Take a walk through Beijing or Shanghai or any big Chinese city and you will experience, in a very tactile way, China’s economic miracle. The forest of construction cranes, the neighborhoods being torn down and rebuilt, the shops bursting with consumer goods, the traffic clogged streets, and a prosperous looking citizenry all speak to the country’s remarkable achievements. China’s 20 year run of nearly double digit growth has transformed an economic basket case into a world economic power.
Look a little closer and you can see another side to China’s spectacular growth. The temporary dormitories on building sites for migrant construction workers, the barracks-like housing in the factory districts, the train stations full of workers with bindles or cheap suitcases coming from or going to their hometowns in the provinces. These images graphically portray the turmoil of life for large segments of the Chinese working class and they beg the big question yet to be answered: what role will workers have in the new economic order?
In this and a following post we offer some observations gleaned from recent conversations by GLS staff with dozens of knowledgeable observers—including workers—in China, in the US, and in Europe about what is currently happening inside and outside of China in the battle for economic fairness and labor rights and why it matters for workers everywhere.