How do your consumer choices, and the choices of the rest of US
explain the rapid recent rise in exports of US
cotton to China?
"demand by Americans for cheap
clothing from China leads to demand from China for cotton from America.
Why does Nelson's cotton travel to China? That's
where the cheap laborers are.
And, which represents a greater portion of
your T-shirt's price, the cotton or the labor involved in making cotton
shirt? Labor, more than 50% of cost.
Write a few sentences in which you characterize Shanghai
of 1920-1949 and the role of cotton.
Shanghai was China's most important port and manufacturing center during this
period. A main import was US cotton.
A main manufacturing activity was
production. The city was also China's Las Vegas, its Sin City. Beyond its recreational
activities, Shanghai was notable for the close association of
poor, overworked mill workers and fabulously wealthy mill owners.
unrest in Shanghai helped to fuel the Communist Revolution of
When did China
begin making T-shirts for the US
like her summary description of the landscape of Shanghai:
giant factory floor.
Rivoli's description of the processes that
transform baled cotton into cloth are vivid.
Learn the sequence from bale to shirt.
blow apart bale, smooth into blanket,
carding, slivers twisted into yarn (spindles), yarn
wound onto bobbins, yarn knitted by
machine into fabric, fabric cut into pieces, sewing of apparel items
How is sewing different from the other processes in the sequence? It
has not become almost fully mechanized.
How has T-shirt manufacture changed since the privatization of industry
Workers and managers have had to learn
new ideas about quality and production.
No longer do they operate as cogs in a machine with no
responsibility. They have had to adapt
production to compete.
What is Shanghai Knitwear? Shanghai
Knitwear is China's "state-owned apparel export-import company."
do they charge per dozen of T-shirts? $13.
When did China
become the world's apparel export leader? 1993
When did their emergence begin? 1970s
What has happened the US's
share of apparel exports during this period? It's stayed
fairly constant with a couple of fluctuations.
Summarize "the race to the bottom argument".
race to the bottom refers to the
export apparel industry being a global competition in which laborers'
and working conditions are sacrificed by corporations in the pursuit of
expensive production of a commodity demanded by consumers in the rich
of the world.
What's your opinion of this argument?