Rivoli Questions Ch. 6
1. Explain how the hukou system and liudong renkou created a comparative advantage for China's textile industry. Use the terms rural, urban, leash, Bracero and apartheid in your answer.
Rivoli likens the hukuo system to a leash that kept Chinese workers in the rural, undeveloped, poor countryside producing food for urban Chinese. While urban China developed economically, rural areas remained backwards and rural dwellers were prevented from migrating to the urban areas. It was similar to South Africa's apartheid system which segregated people on the basis of race. Liudong renkou are rural workers who were allowed to migrate to work in China's urban factories temporarily. These people are like the Bracero workers who were allowed to migrate from Mexico to work in the US temporarily.
2. What does the Chinese government do to floating worker quotas when US demand for T-shirts increases?
They increase them.
3. What factors lead Rivoli to predict that China will continue to lead in the "race to the bottom"?
China still has remnants of the hukou system and a large supply of docile female workers from rural areas that will work for low wages in textile and apparel manufacturing plants.
4. Why do Chinese women leave rural areas to work in the sweatshops? Use the terms drudgery, paycheck, and autonomy in your answer.
They leave the farm for the same reasons that people around the world migrate from rural settings to urban areas. Rural life in poor regions is filled with drudgery. Employment in the city offers a paycheck and a previously unknown level personal autonomy, even while working in a sweatshop.
5. How is the freedom that workers feel ironic?
They feel freedom even while their lives are controlled (work, curfews, production quotas...) by their employers.
6. Based on Pinchbeck's and others' studies, what benefit should we expect to see for China's sweatshop workers?
Throughout history and throughout the world, docile women given the opportunity to earn wages have become activist workers, less suited to the sweatshop but more suited to take initiative in other work. If China's women follow this model, the race to the bottom will move to another place in search of a docile work force.
7. How was David Hume a prophet?
He observed that manufacturing migrated in search of lower wage workers after having enriched a particular region. That's what is going on with t-shirt manufacture.
8. What point is Rivoli trying to make in her section that describes the histories of Manchester, Charlotte, Osaka and Hong Kong? Use the term "ignition switch" in your answer.
These 4 cities experienced the "race to the bottom" and were eventually enriched by it. Their economies suffered textile job losses but made the transition to diversified industrialization. The textile industry was the ignition switch that initiated the process.
9. How have student activists and others "raised the bottom"?
These "forces of conscience" have forced factory owners to improve working conditions so that the "race" is a race to a "bottom"that is higher than it was previously.
10. How, when and where did the "factory acts" "raise the bottom"?
The Factory Acts were passed by the British Parliament in 1819, 1825, 1844, and 1878. They "raised the bottom" by improving the working conditions for children and raising wages in the factories.
11. Why does Rivoli mention the historic changes in life expectancy?
She is trying to show how the race is to a higher bottom than it previously was. One way to show that the bottom is higher is to show that life expectancy, an indicator of well-being, has improved during the race.
12. How did students, just 11 years ago, force Nike and other apparel companies to improve working conditions?
By using the new technology of email, cell phones and web-sites they were able to create a loud enough voice to protest the conditions of Nike's sweatshops.
13. What aspects of China will make it more difficult to "raise the bottom"?
Chinese workers do not enjoy the civil liberties and free press that are necessary for labor reforms to occur.
14. What evidence is there that the "race to the bottom" is leaving Shanghai? 1/3 of garment factories closed in the 1990s
Why is it leaving? There must be cheaper workers somewhere else. And, Shanghai is diversifying its economy beyond textile and apparel manufacturing, similar to Charlotte and both Manchesters.