Marx Awakes as China Rises
Published on: June 23, 2010
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  • jp

    there are other factors effecting china, Christianity is rapidly expanding, so is Islam in some parts though.

    When Mao mandated one language for the entire country, it has ended up helping the Gospels export themselves(with just one chinese translation needed) to all over the country. irony really

  • Drew

    Excellent article.

    One other force at work, which you reference a couple of times, is democratization in China. As hundreds of millions of Chinese move from relocated peasants to a true middle class, they will begin to demand a greater say in how they are governed. I think just about every emerging middle class in history has made this demand, and so I suspect the Chinese will too. Hopefully this will mean a peaceful democratic transition (like what happened in South Korea)— this should be an addendum to your best-case-scenario. Because the other end of the spectrum could be pretty ugly.

  • RT

    Free trade with free countries. All others go to hell.

  • Luke Lea

    It is not widely enough understood that labor saving technologies by their very nature reduct the demand for labor and hence also reduce hourly wages all else being equal. This is why reducing the standard workweek — i.e. artificially reducing the supply of labor — is the way (both historically and logically) to enable the laboring classes to benefit from such technological progress. Otherwise all the benefits go to people who derive most of their incomes from capital, ie, the rich and well-educated. Justice calls.

  • Dr J

    Isn’t China dealing with another tension? It must increase productivity if workers are to generate the wealth necessary to support an aging population. The inverted demographic pyramid that is developing requires first world productivity levels from the young if the aged aren’t to fall back into third world poverty. Rising wages mean higher tax revenues available for things like social security and armament programs. The peasants now transitioning to life in the cities are making the move in interesting times.

  • joe

    I would only add that a report on NPR the other day concerned the rise of the ‘little emperors’ According to exasperated Chinese HR staff, these (mostly male) offspring while highly educated have been spoiled. They are demanding and rude taking personal calls on their cell phones during interviews! Of course these are the lucky ones. Out in the vast countryside are many millions more – men searching for a bride who is not there. What the result of so many single men will be is anyone’s guess but its hard to see many upsides…

  • Foobarista

    I always said that anything that can be easily outsourced or offshored will eventually be automated. If it involves following a scripted routine, a machine can do it much better than a human. Since nearly all machines are on a Moore’s Law cost curve, we’ll hit this point quite soon with nearly all these jobs.

    An aside: China has already lost tens of millions of manufacturing jobs to various forms of efficiency – the reason it looks like they “gained” is the jobs remaining have moved from China’s “rustbelt” in the northeast to the export-booming places on the central and southeast.

  • john c-m

    Interesting, but a bit static in thinking. Investing in labor-saving machines raises labor productivity, which in turn raises incomes, wages and profits. Sure, the two blades of the scissors moderate this process, but that is also a good balance, waiting to be struck. Japan stopped making things which were cheap, and went on to hi-tech. So can China.

  • Craig

    It is only through the introduction of capital that wages can rise at all. In developed economies (such as in the US), our annual raises are a result of increased capital investment that raises our productivity. Those raises — contrary to popular belief — do not come from jawboning employers to make do with a smaller profit.

    China is showing all the signs of economic progression — capital investment included. To worry that it will cause wages to drop is a vulgar Marxist concept and false.

  • 1) Several years ago I observed that as globalization moves factory jobs to 3rd world hell-holes, eventually those holes fill up with with money, and then the employer seeking lower-cost employees moves on to the next 3rd-world hell-hole. We’re seeing this in China now.

    2) If I’m making N widgets per day, and tomorrow I demand to get paid twice as much, my boss needs to find a way to boost my productivity to 2*N widgets per day. The easiest way to do this is via automation as you’ve observed.

    Right now, a person can enjoy a very high standard of living with not much money. An HDTV and a decent laptop are much less than they were a few years ago. Thus the demands of newly-organized Chinese labor may be relatively modest. However, human covetousness knows no bounds, so their labor leaders may prove every bit as venal and destructive as the UAW here in Michigan. Good luck.

  • OT, apologies, but I would like to see WRM engage with Marc Lynch’s new FA article.

  • An amazing tour d’force. But all this reminds me of Weber’s (and Bismarck’s) Iron Cage. It also reminds of all the Cassadra-toned automation books of the 1960s that were, I’m beginning to think, ahead of their time. It would be ironic to say the least if the technologization of labor proceeds to a point that not only will Chinese workers get scissored, but pretty much all workers who know how to read and wear clothing. “Unrest” will be a very tame word to describe what is liable to happen then. It could be that the only solution, if political classes let capitalists persist in this substitution, is some sort of large government role in managing not the ownership of production, but the distribution of production. Capitalism unbridled would thus produce, in the end, a kind of socialism, though not the kind and not in the way Marx predicted. Wouldn’t that be something?

  • Marcus

    Fancy that, Mr Mead’s a Luddite.

  • Pingback: Marxist Maoism Died in 76 « iLook China()

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