Sunday, September 28, 2014

An Open Letter to American Men

Dear Fellow American Men,

Why do so many among us hate women? The amount of harassment and violence we inflict on our American sisters is astounding. Millions of women are physically or sexually assaulted every year.

The tremendous number of rapes perpetrated on female college students is one issue that has gained more attention as of late. A relatively well-known case is that of Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia student that was raped by a classmate her sophomore year. But Columbia administration vetted out little to no punishment for the offenders in Emma and other female students' cases. Leniency toward offenders is a common theme for college rape.

What's sickening is that some of us (men) blame women for their own rape: "When a woman wears clothes like that, she's asking for it", "This is why women shouldn't get drunk at parties", "She shouldn't have gone to the party without bringing a friend". We say these things oblivious to how unjust it is that men can roam free wearing and drinking whatever they want while women must vigilantly prevent their own rapes.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

"Socially Responsible" Capitalism Still Feeds the Disease

As part of an excellent analysis piece on the concept of social responsibility, I did an interview with journalist Toshio Meronek for Truthout. The article really touches on issues located at the root of the state of business ethics. I've copied the beginning of the article below. The full piece, published on September 16, can be read here.

Capitalism with a conscience? That's the idea behind so-called "socially responsible" investments - buying stocks in companies that are screened for criteria like good labor practices, sustainability and whether or not the company is involved in arms manufacturing. The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, an industry association, claimed in its latest report from 2012 that at least $3.74 trillion in the United States is invested with environmental and social impacts in mind.

Some socially responsible investments (SRI) weed out cigarette companies like Philip Morris; others shun companies with poor environmental records, like BP. But whichever investments you choose, there's a good chance you'll be profiting off companies with bad human rights records because the backbone of many SRI funds are consumer technology stocks - companies like Apple and Samsung, which have histories replete with labor and privacy abuses.

China Labor Watch (CLW) is one of the groups that investigates ongoing labor problems; Kevin Slaten is its US-based program coordinator. He spoke to Truthout about the reports his organization has conducted on Apple, which started to be heavily scrutinized around 2010 when activists brought attention to child labor in some of the factories used by the computer giant. Some of these same factories were the subjects of protests over a number of Chinese labor law violations and mass worker suicides.

According to Slaten, "We constantly find these symptoms, but the disease underlying these symptoms has not been properly taken care of for years. The disease is these companies want the most amount of products in the shortest amount of time."

Read the rest of the article here.

More Exploitation, More Happiness: How Netizens Responded to a Deadly Factory Explosion

This essay was originally published at 
ChinaFile on September 18, 2014.

It was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in recent Chinese history. On August 2, a massive metal dust explosion killed 75 workers and injured another 186 at a factory in Kunshan, in Jiangsu province, that supplied wheels to General Motors. Asphyxiation killed more than 40 people almost immediately as oxygen in the production facility was consumed in an instant. Many of those who escaped suffered severe burns across their entire bodies as the flames instantly ignited the dust that covered their clothes and skin.

The explosion, like many workplace safety incidents in China, was preventable, and much of the blame for it rests with the factory’s owners and clients. But Chinese Internet users, who spread news of the blast over social media, tended to direct their outrage at the Chinese government, treating the explosion as a symbol of their leaders’ failure to value human life as highly as economic growth, a sentiment mordantly expressed through the popularization of the Chinese phrase “More exploitation, more happiness.”

Friday, September 5, 2014

Media Round-up: Lack of reform to working conditions at Apple supplier Catcher

On September 4, China Labor Watch (CLW) along with Green America published an investigative report (PDF) on a long list of labor and safety violations at factory called Catcher Technology in Suqian, China that manufactures Apple computer and phone parts.

In addition to the approaching iPhone 6, this report followed 16 months after CLW had already reported similar labor abuse to Apple. But Apple failed to take the necessary action to see through reform. 

In the wake of this report, I had a chance to discuss findings and underlying causes with WSJ, The Guardian, the South China Morning Post, and CNET. Voice of America did a Chinese-language interview with me. I also stepped onto CNBC's Squawk Box, which you can view below.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

What is the Chinese Dream?

Over the past three decades, every Chinese Communist Party chairman, upon his taking the reigns of power, has developed a grand guiding principle rolled up into a nifty rhetorical package. Not much unlike U.S. politicians' campaign slogans, in the 1990s, it was Jiang Zemin's "Three Represents" (三个代表), and in the 2000s, Hu Jintao's "Scientific Development" (科学发展观).

Soon after Xi Jinping became the top official in China, he developed a phrase that would become his political slogan: "The Chinese Dream" (中国梦). But amidst increasing amounts of both real and perceived inequality, some in China do not feel that they are enjoying the dream, especially migrant workers who built much of that dream with their bare hands.

Over at ChinaFile, Sharron Lovell and Tom Wang asked a few young Chinese people about their dreams. One of the most memorable quotes for me was from a young man who said:

"If there weren't any migrant workers, it would be impossible for China to develop this fast." ... "The place you live was built by migrant workers. What you're eating was grown by migrant workers. What you're wearing was produced by migrant workers."     
“如果没有农民的话,中国不可能发展这么快。”... “你住的地方农民工建的,你吃的农民工种的,你穿的农民工做。”
See the entire video below.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The end of newsies

Child newsies in 1906. "Midnight at the Brooklyn Bridge" -- Photo by Lewis W. Hine. Transfer from Photo League Lewis Hine Memorial Committee. Ex-collection of Corydon Hine. Copyright George Eastman House Collection.
Stepping off the Long Island Railroad train, I look up to catch my bearings. Seventh Avenue is to the right, and I follow the stream of morning passengers toward the steps that lead up into the main hall of the train station.

After squeezing out of the narrow stairway, people around me seem to multiply into a enormous crowd of commuters, filling the large hallways of Pennsylvania Station. The mass of people flows like an urgent river toward the main exit up to the street level. I jump into the stream, bobbing and weaving between groggy businesspeople and office workers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Media Round-up: Child labor at Samsung supplier Shinyang

On July 10, CLW exposed another case of child workers making Samsung products at a Samsung supplier plant in southern China called Shinyang Electronics. Beside child labor, there were a list of 14 other labor abuses, such as 120 hours of overtime per month, unsafe working conditions, and more.

There was a considerable media follow-up on the heels of the report. Among the stories, I spoke on CNN's Quest Means Business and WSJ Live, and interviewed with the International Business Times. The videos are below.

CNN clip

WSJ clip