Democrat and Independent Thinker..."The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." -Nietzsche

Commenting on many things, including..."A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from." - Keith Olbermann

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mirror of China

"Just as midterm election results produced a new balance of power in the U.S. Congress and Senate yesterday morning, China announced that its sensitive trade surplus hit a record high last month -- up 27 per cent from a previous high of $18.8-billion (U.S.) in August.

In October alone, the surplus rose to $23.8-billion. For the first 10 months of the year, China's surplus totalled $113.6-billion, surpassing last year's $102-billion surplus for the year to date, said China's General Administration of Customs.

This point will be driven home again today with the release of new U.S. trade data, expected to show another huge trade deficit with China."

DemFromCT at Daily Kos has a post about the new populist bent of Dems, especially regarding fair trade vs. free trade. Something has got to be done, and we've got to make sure the new Congress does it.

This evening, I had a very interesting discussion with my nephew who has just recently returned from a trip to China. His company which makes something or other which involves metals, is negotiating with China as a supplier.

It's one thing to read about unfair trade practices and the plight of the laborors providing all of the "cheap" labor oversees, and another to encounter it first and second hand. He told me many things about China, some of which I'd like to share here.

He told me of the half dozen or so steel foundry's he visited. Only one of them had anything resembling any type of safety regulations whatsoever. In one, he noticed an old woman working in the factory wearing what appeared to be footwear resembling Dearfoam slippers.

Safety shoes and safety glasses are completely unknown in Chinese factories where the workers are actually machining steel parts. I've worked in the offices of a company which once existed here, now long gone to who knows where, and I occasionally had to go out on the floor to deliver a message or whatnot. Machining was going on in some areas. For those of you completely unfamiliar with machine shop work, and doubtless there are many whose numbers are growing everyday due to it's lacking in American society today, when metal is machined millions of the tiniest pieces of metal imaginable fly outward and everywhere. Even wearing safety glasses, one is in danger of having metal embedded in eyes. Even wearing respirators, metal is easily inhaled from your clothes and the air in the plant. Even wearing steel toed shoes, you may have metal shards fly into your feet or body. When a bit breaks, and they do, anything can happen, though in the U.S. there have been so many safety guards built-in that workers have a reasonable expectation of coming out of work alive.

Workers in China have no safety procedures whatsoever, nearly without exception. Nada. Don told me of how nitric acid is used like water.

"Potential Health Effects
Nitric acid is extremely hazardous; it is corrosive, reactive, an oxidizer, and a poison.

Inhalation: Corrosive! Inhalation of vapors can cause breathing difficulties and lead to pneumonia and pulmonary edema, which may be fatal. Other symptoms may include coughing, choking, and irritation of the nose, throat, and respiratory tract.

Ingestion: Corrosive! Swallowing nitric acid can cause immediate pain and burns of the mouth, throat, esophagus and gastrointestinal tract.

Skin Contact: Corrosive! Can cause redness, pain, and severe skin burns. Concentrated solutions cause deep ulcers and stain skin a yellow or yellow-brown color.

Eye Contact: Corrosive! Vapors are irritating and may cause damage to the eyes. Contact may cause severe burns and permanent eye damage.

Chronic Exposure: Long-term exposure to concentrated vapors may cause erosion of teeth and lung damage. Long-term exposures seldom occur due to the corrosive properties of the acid."

Don explained to me that nitric acid is not even used in the U.S. anymore, primarily being replaced with citric acid, but when it was used, full hazmat gear was required. That is why he was shocked to find a man in regular clothes, not even wearing gloves, hosing down some parts (or machines with nitric acid while a woman using a rag was wiping them down afterwards, again with no safety gear at all.

Can you imagine? I mean it. Can you imagine?

Do you know what these workers earn per day? $5.o0 US.

Degreed professionals working in positions like planners and engineers earn all of $85 a week, if they are lucky. This class of people, who amount to what would be the middle class in China, live in giant clusters of dormitory-like buildings in apartments larger than a prison cell and smaller than our smallest studio apartments with no bath. Their cells have sinks, but they must share toilets and a communal bath which they may have access to once a week.

People like the couple working with the nitric acid live in slums, in shacks, where their waste is deposited in the same river they get their water. Don said they are like the worst slums in Mexico.

This is the new China. The new China which is so confident of continued American business investment that they have built massive interstate-like freeways which are completely devoid of traffic, at present. Completely empty. Where the empty bike pathways on each side are inhabited by rice paddy farmers and their spreads of rice drying in the sun, and where they glean their harvests once dry. Don was amazed to see people living on the freeway. These enormous highways are built in anticipation of further explosions of growth of which they are confident because American companies continue to sign contracts with Chinese businesses using what amounts to slave labor.

American business who, under Republican rule and the guise of "free" trade, wallow in massive profits for their investors and the "healthy" U.S. stock exchange, on the backs of Chinese slave labor. American business, who, for the sake of profits, manufacture or contract for manufactured goods in China and outsource American jobs to China for less than pennies on the dollar it would take to keep the work in the U.S. These same American businesses have been given free rein by the U.S. Trade Representative despite petition by the AFL-CIO. These same American businesses protest and object and threaten when China makes even a slight move towards labor law because of growing civil unrest. These same American businesses have been given massive tax cuts under the administration of the worst president in the history of the U.S.

"I don't think the administration has taken up any issue with the Chinese," said Representative Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat.
"We should insist if they are going to trade with us it's going to be fair trade."

I've heard of a new movie coming out about the evils of "blood diamonds". Interesting that the wealthy who can afford such diamonds are so rightously avoiding purchase of "blood diamonds" with the wealth they have garnered on the stock exchange from little old ladies working in machine shops in bedroom slippers, and washing parts like dishes in deadly nitric acid with no protection. These same "investors", more rightly called "robber barons", have been given massive tax cuts by the administration of the worst president in the history of the U.S.

"To justify the robber baron culture, America’s business educators and economists falsely cite their demigod of laissez-faire market economics, Adam Smith. Little do they know that Adam Smith in fact scathingly castigated Bush’s type of government: business collusion and unfair taxes, Wal-Mart’s exploitations of labor and communities, and robber barons’ hubris. Nowhere in his 900-page book, The Wealth of Nations, does Smith even imply that those who knowingly harm others and society in their pursuit of personal greed also benefit their society. He rejects the notion that a corporation exists to make money without ethical constraints."

I heard some jackass talking the other day, I think it was on Jon Stewart, (but maybe not, if you know, remind me, tell me it wasn't Howard Dean) and he said that we shouldn't begrudge sharing the "old" technology jobs with under-developed countries while we pursue "new" technologies to provide jobs in the U.S. I wanted to throw my T.V. out in the yard, again. Pray tell, what are these "new" technologies? Computer manufacturing, computer programming? No, I believe those are being done overseas or people are imported to such work for, oh say, like Microsoft who is lobbying for relaxing of such personnel imports.

And what are these "old" technologies? Steel making? Do you think there aren't thousands of blue-collar workers who would give their right arm to have those good paying UNION jobs back here again? For those who say that the union is why the jobs aren't here any longer, I say bullshit. The reason is not that the unions would not negotiate to be more competitive, but that competitive isn't enough to generate the kind of gi-normous profits the wealthy have now come to expect in their share returns.

The key word: UNION. As Don and I discussed, China actually has so-called unions which are nothing more than another arm of the communist government and are being used to keep the workers in slavery. China's government jails real Union activists. According to Don, what is so sad, and a conumdrum, is that many of these poor workers appear to be grateful for these dangerous, sub-human working conditions which, as bad as they are, are still better than what they had before. But, then, Don was so disgusted by what he saw (and had to eat), he spent a lot of time drinking Chinese "moonshine".

Don explained that there are basically three classes of people in China. The Communist government, which pervades every sector of society and whose party members are what we would consider the wealthy class, the middle class which we would consider the very poor, and those who live in abject poverty, which are the same in every country in this poor, poor world.

If the Republicans have their way in this country, there will be the exact same classes in the U.S. Just substitute "Communist" with "Republican".


ElizabethBranford said...

Wow BlueKat. I came from my sweetie Tink's blog, Pickled Beef, because you mentioned being interested in politics and I like to support new bloggers,blah blah. And I see one of my blogs here! The Blue Republic! Thats pretty cool, its a great community. And Spurious George (Rex writes with us on Saturday-Kramerica)is great. One of my favorite blogs. Anyway- CHINA!

Yes, the trade deficit with China has been a problem, and just to show how much power they have- despite the fact that they manipulate their currency the US cant even call them on that because we can't "make them angry". The human rights violations are another matter, and the conditions are deplorable as you state.

I also blame an American public though that shops incessantly and buys these cheap imports from big big stores. When we do, we feed into the problems. We support the exploitation of other people.

Odd that many feminists dont address THAT part of sisterhood. Anyway, I will add you to Gynocracy Invasion's blogroll, and keep up with the bloggery. Come by Blue Republic and say hello sometime!

Elizabethbranford said...

Oh yeah- the blogroll at TBR is an "add yourself" system. Don't forget to add yourself!