Kev’s Thoughts On… Migrant workers vs. Lower-class urbanites

Posted: March 23rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

This is more of a question rather than an observation; something I hope some of you may be able to shed some light on. I myself have done little research on the subject, but hope to learn more in the near future.

What is the dynamics of the relationship between the class of migrant workers and the class of lower-income urbanites in China?

Economically, they are not very far apart (I actually don’t know the numerical difference, if someone knows, please tell me!) but what interests me more is each class’ perception of the other and their interaction with each other.

Their lifestyles are different, their spending habits are different, their experience and perception of the large, urban metropolises are different. And yet they share somewhat the same economic space in society.

If any one needs clarification of what I mean by Migrant Worker and Lower-Class Urbanite, I broadly define them as this:

Migrant workers are those whose families and ‘home’ is in a rural or extra-urban environment. This group comes into the city mainly to work, with holidays or time off usually used by travelling back ‘home’. The majority of their salary is saved for the purpose of sending back to the remainder of their family members who reside in rural villages/towns. As migrants, they are technically illegal citizens of the city, and therefore work at their own risk with no governmental or legal benefits.

Lower-class urbanites I describe as those whose ‘home’ is in the city, who’s spending stays within the city, with no transfer of funds going out of the city. Employment is highly competitive with migrant workers, and many depend on government welfare subsidies.

I am most interested in how each class views advancement opportunities; expectations about the future for their children. I also think its interesting to observe whether there is animosity between these classes, or apathy. Does one look down on the other?

These questions are important because they give us insight into the next generation of urban Chinese, the foundations to a new fabric of Chinese society. We have learned from North America’s own history that many migrant workers eventually become urbanized, becoming the fresh blood in the regenerative ecosystem of an urban center. But China’s urbanization may take a different developmental path because of the “migrant” worker, something North America had less experience with. (Because early North America’s supply of low-wage workers came from overseas, permanent relocation or immigration was the only economical option, thus solidifying immigrant workers as the new lower-class urbanite). Even within North America’s urban development, lower-class immigrants have had factional conflicts (some that carry on today). China may not have the extreme racial differences in the lower-class, but it has the dichotomy between permanent lower-class urbanites and true migrant workers.

Understanding these two class’ interactions, and even helping to smooth the integration, will draw a clearer picture of China’s emerging modern society. Understanding this experience between these two classes is imperative, because today’s lower-class children, urbanite or migrant, is tomorrow’s middle or upper-middle class consumer. And the lessons they learn from watching their parent’s struggling experience will have great influence on their decision-making behaviour.

Kev’s Thoughts On… Olympics & Media, four years forward

Posted: February 23rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

I generally try to stay away from saying the ‘O’ word as much as I can, mostly in fear that I will preemptively overkill what is guaranteed to be the most saturated subject in my life for the next 6 to 9 months. But I had to comment on what we are likely going to see this Olympic round that will be vastly different than Athens ’04 or Sydney ’00.

Media is playing a whole new ballgame this time around folks. I don’t know if people (the Olympic committee, the Chinese government, passive on-lookers like you & me) truly realize how media’s growth from ’04 to ’08 will change the way we experience the Olympics from here on forward.

Household names like Facebook, Myspace, Youtube, Twitter, and the big one – blogs – were non-existent or in their infancy during Athens ’04. How many people walking into the Beijing Olympic village this year will have cameras in their cellphones ready to record anything out of the ordinary? And I am not just talking about scandals or infractions on Human Rights or political protests; I’m talking about pictures and videos of athlete’s ‘off camera’ reactions before/after their competition, or fans’ antics. There are more media recorders going in, and more media outlets coming out. Beijing ’08 is in for a totally new experience.

Recent events remind me more and more that we’re going to be seeing a whole new side of the Olympics. January’s Olympic scandal during an Olympic – CCTV (China’s National TV Broadcaster) press conference kicked of the new year with a viral bang. The press conference was interrupted by the wife of the Olympic/CCTV announcer coming on camera and telling everyone her husband was a cheater and that China’s culture was all backwards. You can read an article about it here or try to watch the actual video (caught on someone’s cellphone camera) here. Unfortunately for everyone in China who’s late in watching this video, its all been blocked by that great firewall of China, although I’m sure if you did a little more digging you’d find it somewhere.

Then, just as things were starting to settle down, the Edison Chen scandal hit just before Chinese New Year in late January. Edison, a famous HK movie star had sent his laptop in for repairs, and when the technicians were rummaging inside Edison’s hard drive, they found a treasure trove of pictures and home videos of Edison with the many, many, many celebrity women that he has been with. These pictures and videos of course were leaked everywhere on the internet for all to see. The aftermath continues to today, with Edison announcing his ‘retirement’ from the film business. You can read about it here or here or here or here. After thinking about it, I have decided not to put links directly to the pictures of videos on my blog, but they really aren’t that hard to find.

I digress. But maybe that’s kind of the point. In 2 months we’ve seen two of the biggest scandals in the Asia Pacific region, and both were captured, and perpetuated by new media. This will be the first time the Olympics will be exposed to this type of coverage. What does that mean, and is everyone prepared for it? Everyone used to be glued to their TV sets watching the medal counts and coverage from highly editorialized broadcasters. Will that be the same, this time around? Four years forward has meant a lifetime of change for Olympic media coverage.

Kev’s Thoughts On… Sovereign Wealth Funds

Posted: February 12th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

I am sure many of you have been hearing over the past year about China’s newly-created, $200 billion National investment fund; money that they’ve split off from their ballooning current account surplus.  I am guessing that you’ve also heard how in the last few months the fund has been making waves in the international community because of the anxiety and concern the Chinese Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) causes politically as it tries to invest in other nation’s assets.

Its an important issue.  SWFs are powerful players on the global financial scene, and they do pose serious influence over systemic risk because of the concentration and liquidity of the capital movement.  And for nations like the US, where national security is ever paramount, the clash between financial and political motives in Foreign Direct Investments is something to be watched and monitored closely.

I’ve found a great article in the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine entitled “Public Footprints in Private Markets”, written by Robert M. Kimmitt, the Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Treasury.  The essay succinctly dispels SWF misconceptions floating around today’s media, it describes the real issues at stake, and outlines recommendations for policy-makers moving forward of how best to engage SWFs.  I highly recommend you have a read if you want to understand in a little more depth, what are SWFs and how they are changing our world.

The article can be found here.

This issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine was entitled “Changing China” and has about a half-dozen essays written by China & Foreign Policy experts on the issues facing China and the world today.  A must read for anyone interested in China-Foreign relations.