Several months ago The Economist released a fascinating graphic on China, titled “Comparing Chinese Provinces With Countries.” As the title implies, this graphic compares each of China’s provinces with different countries. The comparisons are GDP, GDP per person, population, and exports. There are a number of interesting things that the graphic shows.
Unsurprisingly, China does “best” in the population graph. While everybody knows that China’s population is the largest in the world, the sheer size of China’s population can still sometimes come as a shock. The province Anhui by itself has the same population as that of Great Britain, for instance. And there are seven provinces with higher populations than Anhui; the most populated province, Guangdong, has 58% more population than Anhui. On the low side of things comes Tibet, which covers a lot of space but has a mere 3.0 million residents (smaller than some American cities). It’s pretty astonishing to see how small Tibet’s actual population is, given the huge amount of news coverage devoted to it.
The exports graph is also interesting. Most provinces have absolutely tiny exports, belying China’s reputation as an exporting power. Beijing, for instance, exports only 29.2 billion in goods – about the same as Oman. Five coastal provinces account for 77% of China’s total exports; of those five, Guangdong alone is 30% of China’s total exports.
Humorously, the highest rated comment (by far) on the article goes “I cannot find Taiwan.”As a newspaper published by the United Kingdom, The Economist does not include Taiwan as a Chinese province. A Chinese version of the same graphic, of course, would include Taiwan.
Finally, there is one area where China does quite badly: per capita income. The average income each person makes for most provinces reads like a who’s list of Third World, developing countries – Angola, El Salvador, Namibia. This is after thirty years of enormous economic growth, which really makes one think about how poor China was back in the days of Mao Zedong.
The poorest province of China is Guizhou, in which GDP per person is only $3,335. GDP per person in Guizhou is lower than that of the African countries Congo-Brazzaville and Swaziland. But guess which country Guizhou’s GDP is closest to:
GDP per capita in the poorest province of China – a province poorer than several sub-Saharan African countries – is the same as GDP per capita in India. It makes one realize that India, for all its recent economic success, is still really really poor.
The tax break issue is the latest in a series of developments that have recently charged the country’s politics around the issues of immigration and labor rights, with them coming together in the case of migrant workers. Last month, the country witnessed a major standoff in the Wisconsin state government between Governor Scott Walker (and his Republican-led state assembly) and thousands of labor groups and workers in the state as the Governor pledged to enact a bill to severely curtail collective bargaining. After three weeks of fierce debates, Gov. Walker managed to push the bill through. The Ohio state assembly soon followed suit, with other states such as Tennessee and Iowa heading in a similar direction. This steady erosion of worker rights presents an increasing risk not just to the economy of this country but also to its social fabric. It also echoes a past where worker rights were often ignored, especially in the case of immigrant workers.
Last month, several labor groups and organizations marked the centennial anniversary of an incident that highlights the lack of protection of workers – the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of March 28, 1911, in which 146 mostly immigrant workers died. To mark the centenary of the tragedy, many labor rights groups amplified their push for pro-labor rights legislation to challenge the spate of anti-union labor bills that were passed recently. The 1911 tragedy brings to light the plight of immigrant workers and the exploitation that still continues today. At a rally commemorating the tragedy, one union member, Walfre Merida, described the similarities between the condition of migrant workers today and those that perished in the fire a hundred years ago. Merida stated-
I see that a hundred years since this terrible accident that killed so many people, things have really not changed at all…Safety conditions, none. Grab your tool and go to work, no more. And do not stop. When we worked in high places, on roofs, we never used harnesses, one became accustomed to the dangers and thanked God we weren’t afraid of heights. One would risk his life out of necessity.
As stories of worker rights violations continue to proliferate, we must take heed from our past mistakes in order to avoid a degradation of these conditions in the future. This week – just as Jews around the world gather at the Passover table to recount their liberation from migrant slave labor in Egypt – Breakthrough’s Facebook game, America 2049, immerses players into discussions around labor rights, especially with regards to the rights of immigrant workers. The game utilizes several events and artifacts from the past to highlight the continued struggles of migrant workers in the United States. In the game’s world in which everyone has an embedded chip to mark their identity, players are given the mission to investigate a counterfeiting ring that helps indentured workers – primarily immigrants, though also citizens who have succumbed to crushing credit debt – to escape their unjust contracts and inhumane living conditions, and begin new lives. The game references the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire as a lesson from the past about the respect and rightful treatment of workers. It also suggests a future that is even bleaker because we as a country have failed to recognize the importance of immigrant workers and worker rights to the success of the country as a whole.
Watch a testimonial by a character in the game, Ziyad Youssef, a Syrian man who was lured into a job with promises of good pay and easy hours, but found himself in slavery-like conditions, unable to look after his sick daughter or provide basic amenities to his family:
The United States is currently grappling with an issue that will inevitably affect our national economy and social conditions in the years to come. The denial of legitimacy and basic rights to immigrant workers will only hamper the nation’s growth on the world stage. In a special report on global migration published in 2008, The Economist argued for the widespread acceptance of migrant workers by the richer countries that so desperately need them. Speaking about the United States, the report stated-
Around a third of the Americans who won Nobel prizes in physics in the past seven years were born abroad. About 40% of science and engineering PhDs working in America are immigrants. Around a third of Silicon Valley companies were started by Indians and Chinese. The low-skilled are needed too, especially in farming, services and care for children and the elderly. It is no coincidence that countries that welcome immigrants—such as Sweden, Ireland, America and Britain—have better economic records than those that shun them…Americans object to the presence of around 12m illegal migrant workers in a country with high rates of legal migration. But given the American economy’s reliance on them, it is not just futile but also foolish to build taller fences to keep them out.
Players in America 2049 will discover valuable artifacts from our country’s past that highlight an ongoing struggle for worker rights and have the agency to join the discussion and save the country’s future from the dystopic scenario the game depicts. One of the artifacts in the game is a poem titled ‘A Song for Many Movements,’ written in 1982 by Audre Lord, a black feminist lesbian poet. The poem articulates the connection between suffering and speaking out against injustices, which is what the workers rights protests around the country have been doing and which we must keep advocating until real change is made-
Broken down gods survive in the crevasses and mudpots of every beleaguered city where it is obvious there are too many bodies to cart to the ovens or gallows and our uses have become more important than our silence after the fall too many empty cases of blood to bury or burn there will be no body left to listen and our labor has become more important than our silence.
Our labor has become more important than our silence.
(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)
The Economist, Great Britain’s magazine for the American elite, recently published a special report on Latin America. While the magazine noted the continuing challenges facing Latin America, it also perceived that Latin America has made great strides in the past decade. This has especially been the case with reducing inequality, a perpetual curse of that region in the world – and perhaps the greatest obstacle to economic advancement in Latin America.
In doing this, The Economist published the following table:
This table indicates the rate by which a country’s inequality – measured by the Gini coefficient – has declined since 2000. The table stops at 2006 or a later date; unfortunately it does not say which countries have data until 2006, and which countries have data after that.
All in all the table paints a bright picture: inequality is down in most countries, from Brazil to Mexico to Argentina.
Several countries, however, stand out as exceptions. The most notable is Venezuela, which has been governed by President Hugo Chavez since 1999. Under Mr. Chavez, inequality has barely decreased. When compared to other countries, Venezuela has on done worse than average.
Since so much of Mr. Chavez’s political messaging rests upon his appeal to the poor, this is a startling failure. Mr. Chavez proudly characterizes himself as a socialist, determined to reduce income inequality and redistribute wealth more evenly. Yet after more than a decade of rule, inequality has barely budged – in stark contrast to the rest of Latin America.
One finds that this is the case with a number of Chavez-aligned countries. Anti-American President Daniel Ortega governs Nicaragua, and former anti-American President Manuel Zelaya ruled Honduras until 2009. In both countries the presidents are (or were) left-wing anti-American hardliners committed to socialism and helping the poor. In both countries income inequality has actually increased.
There are exceptions. President Evo Morales is as left-wing and anti-American as any Latin American leader, and Bolivian inequality has decreased substantially. Moreover, some of these leaders were not in power before 2006, so they may not be responsible for what the graph shows (although in some cases the data may be more recent). Their elections may have been a response to rising inequality – rather than to say that they failed at reducing inequality.
But Mr. Chavez has been in power since before 2000. He has no such excuse. When a president comes into office promising to help the poor, a good way to measure whether he or she has kept the promise is to look at how the poor have done relative to the rich. By that measure, Mr. Chavez – for all his about rhetoric about socialistic revolution – has not helped Venezuela’s poor.
Barack Obama makes the cover page of the influential weekly business read. The print will run worldwide from Friday.
The respected newspaper backed Bush in 2000 and Kerry in 2004.
They are generally centre-right, free-market, open government slanted.
The Economist describes Obama as the 'party's best hope' and ends with:
''For all these reasons, Mr Obama in our view now deserves the Democratic nomination. It is surely not worth Mrs Clinton dragging this to the convention. It is time for her, at a moment of her choosing, to concede gracefully and throw the considerable weight of the Clintons behind their party's best hope''.
They wrote about him in glowing terms.
''There is one final reason why Mr Obama is almost there. More than any other candidate this year, he has articulated an idea of a nobler America. That is partly because of who he is. When Mr Obama's parents married, in 1960, a union such as theirs, between a white woman and a black man, was illegal in over half of America's states. Now their son stands at the threshold of the White House. But it also has a lot to do with what he says and how he comports himself. Despite considerable provocation, he has never wavered from his commitment to bipartisanship--nor from the idea of America once again engaging with the world. There are severe problems with the details, on which Mr McCain will hopefully push him even further than Mrs Clinton has, but the upside of an Obama presidency remains greater than that of any other candidate.''
The one thing his voters can count on is that they will ultimately be disappointed. Der Spiegelhas it exactly right.
Update [2008-2-20 14:37:51 by susanhu]: Ignore the silly press reports about the Machinist Union president's speech. More here. WATCH THIS VIDEO. Hear about the promises that Obama made to desperate Maytag workers, and how he then took piles of money from the Crown family of Chicago, that owned Maytag -- and the patriarch of that family says that Obama never talked to him about saving the Maytag workers' jobs:
But the union that represented most of those Galesburg workers isn't impressed with Obama's advocacy and has endorsed his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Its leaders say they wish he had done more about their members' plight.
What rankles some is what Obama did not do even as he expressed solidarity four years ago with workers mounting a desperate fight to save their jobs.
Obama had a special connection to Maytag: Lester Crown, one of the company's directors and biggest investors whose family, records show, has raised tens of thousands of dollars for Obama's campaigns since 2003. But Crown says Obama never raised the fate of the Galesburg plant with him, and the billionaire industrialist insists any jawboning would have been futile. [BUT OBAMA COULD HAVE TRIED, DAMMIT]
The article also says that Axelrod had no clue that Crown sat on the board of Maytag. Guess they know now.
ORIGINAL: I already showed you a video of a panel of Obama supporters who were unable -- a single one of them -- to name any of Obama's legislative or other accomplishments. But even his elected supporters -- members of Congress and governors (!) -- cannot come up with anything. (Uh, you'd think that Obama's campaign would send them some talking points? If they can come up with a few?) (h/t Taylor Marsh and MyDD's "Breaking Blue")
Then there are Congressman Bobby Scott (D-Va) and Governor James Doyle, Jr. (D-Wisc), who can't think of a thing to say about their candidate's qualifications -- along with the concerns of Der Spiegel ("Change You Can't Believe In") and The Economist ("But could he deliver?"):