The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage
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In this landmark work of investigative reporting, former Financial Times correspondent Alexandra Harney uncovers a story of immense significance to us all: how China's factory economy gains a competitive edge by selling out its workers, environment, and future. Harney's firsthand reporting brings us face-to-face with a world in which intense pricing pressure from Western companies combines with ubiquitous corruption and a lack of transparency to exact a staggering toll in human misery and environmental damage. This eye-opening expose offers, for the first time, an intimate look at the defining business story of our time.
about the challenges in the auditing industry in China, on the condition that their real names not be used. They felt acutely the inherent tension of their role. Social compliance auditors are often caught between the interests of the multinationals and the factories they inspect. Sometimes, auditors are the only people workers can turn to for help during a labor dispute. Many describe receiving calls, often in the middle of the night, from employees of their company’s suppliers asking the
factory needed to focus on figuring out ways to comply with the code, or forget about doing business with the U.S. brand. In 2000, Zhang resolved to stop cheating and try to pass Timberland’s audits. He started shutting off lights and locking doors to the factory during lunch and after the day shift finished, to prevent employees from sneaking in to do extra overtime. He forced production team leaders to limit employees’ hours. He told workers that if they wanted to keep working at Chai Da, they
speaking with Social Accountability International (SAI), a New York-based nonprofit human rights group that tries to improve workplace conditions around the world. SAI was best known for its SA8000 social compliance standard, which was based on United Nations and International Labor Organization standards. But the group also trained employees, managers and auditors on improving working conditions. The SA8000 standard requires that workers be free to form or join trade unions and bargain
treating his workers well would be good for his bottom line. Chenfeng employs more than 11,000 people in two factories producing clothing for some of the biggest brands in the business: Adidas, Liz Claiborne, Eddie Bauer, Jones New York, Uniqlo of Japan. Its newer factory is located an hour and a half’s drive outside of Shanghai, on Chenfeng Road. Housed in several solid gray stone fortresses with green mirrored windows, the plant would not be out of place in an American business park. Inside,
Because local governments rely heavily on the revenues they generate through taxes and other fees, there is little incentive for them to implement policies that would threaten that income stream. China has “a political economy where political power has been monetized to a high level because of the partially reformed economy with a completely unreformed political system,” says Jason Kindopp, leader of the China team at the Eurasia Group, a political risk advisory firm. “The political economy is