as a whole. Is there anything
like this in Shenzhen? A linguistic divide and constant migration
would seem to mitigate against any semse of community, but did you
nevertheless see any expression of pride or solidarity.

China is undergoing a very rapid transformation, and so one mut look
at trends. If there are no jobs for the thousands who flock to the
city in search of them, then one might suspect that a) the word will
get out not to bother going there, b) the authorities may try to block
the immigration to avoid a social disastor. Do you have any sense that
the hugh number of unemployed is a temporary problem that will largely
disappear in, say a decade?

You indicate there's a lot of construction, but is it mostly of
factories, or does it also include housing? If there is a rapid
expansion, then despite the great number of unemployed, it seems the
number of employed must be going up. Is the number of unemployed going
up, down, or is it fairly stable?

In the U.S., great numbers of immigrant workers flocked to these
shores in the 19th and 20th century, and there was a similar problem
of country bumpkins lacking skills for factory employment and who
faced a language barrier. However, in time individual immigrants would
manage to get into key positions (especially policemen, foremen in
factories, pastors of churches) to act as a buffer or mediator between
the immigrants and the rest of society (although this did not seem to
happen to a significant extent with the rural Black population
migrating to northern cities in the U.S.). Do you have reason to believe
that it might be happening in Shenzhen, or does the SEZ system
operate in a way to deepen rather than bridge social divisions?

And finally, what of labor organizations? Official policy has come to
favor unionization, perhaps because authorities see it as a useful
instrument of social control. Did you see any evidence of the ACFTU's
presence in the SEZ? Any evidence of unionization in the factories?

Haines Brown

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