Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Reality... on the Fringes!!

"You must look at Shenzhen in China! Look at the prosperity it created!" - a friend wrote to me.

He clearly did not agree with my two ealier posts on SEZs in India - and all the controversies around them, viz.,

  • Beware! SEZs Ahead
  • Dispencible People...

    So I did!... And here is what I found.

    According to Wikipedia:

      "The one-time fishing village of Shenzhen, singled out by late Chinese paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, is the first of the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in China. It was originally established in 1979....

      In 2001, the working population reached 3.3 million. Though the secondary sector of industry had the largest share (1.85 million in 2001, increased by 5.5%), the tertiary sector of industry is growing fast (1.44 million in 2001, increased by 11.6%). Shenzhen's GDP totaled CNY 492.69 billion in 2005, up by 15 percent over the previous year. Its economy grew by 16.3 percent yearly from 2001 to 2005 on average...

      It ranked the 4th in GDP among mainland Chinese cities in 2001, while it ranked the top in capitation GDP during the same period. Its import and export volumes have been 1st for the last 9 consecutive years. It is the 2nd in terms of industrial output. For 5 consecutive years, its internal revenue within local budget ranks 3rd. It also comes the 3rd in the actual use of foreign capital.

      Shenzhen is also a major manufacturing centre in China. One highrise a day and one boulevard every three days is one famous line referring to Shenzhen in the 1990s. With 13 buildings at over 200 metres tall, including the Shun Hing Square (the 8th tallest building in the world), Shenzhen is a marvel of lights after sunset."
    (see the picture of the building below)

    ...which, obviously, is an impressive record of economic achievement!!!

    Here is another view of the same building

    According to a US Labor Dept Report:

      "Much of the evidence of child labor in China is derived from data from the large special economic zone of Shenzhen in southern China. Children between the ages of 10 to 16 are reportedly working up to 14 hours a day in factories in Shenzhen."
    Another site quotes a New York Time (Sept 14, 2005) news item:

      "Workers making clothing for Wal-Mart in Shenzhen, China filed a class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart in September 2005 claiming that they were not paid the legal minimum wage, not permitted to take holidays off and were forced to work overtime. They said their employer had withheld the first three months of all workers' pay, almost making them indentured servants because the company refused to pay the money if they quit."
    A Study by SACOM (Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehaviour) investigated 13 Shenzhen electronics factories producing components for many well-known brand names. It found widespread labour abuses including issues such as:

    - child labour,
    - excessive overtime and overtime pay below legal minimum,
    - maximum working hours,
    - marital and sick leave,
    - maternity leave, pregnancy,
    - marital status and disability discrimination,
    - minimum wage and
    - social insurance.

    These factories produce components for the following 47 global brands:
      Acer, Apple, Asrock, Asus, BYD, Canon, Compaq, Datang Telecom, Dell, Delta, Dongju, Elecom, Epson, Evoc, Founder, Foxconn, Fujitsu, Gateway, Greatwall, Hancheng, Hanhua, HP, Huawei, IBM, Kinpo Electronics, Konka, Lenovo, LG, Maxim Integrated Products, Microsoft, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Nortel, Panasonic, Philips, Ruijie (formerly Start), Samsung, Sharp, Siemens, Sony, TCL, Toshiba, Trigem, Tsinghua Tongfang, ZSSoft and ZTE.
    ...and a travelogue by a visiting student narrates this journey from Shenzhen to Dongguan (which passes though its fringes):

      "I’m living in a bubble. I know it, living on a campus in an English-speaking college. Even when we leave the campus we are pointed at certain parts of town, and see the glitz and gloss of downtown Shenzhen and the bright lights which are shining when I invariably get there after dark. Today I’m heading to Dongguan, and downtown Dongguan is exactly the same: new buildings, shining towers, and spotless public areas. That is what we Wai Guo Ren (foreigners) are meant to see.

      Going from Shenzhen to Dongguan you travel on the concrete flyovers of the expressway. Today, with time to spare, I take the slow, cheap bus. I know that it will take 3.5 hours, but this is a chance to see the real Guangdong experienced by the majority of its inhabitants. It proves a stark reminder of the poverty in which many live! It’s not all glitz and gloss here... They are the faces of immigrant workers, invariably tired, and all seeking their fortune on streets they believed paved with gold."
    Apparently, there is another reality that lies on the fringes of great economic achievements...

    devi said...

    Very relevant note at a time when everyone in India from left to the right is touting the Chinese model!

    Apparently the other reality lying on the fringes of great economic success is the poor working under inhuman conditions, with minimum wage or any other labor protection are subsidising this obscene prosperity.
    The rich/middleclass(who are more loyal to this cause as each day goes by) who blithely claim that all this will 'trickle ' down to the poor know better ! However this claim is what justifies this inequity in their mind ......just to enjoy their undeserved riches/privileges without guilt....

    We all know that the abnormal levels of wealth and income accumulation that we see the world over is a malady and it is riding on the backs of the deprived bottom 2 billion, truly the poor of the world are the horses on which the privileged are riding on to glory !!!

    Neil said...

    Excellent, excellent points made here on what is probably the best blog about South Asia on the web. Small point though: the correct spelling is "dispensable"

    AjiNIMC said...

    Excellent post, all the XLRI crowd has great blogs. SEZ is still a big issue here. In Bengal we are facing a similar problem with Tata Land at Singur.

    I also voted for your blog.