China, Wages, and Wal-Mart

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There are two big headlines out of China about Wal-Mart. First, the retail giant is on a billion-dollar expansion spree that will make it the biggest food and department store network in all of China. Astounding, but typical. Wal-Mart now selling turtle blood in Beijing.

The second headline? Not so typical. In fact it sounds extraordinary: Wal-Mart — the biggest private employer in America that has always barred the door to labor unions — is going union in China. What that means is a matter of debate — for China, for Chinese workers, for American workers, and maybe for workers in Bangladesh.

Hear about the inside story on cheap stuff, China, world wages, and Wal-Mart.

Quotes from the Show:

"There is a nationalist feeling [among the Chinese] that they don't want to be pushed around by foreign companies like WalMart." Anita Chan

"The Chinese government has stood up to Wal-Mart better than the American government." Thea Lee

"China is still egregiously out of compliance with its international obligations on labor rights." Thea Lee

"This [development] is hugely important for the American middle class." Thea Lee

"The policies of multinational companies are still driving the wages down in China." Anita Chan


Joe Kahn, Beijing Bureau Chief for The New York Times.;
James Kynge. He is currently Chief Representative in China for Pearson Group, an international media company. He is author of "China Shakes the World: A Titan's Rise and Troubled Future — and the Challenge for America.";
Thea Lee, Policy Director and Chief International Economist at the AFL-CIO. She has testified before Congress on China, Worker's Rights, China's succession to the WTO, and Human Rights.;
Anita Chan. She is a Research Fellow at the Australian National University's Contemporary China Center. She is author of "China's Workers Under Assault: Exploitation and Abuse in a Globalizing Economy."

This program aired on October 26, 2006.


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