Necessary Evil?


After hearing Daisey’s story, I noticed how much the current growth in China resembles the rapid growth the United States experienced during the Industrial Revolution. Much like China, workers had few rights and were easily replaced. A 40 hour work week was unknown and things like “benefits” were not commonplace. As China moves towards being the new industrial giant of the world, is it moving in the same path that the United States took to achieve the economic expansion we enjoy today? If so, is it necessary to sacrifice workers’ well being to gain an edge on the competition?

If China were to enact and enforce labor regulations, would companies move to countries where such regulations did not infringe on their business activities? If one country won’t allow it, it seems that there always will be other countries that do and will thus be more attractive to businesses. Without these businesses, China would be most likely rural, poverty-ridden, and unable to generate the income necessary to provide services to its citizens. While not the case today, the eventual incomes a country stands to gain from big business can used for the betterment of society (as it is in the United States). Even though China may be undergoing rapid growth at the expense of its citizens now, the rewards to people in the future could be worth the pain of expansion. If China were to become an unfavorable business environment too early on in its growth, it risks losing all potential gains from industrialization. Improvements should be made to the quality of life for workers, but to what extent is necessary will be a tough target to determine.

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6 responses to “Necessary Evil?

  1. While my own post was directed in a very different direction, I thought your points were very compelling and your comparison to the Industrial Revolution was something I had not considered before. Looking at the current work life in China from your perspective, I do see the possible benefits of the having such labor intensive workers and what that brings for the country. However, I think the lack of unions and the corrupt labor boards need to be addressed and fixed if China is going to rise as a giant like the United States did. I also think the regulations in place need to be enforced and not looked past every time it is not convenient for a company. After reading your post and several others, I do see some of the benefits that arise for the country of China, but I still feel their needs to be much better labor laws and attention brought to the matter. That needs to be addressed both by the companies and the Chinese government.

  2. I hadn’t even thought about the points you brought up in your second paragraph and believe that they are truly insightful. A majority of America’s outsourcing jobs issue came from the rising minimum wage. There is always a place where labor is cheaper and I feel as though massive companies like Apple and Foxconn will continue to seek factory locations that have the cheapest productive labor force. If China cracks down on its labor laws, disturbingly enough, I feel like this problem will just migrate to another developing country.

  3. Initially my attention was grabbed by this blog because of the name “necessary evil,” and I feel that what was written encompasses the issue very well. I found the main talking point in this to be at the start of the second paragraph, discussing the question of labor restrictions in China. Would such enforcements solve the problem? Or would these companies currently operating in China just move to other countries without such restrictions. The nature of the beast for all of these companies is first and foremost to make a profit, preferably a big one. So chances are, the answer to the question would be that businesses looking to make a little extra would certainly try and operate in such countries with less restrictions. It certainly brings up the ethical concepts which were mentioned in class. What would be the right and moral thing for these companies to do? Take care of their employees, or make more money?

  4. The issues that this post addresses are very interesting and not ones I considered myself while listening to the podcast. I do think that if the Chinese government issued drastic new labor restrictions and laws that big companies such as Foxconn would just move their operations to another country with less regulations and the problem would continue. However, if the Chinese government put more focus on the protection of its citizens I think that the problem could begin to improve. The Chinese government could put some kind of pressure on these big companies to help push for better conditions.

  5. Unfortunately, China faces a tough decision regarding its labor laws. China’s knows it growth is attributed to its cheap labor and adding regulations will only increase the price of that labor. As a result, US companies and other foreign giants will begin to look elsewhere for cheaper labor, which is actually happening already. On the other hand, human rights and ethics concerns should also take priority if China wants to be seen in a more positive light.

  6. While I agree with you that having a cheap labor force has contributed greatly to China’s impressive economic growth, I am not really sure if you can compare their experience to that of people in the United States during the Industrial Revolution. The reason I say that is because the context is completely different. In the late 19th and early 20th century, concepts like benefits did not exist really anywhere. Today, those concepts do exist and Foxconn, Apple, and China are just ignoring them. Also, the communist system that exists in China is radically different than United States Democracy during the Industrial Revolution and there is considerably less opportunity to generate the social mobility necessary to develop fair labor practices.

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