Category Archives: migrant workers

Foxconn Riots: A Big Deal?

I’ll admit, I mostly shrugged off the news about riots at a Foxconn plant in Taiyuan a few days ago. Foxconn is already famous for a series of worker suicides, and that the riot took place at an iPhone 5 factory shouldn’t be too surprising either- don’t we all already know that Apple doesn’t really think very differently than any other huge company when it comes to the conditions in which its products are made? Evan Osnos writes about what we should take away from this incident:

Though most of the iPhone assembly is done elsewhere, workers said that the iPhone was being made there, too, so the story leapt onto front pages. Anything attached to Apple gets more than its share of attention, but in this case, the Apple factor is far less interesting than what this instance of labor unrest suggests about the months ahead for China.

The riot at Foxconn—or any of the other five hundred “mass incidents” that China records on an average day—has implications far beyond Apple. Labor activists say that they are happening more often this year than last. A little over a week ago, six thousand workers at a Flextronics Technology factory in Shanghai went on strike for severance pay. In June, it was a hundred workers in a mini-uproar at another Foxconn plant. They are no longer simply calling for better wages. “Many of the protests this year appear to be related to the country’s economic slowdown, as employees demand the payment of overdue wages from financially struggling companies, or insist on compensation when money-losing factories in coastal provinces are closed and moved to lower-cost cities in the interior,” as the Times put it.

But the deeper problem is about institutions. Day by day, Chinese workers expect better conditions and greater guarantees that when companies go bust, the employees will not. And, yet, China permits no independent trade unions or free collective bargaining. Complaint and mediation procedures are weak. China today still has, more or less, the same Party-sponsored national trade union it has had for sixty years, even as the economy and the population have transformed. If Beijing is to avoid more riots in the months and years ahead, it needs to stop seeing this as an Apple problem and start seeing it as a China problem.

I’d agree with him that this is a good case to use to an example of the problems facing Chinese workers and labor, but still, as far as I can tell it’s only the Apple connection that made this incident stand out. Otherwise, ‘conditions are bad; workers strike/riot’ is about as Chinese a story as you can get.

More details from China Labor Bulletin:

Photographs and video uploaded to the Internet showed upturned police cars, fences demolished, bikes set on fire and dormitory windows smashed, and many reports claimed that shops inside the complex were broken into. Several thousand armed police were called in to restore order and Foxconn said that some 40 individuals were taken to hospital for treatment.

Although the official version of events from Foxconn attributed the violence to a dispute between workers from different provinces, many workers present at the time were certain the violence erupted after a security guard abused a female employee.

Workers’ sentiment on China’s online forums was divided, some angry, some joyful. Workers were eager to post photos and make comments on the events. And some workers from other Foxconn plants in Henan, Shandong, and Shenzhen posted letters praising the Taiyuan workers for their courage to start a riot.

Amid the general exuberance, there were a few voices calling on workers to stay calm and be rational. A worker, who said he had been employed at Taiyuan Foxconn for three years, highlighted the failure of the Foxconn trade unions to properly represent workers’ interests. This he said had complicated the longstanding conflict between management and workers. He hoped workers could handle the conflict in a rational manner in order to avoid unnecessary casualties.

This post was immediately challenged by another worker, who responded that workers had not meant to instigate a riot but that they had no other way to address injustice. When they called a hotline to complain about the abusive security guards, for example, they were told their complaint could not be handled.

Although several workers posted demands to set up their own more representative trade union, they are unlikely to gain support from local official unions like the workers from Ohms Electronics did in Shenzhen. Foxconn is a major investor in many inland provinces and government officials are eager to please the world’s largest electronics maker by helping it recruit workers. In addition, one of the reasons Foxconn moved its manufacturing bases to China in the first place was to dodge strong unions in Taiwan.

If this reminds us that labor in China is a major source of instability, and that a slowing economy is exacerbating these issues, that’s fine. Otherwise, I don’t see why this is getting disproportionately larger media coverage than any of the comparable incidents that take place on a very regular basis.

Leave a comment

Filed under labor dispute, migrant workers, protests

“Chinese Police Crack Down on Guangdong Protesters”

A few protests have been brewing in Guangdong, but it sounds like authorities are starting to get more active in repressing them now. From VOA:

Protests exploded into violence Monday and Tuesday in the provincial city of Zhongshan, with fighting between locals and migrants who have long-complained of wages and benefits lower than those available to local workers.

There has been no official report of injuries or arrests. But media reports from nearby Hong Kong say at least five and as many as 30 people have died in the violence, which also left hundreds of others injured.

The rioting is the latest in a string of violent protests in Guangdong linked to migrant workers and protests against unequal wages and other forms of alleged discrimination.

Last year, hundreds of provincial police battled with migrant workers in Guangdong’s Zengcheng city, following an altercation involving police and a migrant street-vendor and his pregnant wife, who were allegedly selling their wares in front of a supermarket.

Leave a comment

Filed under migrant workers, protests

“Dumplings for Sale”

Ethnographer Tricia Wang lived with a migrant worker family for a week and wrote about it- if you only read one China-related thing this year, this should probably be it:

It’s 4am. Children’s footsteps patter outside, water pours from a faucet, pots are pulled out. I overhear Li Jie. “We barely have enough to buy meat for tonight’s dinner. I hope we have return customers today.”

I’ve been living with Li Jie and her family for a few days. She is one of the 200-300 million rural people who have made their way to cities in the hope… I don’t know how to finish that sentence. Usually newspapers finish it with “in the hope of a better life” or “in the hope of securing a job.” Maybe I can finish it by the time I tell you about a day in Li Jie’s life.

By 4.30am, we are eating breakfast crackers and drinking soda. It’s so hot during the day that it’s refreshing to wake up to breathable air. Li Jie’s husband, Mr. Long, and her younger brother, Ray, are putting the batteries into the bike carts to go to the market. The men leave before 5am.

I stay with Li Jie and her son. We take the dumplings out of the freezer and for the second day in a row they’re sticky. Everything that needs to be kept cold is put inside the freezer, but it’s unpredictable. Sometimes it works too well and the beers explode. Most of the time it doesn’t work that well. The dumplings get sticky and uncookable while the beers are perfectly chilled.

Read the rest, if only to understand where all that delicious street food comes from, and what the people who make it have to live through.

Leave a comment

Filed under chengguan, migrant workers

“Indignant workers threaten suicide at Foxconn park in Wuhan”

First, the story itself, as reported by WantChinaTimes:

According to the anti-Chinese government website China Jasmine Revolution, about 300 employees at Foxconn Technology Park in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in central China, threatened to kill themselves by jumping from the top of a building in the park.

On Jan. 2, about 300 employees at the plant belonging to Taiwan-based Foxconn — the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer — asked their employer for a raise. They were told in response to either quit their positions and receive compensation or keep their jobs and receive no additional payment. Most of the employees took the first option but the company terminated the agreement and none of them were given the money they were promised.

As the situation developed, the mayor of Wuhan came to dissuade the former employees from committing suicide. At 9:00pm on Jan. 3, the group chose life.

14 workers at Foxconn plants in other parts of China committed suicide in 2010, with employees frequently complaining of discrimination and long working hours.

Next, some thoughts from Malcolm Moore:

First, a lot of journalists have followed Want China Times’ lead and written that 300 workers were protesting, and that they worked on a Microsoft XBox 360 production line.

We checked both of those things yesterday and couldn’t confirm either. Foxconn said 150 workers had striked. Which matches up with the photographs taken on the roof of the factory – there clearly aren’t 300 people there.

As for the Microsoft line – the worker we managed to get hold of said the new production line that had triggered the protest was making computer cases for Acer. Not Microsoft. But Microsoft were jumpy enough about it all to issue a boilerplate statement saying they were investigating the matter.

So, what conclusions can we draw? Mainly that migrant workers are ever more aware of their rights, and are less and less afraid to hold their employers to ransom if they do not get what they see as reasonable treatment.

The second conclusion is that even though this was not a story about Apple, Foxconn and Apple have become closely linked in the minds of readers. Several commenters at the bottom of my report on the protest called for Apple to stop using Foxconn (I’ve explained previously why this is a very unlikely outcome).

In addition, what happened at Foxconn in 2010, with scores of young people throwing themselves off roofs, mostly in the same campus, was clearly a cluster. And while to some extent it was caused by the feelings of alienation and depression suffered by the workers, it was also caused by Foxconn’s own handling of the incident. As I have written before, Foxconn incentivised its workers to commit suicide by offering huge compensation payments to their families. Those offers were quickly rescinded when it became clear they had provoked workers to weigh up the value of their lives.

Leave a comment

Filed under labor dispute, migrant workers, protest

“Death in custody follows fresh unrest in Chinese village”

All the talk about the Guangdong Model doesn’t really add up to much when you have stuff like this still happening:

A Chinese man accused of participating in a riot over land claims in September died in police custody on Sunday, threatening to fan tensions in a far southern region that has become a source of persistent unrest.

The death in Guangdong province occurred as masses of riot police moved to quell a longstanding dispute in Wukan village on the east coast of the booming province, where industrial development has consumed swathes of rice paddies.

The government of Shanwei, an area that includes Wukan village in its jurisdiction, said in the early hours of Monday that Xue Jinbo fell ill on Sunday, his third day in detention over the riot. Hospital doctors later pronounced the man dead despite frantic efforts to save his life.

Pictures on microblogging sites from Wukan village showed large numbers of riot police standing off with residents who are demanding the return of farmland to restore their livelihoods.

Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper and two villagers contacted by Reuters said police had used tear gas and blocked all roads to the village.

Leave a comment

Filed under Guangzhou Model, migrant workers, protests

“Naked begging reveals loss of dignity among China’s migrants”

Naked protests for Ai Weiwei just a few weeks ago, now naked migrant workers? What is happening in this country?!

A family of four in China were discovered walking naked on the street begging for money to pay for the medical expenses of their newborn baby, an act which has generated criticism of shameful behavior on one hand, while others have felt the family’s behavior is a reflection of what society has done to them first, the official China Youth Daily reports.

Other instances of naked begging have also been seen of late: migrant workers, who have relocated from rural areas to the country’s cities in search of work, going naked to beg for their pay or asking others to beg naked on their behalf. In Chinese culture, nudity is considered the ultimate disgrace, therefore to beg naked is perhaps the strongest expression of degradation. This controversy has therefore served to highlight the hardship of these workers’ lives and the problems that have caused them to shed any vestige of self-respect.

One migrant worker surnamed Han reportedly paid a man to stand naked in public with a sign to protest that he had not been paid by his employer. When asked the reason for the manner of his protest, the man told the China Youth Daily reporter, “I am not afraid of losing face. I am afraid of starving and dying with no one caring about me.”

Leave a comment

Filed under inequality, migrant workers, protest

“7,000 workers in Dongguan stage mass protest”

Guangzhou has been relatively quiet for the last few months, but today it saw a pretty big protest:

Around 7,000 workers at a Taiwan-owned shoe factory in Dongguan took to the streets today, 17 November, in protest at salary cuts and the earlier dismissal of 18 managerial staff, according to posts on Tianya and a Southern Daily reporter’s microblog.

Photographs posted online showed large numbers of police on the street and bloodied workers who claimed to have been beaten by the police. Several other workers had reportedly been detained.

The strike at the Yue Cheng factory in Huang Jiang township was triggered by the dismissal of 18 managers in late October. The company claimed they had been dismissed because of the factory’s decreasing orders and sluggish business. But one of the managers told China Business News that the real reason behind their dismissal was that the factory planned to shift production to Jiangxi in a bid to combat rising costs in the Pearl River Delta.

Leave a comment

Filed under labor dispute, migrant workers, protest

“China rural migrants young, restless and online”

Reuters has a piece up summarizing the release of new information on migrant workers by the China Labour Bulletin:

China’s young migrant workers believe manufacturers can afford bigger pay rises and they are increasingly willing to strike to win them, according to a report that documents the spread of labor unrest across the country’s export zones.

The Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin, which advocates stronger rights for workers, also said in the report on Tuesday the tens of millions of young migrants from the Chinese countryside are increasingly adept at using the Internet to mobilize.

“Workers now understand that many enterprises are profitable enough to accommodate wage increases, and the workers are now more determined and able to push for those increases,” the non-governmental organization said.

“Whereas in the past, workers tended to wait for their rights to be violated before taking action, they are now becoming more proactive.”

More than 100 million rural Chinese people will settle in towns and cities in the next decade, many of them young migrants who lack old-age and medical insurance in the places they want to call home, China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission said in a report.

“I don’t have a definite direction. I work in this factory today and the other tomorrow,” Wang Long, a 24-year-old migrant worker in Beijing told Reuters TV. “What can I do if I get old? It will be very bad if I cannot have a formal and stable job when I’m in my thirties. How could I raise my family then?”

Although migrant workers have often won pay rises in recent years, they feel poorly served by China’s official, Communist Party-run trade union, which has often sided with management in factory disputes, the China Labour Bulletin said in the report.

Instead, strikes and labor protests have spread through informal channels, with workers often using mobile phones and Internet message sites to coordinate, it added.

“They are giving each other in real time updates of their protests, and this has allowed workers’ rights groups, lawyers interested in workers’ rights, to offer advice, help them push their demands,” said Crothall, the Labour Bulletin spokesman, speaking of these digital tools.

The China Labour Bulletin report estimates that in 2009 China experienced about 30,000 collective labor protests, and adds there is “certainly no reason to suspect that the number of strikes is decreasing.”

Leave a comment

Filed under labor dispute, migrant workers

“Migrant workers: Restlessness of a new generation”

FT- whose use of a paywall drives me crazy with fury- has an article here about how the attitude of migrant workers is changing with time:

In some ways, the new generation of migrants is luckier and better off than the earlier one. They not only earn more, but they can spend more of it on themselves and their advancement since their parents are less likely to live in poverty – the original generation of migrants helped to ameliorate that.

“The first generation left the village to make money and then come back to build a house,” says Liu Kaiming, head of the Institute for Contemporary Observation, which monitors workers’ conditions in Shenzhen. “Now, the family’s house is built and there are no jobs there. They go to the city for their future.”

As a result, they are less docile and harder to manage. Factories in the region commonly experience labour turnover of 10 to 15 per cent a month – or well in excess of 100 per cent a year. This generation does not find it so easy to settle.

“Fifteen years ago, if it was the third day after the new year holiday and you went over to the dormitories and said: ‘We have a heavy order, come to work,’ they would all do it. The company was the most important thing. These days if you told them the same thing, they would say ‘no’.”

Ms Cheng says the younger workers are, as the Chinese saying has it, “riding a donkey and looking for a horse” – they work in factories for money but are looking for opportunities.

Migrants are still bound by the hukou system of household registration, which excludes rural dwellers from education and social benefits in their adopted cities. It has also become very expensive to live outside factories that provide them with free dormitory accommodation and meals. Although they can see wealth and expensive property in the city, their opportunities are limited.

The government’s attempt to shift low-cost manufacturing into inland provinces is partly aimed at easing the problems of migrants. The idea is that they will be able to find work closer to home and not face the same isolation as in the coastal cities.

Yet young people will carry on coming to the Pearl River delta to seek not only money, but a better life. Unless factories or the government can fulfil those hopes, they will remain restless.

These are some of the groups that I’d be most worried about during a financial downswing if I worked in Zhongnanhai. They’ve been waiting for the ‘China miracle’ to makes it way back to them, but if they realize that there aren’t any plans for them to get a slice of the pie, and that Shaanxi coal mine owners are going to spend the next few generations riding around in black BMW’s while they cram into hard seat trains to go home… we’ll see what happens next.

1 Comment

Filed under inequality, migrant workers

“Empty chairs become the pain of rural China, especially on Mid-Autumn Day”

Wow. Not even going to quote a part of this one- just click here for a story and photographs from Ministry of Tofu about what worker migration is doing to Chinese families.

Leave a comment

Filed under migrant workers

“A riot that could easily have been avoided”

A writer from China Labour Bulletin traveled to the site of the Guangdong migrant worker protests that shocked China a few weeks ago, and wrote about her findings:

In late May, Xiong Hanjiang, a 19-year-old migrant worker from Sichuan visited his township labour bureau in the hope that officials there would help him get his two-month’s salary back from his employer, Hua Yi Porcelain. The bureau did in fact order the factory to give Xiong his 3,400 yuan salary but the boss refused to pay. When Xiong and his parents demanded payment, the boss and his family started to beat them and Xiong’s hamstrings were severed, leaving him possibly paralyzed for the rest of his life.

Following the assault, Xiong’s relatives pleaded with the township government in Guxiang and municipal government in Chaozhou to arrest the boss and give Xiong proper compensation. Sadly, neither government paid any attention to their plight.

Frustrated and angry, the family, together with hundreds of other Sichuan migrant workers, vented their fury by smashing cars in the town. The message they wanted to convey was: Why didn’t the government care about or help a worker paralyzed by his cruel boss just for asking for his due salary?

When the riot broke out, local residents thought the time had come to “battle to guard our homeland” and quickly equipped themselves with any domestic weapons they could find and forced their way into the houses of migrant workers, destroying anything they saw.

The local government tried to stem the unrest but failed. A detachment of Guangdong provincial armed police were sent in, along with more than 50 police from Sichuan. According to one local resident, the police were stationed in Guxiang township for 20 days.

The Chinese media reported that about 200 people took part in the riot and that 19 vehicles were damaged. Yet according to a Chaozhou-based taxi driver, several thousand Sichuan migrant workers marched through the streets, swinging clubs on the night of 6 June. “Some 200 cars were smashed, including a couple of BMWs. After the riot started, none of the Sichuan migrants could work. If anyone was seen working, they were beaten,” he said.

Porcelain manufacturing is a labour intensive industry subject to frequent labour disputes, especially in small unregulated family workshops where migrant workers have neither access to reliable institutions of redress nor effective legal enforcement to protect their rights. As a result, it is rumored that Sichuan migrant workers have organized their own underground association to defend themselves with violence and other illegal means.

This riot could have been avoided if the township labour bureau had enforced its order for the payment of Xiong’s wages, or if the municipal authorities had taken prompt action to arrest the boss.

Even the most rudimentary collective bargaining mechanism could have helped workers and factory bosses in the porcelain industry here resolve their disputes. The pre-requisite for collective bargaining is solidarity of workers, as only when they are united can they have the bargaining power to negotiate equally with their bosses, no matter if they are local residents or from Sichuan.

According to official news reports, the boss who attacked Xiong is in custody and his factory closed down. Nearby, it is business as usual at another porcelain factory. Local residents told me this was the first time they had seen such a big riot, but that there was no guarantee it wouldn’t happen again.

To take my ‘broken record’ act one step further, I should note that many of the riots in China could be easily avoided. They’re going to keep happening, and keep growing in intensity, until the government makes real efforts towards political reform and rule of law.

Leave a comment

Filed under China, law, migrant workers, protests

“High-Speed Train Links Beijing, Shanghai”

The Wall Street Journal has an article about the new Beijing-Shanghai fast trains, detailing some of their achievements but also noting that there are still some concerns about the high-speed strategy:

Admirers of the $300 billion high-speed rail network—likened by some to the U.S. Apollo moon project—argue that it will spread economic development farther west. By slashing travel time between Chinese cities it will spur trade and ease the flow of people and ideas, its proponents say. Construction, commodities and tourism industries are all tipped as big winners.

Detractors focus on corruption and safety problems that have lately tarnished the project’s image. Pricey tickets, they say, underscore China’s already huge rich-poor gap—and doom the trains to run half-empty, straining the national budget for years to come. These worries, as well as the environmental impact of tearing up countryside for new rail tracks, have already forced the Railways Ministry to reduce the speed of the trains and halt work on some lines.

“Physically, they are good assets,” says Ding Yuan, an accounting professor at China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. “Financially, they are all black holes.”

More broadly, the high-speed rail problems underscore the shortcomings of a growth strategy that depends ever more heavily on investment in projects whose economic payoffs are uncertain.

Economists argue that China’s continued reliance on investment is bound to delay a needed remaking of the economy so it relies more on domestic consumption and service industries. China’s leaders have made that economic transition a priority since at least 2007 but have made scant progress. Investment amounted to 49% of China’s GDP in 2010, compared to 42% in 2007. During that time, employment grew by about 1% a year, as capital-intensive industries got favored treatment.

As she queues for a ticket at Shanghai’s Hongqiao train station, Tan Fenfen, a 26-year-old migrant worker from the eastern province of Jiangsu, grumbles that the new trains are meant for the wealthy only. She was happy with the old diesel trains with their spartan but clean carriages. “It’s at least double the price compared to before,” she says.

The new rail network is truly impressive- but by removing so many of the old trains from service along high-speed routes, the poor are being done a real disservice.

Leave a comment

Filed under China, development, migrant workers

“China migrant unrest exposes generation faultline”

Reuters has a special report on the migrant worker riots that struck Zengcheng city a few weeks ago. They look at the mentality of the workers, and the changing viewpoints that a new generation of workers are developing:

But like a ripple of strikes across Guangdong province last year, the Dadun riot revealed a strong undercurrent of discontent, said Huang Yan researcher at South China Normal University in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, who studies unrest among migrants in the Pearl River delta.

“This is like a volcano that is dormant for a long time until it finds a point to erupt from. I’m not saying that this is a volcano that will erupt across the entire country, but in areas where migrant workers are concentrated, there are accumulated tensions,” Huang said.

The Party is the primary symbol of authority in a country whose people have scant legal or political channels to press grievances, especially against officials, police or bosses.

China’s official trade union noted in a report last year that migrants are getting more assertive — and more organized.

“The rights mentality of the new generation of rural migrant workers is already clearly different from the traditional rural migrants,” it said.

“There are signs that their mode of defending their rights is shifting from individual to collective action,” the report said, noting a survey that found over half of migrant workers born after 1980 said they would be willing to join in “collective action” to defend their personal interests.

China has become greatly concerned with collective action since February, cracking down on dissent in response to fears that the “Arab spring” could inspire challenges to its one-party rule, especially before the leadership succession late in 2012.

Leave a comment

Filed under China, migrant workers, protests

“China riot informers promised cash and residency for tipoffs”

If you can’t beat the people fully into submission, try getting them to turn on each other. Via The Guardian:

Informers who help identify participants in a three-day riot by migrant factory workers in southern China could be rewarded with cash, honorary titles and a chance to gain official urban residency status, an official announcement has said.

The police notice, published on the website of the Zengcheng Daily newspaper, indicates authorities are having trouble tracking down those behind the violence that broke out 10 June, during which vehicles were torched, government offices ransacked and at least 25 people arrested.

Authorities are offering up to $1,500 (£900) in cash together with “outstanding migrant worker” titles and urban residency permits that allow better access to schools, subsidised housing, healthcare and other public services.

“The public security departments call on the broad masses of city residents not to be incited by people with ulterior motives, but to keenly struggle against criminal lawbreakers and actively reveal the identities of these criminal lawbreakers,” said the notice.

It was not clear whether the offer has led to any useful information and calls to police as telephone numbers attached to the notice rang unanswered on Monday.

Yet it was a clear sign of the lack of trust between security forces and citizens at a time of growing unease over corruption, abuse of power and a worsening income divide.

“Actively reveal the identities of these criminal lawbreakers” is pretty much breaking my slime-meter. Hopefully the migrant workers will support each other and maintain solidarity against these awful tactics.

Leave a comment

Filed under China, migrant workers

“China: Truth, Rumors, and a Basket of Fruit”

Another great post from Evan Osnos at The New Yorker, who writes about yet another major ‘mass incident’ that took place over the last few days. Honestly, I’ve lost count of how many we’ve had since this month started.

When local authorities fanned out this week into villages and factory towns around Guangzhou, they were not hunting criminals or political agitators. They were racing to deliver their vision of the truth—to “clarify the rumor about a clash between security personnel and a pregnant street vendor,” as the state press put it.

The town of Zengcheng had erupted in protests, with hundreds of migrant workers tipping over police cars, smashing windows, and torching government buildings. Police responded with tear gas and armored vehicles. It began on Friday evening, when Wang Lianmei, a twenty-year-old pregnant street vendor, and her husband, Tang Xuecai, had a run-in with security personnel who suspected that the couple had “illegally occupied the village’s road to sell goods,” according to the China Daily, a state-run newspaper. Word spread that police had injured the expectant mother and killed her husband, and by the middle of the night a crowd was pelting police with stones and bricks. By Saturday morning, the Party chief Xu Zhibiao had visited Wang at the hospital, and “brought a basket of fruit,” the state media pointed out. “Wang and her fetus remained intact,” the mayor declared.

It’s barely the middle of June, and this is shaping up to be an especially long, hot summer in China. There was rioting in another Chinese city last week, unrest in Inner Mongolia, and—rare for China—bomb attacks in two other cities. While it’s worth pointing out, as Jeremy Page does in the Wall Street Journal, that these show no sign of coordination, it’s also worth asking: How did China come to find itself trying to outrun rumors with baskets of fruit?

His conclusion:

How did Sina, the Web site that hosts the discussions, deal with the rumors? By barring users who circulated them and blocking searches on terms such as “Zengcheng,” the site of the street-vendor flap. Those measures, it’s safe to say, are band-aids on a tumor. But recognizing the true source of the illness—the consistent, deliberate misuse of truth for political purposes—is out of the question, for the moment. So authorities will continue racing around in an attempt to shore up the existing system, in which “lies will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie.” And if that doesn’t work, there is always another fruit basket.

Some people seem to think that the Chinese public accepts the lies which are constantly thrown at them- but I think it’s important to note that although the truth may be out of reach for many people here, they aren’t really buying what the government is selling. Beijing seems to consider this an acceptable outcome: it’s better to have people confused about what happened, rather than angry. But there’s a price to be paid for this strategy, as well, and the cost increases every day.

Leave a comment

Filed under China, journalism, migrant workers, protest