Evergrande in GuizhouOver the course of 40 years, China pulled 700 million people out of poverty. Rural poverty “decreased from 55.75 million to 16.6 million” between 2015 and 2018. China had planned to completely end extreme poverty by 2020. The country’s agenda is one key driver; however, the effort from the rising private sectors has also been pivotal. China’s private companies have demonstrated innovative ways to tackle poverty-related issues. This article will introduce the case of one leading private company, Evergrande in Guizhou.

Private Investment

China has already had success with private companies working to eradicate poverty. E-commerce has been fiercely discussed on different stages both internationally and domestically for its role in poverty eradication. Alibaba has successfully exercised the strategy of promoting small business from remote and impoverished regions on its online platform to stimulate the commodity economy and end their poverty. In fact, Alibaba’s online sales platforms have helped more than 100 poor counties in China reach a sales record of $14 million in 2018.

In 2019, the United Nations Environment Program honored Ant Financial Services Group for its achievement in afforestation of 122 million trees in arid regions in China to improve their overall living conditions. This tech company also works to finance small businesses. Its Alipay platform provides online money transfer services, lending and investment funds.

Evergrande in Guizhou

However, differing from these online giants, Evergrande leads the real estate business in China. In 2018, the head of the company, Jiayin Xu, said the private sector should do more in poverty alleviation. In the same year, Evergrande won the trophy for its donation of $560 million, which also make them the number one organizational donor. That year, 68 percent of the money donated went towards poverty alleviation.

Absolute numbers of donations are not the only hallmark of Evergrande’s approaches in poverty alleviation. Evergrande has an obvious provincial focus on its poverty reduction projects. Evergrande started working in Guizhou, one of China’s more underdeveloped provinces, in 2015. According to the report, Bijie, Guizhou, received 51.9 percent of the total donation, which equals $302 million. In, Bijie, the number of people living in poverty has decreased by 5.94 million, dropping the poverty rate from 56 percent to 8.89 percent in the last 30 years.

Agricultural Reclamation

Besides the massive amount of financial input, the success that Evergrande in Guizhou has had in combating poverty demonstrates another key mark: a detailed and localized strategy. Evergrande’s research corroborates Guizhou’s traditional disadvantage in agricultural reclamation. Therefore, it developed various alternative measures.

Its plans were to develop Dafang County, Bijie City, Guizhou Province. The company had completed 103 projects targeted poverty by 2017. More than 180,000 local residents benefited from these projects. Through supply, production and sale integration, Evergrande helped Dafang county create 16,473 acres planting bases of economic fruits and 317 beef breeding farms. It also built 10,223 greenhouses and 22 cultivation centers.

China’s private companies have had impressive success in combating poverty. As a new player in the field, Evergrande in Guizhou demonstrated how a private company turns poverty alleviation into an economic opportunity for both local communities and companies. Indeed, the company has had a relatively short time in the field, but its role is no less critical than governmental help.

Dingnan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Policies of Poverty in North Korea
Few places in the world have aroused as much curiosity and suspicion as North Korea. Known as the “hermit kingdom,” the multiple facets of daily life are secret from the rest of the world, but what is little known about the country paints a very poor economic picture. North Korea’s enigmatic persona on the world stage makes any attempt to uncover its true economic standing rather difficult. This could be due to the fact that the nation has not released any statistics to the global community since the 1960s. Also, while the exact numbers regarding North Korea’s economy and poverty in North Korea are a mystery, there is still quite a bit the world knows about its economic progress (or lack thereof) and how it is affecting the quality of life of its citizens.

Poverty in North Korea

Firstly, many know that along with North Korea’s cult of personality style of governance with Kim Jong-un as its poster boy, it keeps a tight grip on all of the business affairs of the country, resulting in a command economy. As a result, the free market is essentially non-existent with the state determining not only which goods people should produce, but also how and at what price to fix them at. According to the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), “the standard of living has deteriorated to extreme levels….” Even citizens, not fortunate enough to be part of the political or social elite, do not receive the basic necessities of health care and food security.

The KINU has even estimated that poverty in North Korea extends to about half of North Korea’s population of 24 million.

North Korea’s ironclad grip on its economic and political structures, coupled with its military-centric ideology, makes for a chaotic mix resulting in a struggling population. Even with modest attempts to modernize—including special economic zones, price liberalization and limited transactions with its South Korean neighbor—North Korea still finds itself focused on military and foreign policy. By doing so, it is absorbing much-needed market capital. Also, while North Korea fears that economic liberalization will lead to political and social liberalization, it is unprepared to take the economic risks that its neighbor and ally China has taken to marry its communist politics with a partially free-market economic approach.

Global Scrutiny and Aid

North Korea has faced increased global scrutiny due to its nuclear weapons ambitions, and this has resulted in not only immense political pressure but also crippling economic sanctions. Even with the post-Soviet push for rapid industrialization, North Korea has shown little economic resilience in the face of global disconnection. This has only exacerbated the ripple effect which inevitably leads to its suffering citizens.

Additionally, while the internal systems of the hermit kingdom were not enough to overcome, North Korea finds itself repeatedly on the receiving end of climate change and natural disasters. With alternating and equally devastating periods of both droughts and floods, paired with a government unable to respond, this only aggregates North Korea’s agricultural problems.

It is even suffering its worst drought in four decades, according to its state-run media. With a majority of North Koreans relying on crops and livestock for survival, and with the intensity of irregular weather on the horizon, the country could soon find itself in dire straits that it will be unable to shield from the global community.

Even with the multitude of economic, social and political problems North Korea has in front of it, there are still signs that the global community is willing to help eliminate poverty in North Korea. With China and South Korea right along its borders, North Korea has seen help in the form of aid. South Korea has pledged $8 million for aid. China has been even more generous. In 2012, China gave 240,074 tons of rice, more than 80 times what Europe gave North Korea that same year. These pledges signal that some are offering help to lessen the burden of poverty and struggle for the citizens of North Korea, but there is still more that others can and should do.

– Connor Dobson
Photo: Flickr

Top 5 Fastest Developing CountriesThe world economy is changing every day due to trade investments, inflation and rising economies making a greater impact than ever before. Improvements in these economies have been due to significant government reforms within these countries as well as the administration of international aid through financial and infrastructural efforts. These are the top five fastest developing countries in no particular order.

Top Five Fastest Developing Countries

  1. Argentina. Contrary to popular belief, Argentina is actually considered a developing country. Argentina’s economy was strong enough to ensure its citizens a good quality of life during the first part of the 20th century. However, in the 1990s, political upheaval caused substantial problems in its economy, resulting in an inflation rate that reached 2,000 percent. Fortunately, Argentina is gradually regaining its economic strength. Its GDP per capita just exceeds the $12,000 figure that most economists consider the minimum for developed countries. This makes Argentina one of the strongest countries in South America.
  2. Guyana. Experts have said that Guyana has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. It had a GDP of $3.63 billion and a growth rate of 4.1 percent in 2018. If all goes according to plan, Guyana’s economy has the potential to grow up to 33.5 percent and 22.9 percent in 2020 and 2021. Its abundance in natural resources such as gold, sugar and rice are among the top leading exports worldwide. Experts also project that Guyana will become one of the world’s largest per-capita oil producers by 2025.
  3. India. As the second most populated country in the world, India has run into many problems involving poverty, overcrowding and a lack of access to appropriate medical care. Despite this, India has a large well-skilled workforce that has contributed to its fast-growing and largely diverse economy. India has a GDP rate of $2.7 trillion and a $7,859 GDP per capita rate.
  4. Brazil. Brazil is currently working its way out of one of the worst economic recessions in its history. As a result, its GDP growth has increased by 1 percent and its inflation rate has decreased to 2.9 percent. As Latin America’s largest economy, these GDP improvements have had a significant impact on pulling Latin America out of its economic difficulties. Additionally, investors have also become increasingly interested in investing in exchange-traded funds and large successful companies such as Petrobras, a large oil company in Brazil.
  5. China. Since China began reforming its economy in 1978, its GDP has had an average growth of almost 10 percent a year. Despite the fact that it is the world’s second-largest economy, China’s per capita income is relatively low compared to other high-income countries. About 373 million Chinese still live below the upper-middle-income poverty line. Overall, China is a growing influence on the world due to its successes in trade, investment and innovative business ventures.

This list of the five fastest developing countries sheds some light on the accomplishments of these nations as they build. As time progresses, many of these countries may change in status.

Lucia Elmi
Photo: Wikimedia

China Reduced its Poverty
China reduced its poverty from 97 percent in 1978 to 1.7 percent in late 2018. In the late 1970s, China began focusing on poverty reduction and economic development. Through various economic efforts, China became market-oriented to decrease poverty, which subsequently grew the private sector, created modern banks, reformed the agricultural industry, developed the stock market and spurred foreign trade and investment. China aims to reduce poverty rates to 0 percent in 2020, which is in line with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating global poverty.

China’s Alleviation Method

The International Poverty Reduction Center in China reported lifting more than 850 million of its people out of poverty from 1981 to 2013. During that time period, extreme poverty decreased from 88 percent to 1.85 percent. To achieve a 0 percent poverty rate, China is using extensive expertise in helping Chinese nationals who reside in poorer regions. The current poverty rate of 1.7 percent primarily encompasses those in poor rural regions. 

Similar to the approach that China took in the 1970s and 1980s, it aims to increase efforts to open the economy for trade, diversify the marketplace, improve agricultural practices and implement education reform.

Poverty is still an issue throughout the agricultural industry, but the government is aiming to completely eliminate the Chinese poor. China created a poverty registration system that enables tracking of information relevant to those in poverty. It gathered data from more than 128,000 villages and 290,000 households that indicated that many of the poor reside in Guizhou, Yunan, Henan, Hunan, Guangxi and Sichuan. China aims to accomplish additional poverty reduction techniques through policies based on industrial development, relocation, eco-compensation, education and social security improvement. The Chinese government has managed to reduce poverty through direct involvement in hard-to-reach rural areas that have innately higher levels of poverty.

To support economic growth, the Chinese government is pushing for new industries in these poor regions, such as e-commerce and tourism. Furthermore, the relocation of poor families residing in areas prone to earthquakes or landslides has supported Chinese poverty reduction measures. The country is also emphasizing education and occupational training. Public health services will be available to the poor, especially in the remote mountainous regions. These actions indicate that China has reduced poverty not only through broad approaches but also through direct impacts.

Direct Progress

Progress is already underway in the government’s push for new industries. China has reduced poverty through these industries that benefit hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens. China E-commerce centers, known as Taobao villages, enable the Chinese to sell their produce and specialties online. In 2015, 780 Taobao villages employed more than one million people and included more than 200,000 active online storeowners. Comparatively, in 2019, the number of Taobao villages grew to 4,310 and active online shops totaled to more than 660,000.

China’s Investments in Africa 

China also helps other countries with economic development and poverty reduction. As an economy grows, poverty trends to gradually lower; on the other hand, job growth, economic diversification and agricultural productivity improve. One can see a specific example of China’s method for poverty reduction through its investments in African countries to build foreign economies. China has provided more than $57 billion in financial aid to more than 170 countries. In 2018, China accounted for almost 20 percent of all infrastructure and capital project investment in Africa.

A Chinese Poverty-Reduction Model for Global Use

China reduced its poverty through economic development and direct impact. In 2016, China sent 775,000 officials to poor regions to alleviate poverty. The country sent these officials out to work in one to three-year posts. This direct impact demonstrates how a country can eliminate poverty through strong economic growth in remote regions. 

Brett Rierson, China representative for the World Food Program said, “China invested in agriculture to reduce poverty and successful agricultural projects were built up from the grassroots.” Rierson believes China is a good model for how to reduce poverty in developing countries.

Although China has been a positive influence on developing economies, one country alone cannot eliminate global poverty. Other developed countries could use China as a model for reducing poverty and improving living standards.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Investment Zones in Africa
Although populous, rich in natural resources and blessed with an abundance of arable land, many countries in the African continent continue to contend with poverty and food insecurity. That said, the status quo in Africa is far from all doom-and-gloom. More than 400 African companies boast annual revenues of $1 billion or greater, and the continent’s average GDP increased at an annual rate of 5.4 percent from 2000-2010. Meanwhile, a 2018 report from the World Bank noted that six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies were in Africa, with Ghana claiming the top spot. New markets and investment zones in Africa offer entrepreneurs a host of business opportunities.

Competition for African Business

Africa’s economic revolution and ongoing population boom are an enticing prospect for international companies and foreign investors. China, Russia and India are just three of the nations competing for African business. In 2019, Chinese-African trade accrued $170 billion in profits, more than 20 times what it was in the early days of the current millennium. Foreign powers import Nigerian crude oil and cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo or establish utility contracts in West Africa and this is only the beginning – Africa’s fast-growing economies promise even greater profits down the road.

Agriculture

Africa owns more arable land than any other region on earth, but most of that land is unutilized. African agricultural imports account for only 10 percent of the world market, while 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated land lies in African borders. Agribusiness has the potential to become one of the most profitable investment zones in Africa, as cash crops like sugar, tobacco and coffee have already yielded dividends for exporters even at less than optimal production.

Industry and Infrastructure

Given Africa’s generally outdated energy grids and telecommunications networks, infrastructure projects should prove a lucrative investment sector. Egypt initiated a full-scale infrastructure overhaul in 2015, while the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA) financed a number of ventures across the continent, including the North-South Power Transmission Corridor project. Some people project Africa’s domestic gas markets to grow 9 percent annually through 2025. African manufacturers are on track to double their production to roughly $1 trillion by 2030, giving the region the capability to undercut traditional (and more costly) manufacturing exporters like China.

Profit for a Purpose

Continued industrialization and population growth in Africa should lead to an influx of new markets and future generations of consumers. Importantly, the locals also stand to benefit from new revenue streams and investment zones in Africa, not just multinationals. African investors are increasingly trying their hand in the international stock exchange, contributing $13.39 billion to global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects, and $10.2 billion to FDI funds in Africa itself. Africa, it seems, should become the next big player at the international economic table.

Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Flickr

Religious Persecution in China
The idea of a Chinese monoculture is integral to the Communist Party’s control over its citizenry. As a result of the Chinese centralized government, religious persecution in China has arisen as a consequence of the country’s ethnic composition.

Chinese nationals are predominantly Han Chinese (more than 90 percent), while the remaining population is divided into 56 minority ethnic groups—each having distinct cultures and belief systems. As a communist nation spanning an enormous territory, China has strategically excluded these minority groups from its vision of the Chinese nation-state. 

Since assuming power, President Xi Jinping has exerted intensifying pressure over China’s religious and spiritual communities. This affront on global religions—including Buddhism, Christianity and Islam— continues to take place in China. The surveillance and detainment of clergy members and religious dignitaries have accompanied the closure and destruction of churches and monasteries.

In Western China’s Xinjiang province, the Communist Party has begun to corral and ‘re-educate’ the Muslim Uighur demographic under the guise of national security. This targeted campaign against the Uighurs has been the subject of worldwide criticism and stands as a blunt example of China’s disregard for basic human rights.

The Uighur Muslim minority experiences the highest degree of religious persecution in China, primarily because of their proximity to the Middle East and supposed threat to the Chinese Communist Party. Xi Jinping has attempted to curb the potential for domestic terrorism and insurgency in the majorly Muslim province of Xinjiang through a series of legal measures to police, deny and indoctrinate.

Indoctrination Camps

In response to an escalation in anti-government violence in 2014, the Communist Party launched a large-scale indoctrination campaign against the Uighurs. Following an attack that year, the Communist Party expanded its surveillance and grip on the region. Such efforts culminated in the building of a ‘re-education’ facility located in a remote part of the Taklamakan Desert. 

Today, the world recognizes this facility as an internment program; the re-education camp quickly became the site of the most alarming religious persecution in China. Under these oppressive living conditions, Uighurs must renounce Islam and submit to party dogmas. To date, estimates determine that these facilities have detained at least 1 million Uighur Muslims.

Limitations on Movement

Beginning in 2016, the Chinese government imposed a Passport Recall Policy on the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. With the pretense of terrorism prevention, the policy restricts Xinjiang residents from being able to freely travel, especially to zones that it deems high-risk (i.e. the Middle East). When applying for passports, Xinjiang residents are subject to rigorous and invasive bureaucratic procedures not required of citizens hailing from other provinces. These include arbitrary application and passport renewal fees, as well as the processing of biometric data (DNA, blood samples and 3D imaging, etc.). 

Forced Labor

The idea of indoctrination through labor is reminiscent of inhuman labor practices from the Cultural Revolution, which had the intention of bolstering party loyalty. Comparatively, Uighurs and other Muslim detainees released from the Xinjiang camps must work in Chinese factories. Accepting lowly factory jobs is often a condition of release from the camps. In many cases, preexisting restrictions on mobility leave factory jobs—such as textiles and agribusiness—as the only employment options available for those released. As early as April 2018, the local government hatched the factory labor program, aimed at utilizing citizen labor to bring lucrative industries to the region. 

Solutions

While Uighur religious persecution in China has gained international attention the issue persists; there are various ways to aid protection of human rights for the Uighur population.

One way to advocate for the human rights of the Uighur population is to support the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), a nonprofit subsidiary of the Uyghur American Association (UAA). UHRP works to advocate for democracy and human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People Republic of China. The sensitive geopolitics of the region can cause the relief efforts of international human rights organizations to become ineffective. UHRP helps to bolster relief efforts by supporting victims in telling their stories, increasing global media coverage of the religious persecution in China and exerting pressure on the perpetrators of this crisis.

Additionally, with increased awareness in the United States, the U.S. House recently passed an Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act. If enacted, this legislation would direct resources to China that will address human rights infringements and abuses. Supporting endeavors such as these will aid to end arbitrary religious persecution in China.

Elena Robidoux
Photo: Flickr

 

Investment in RwandaThe commonly held belief on Chinese investment in African countries is that China is only interested in exploiting the continent for its mineral resources and establishing a sycophantic relationship with some of the world’s most vulnerable developing nations. However, the investment in Rwanda makes little sense if short term profit and influence are the country’s only motives. Rwanda lacks the natural resources that its neighbors have. Furthermore, its population will only yield a small number of consumers of Chinese goods in the future. Motivations aside, China’s investment is helping to develop the country in ways that will positively impact the lives of the country’s poor.

Rwanda’s Rapidly Improving Infrastructure

The investment in Rwanda has had no bigger impact than in the area of infrastructure with projects that include the construction of hotels, schools, hospitals and multi-thousand capacity stadiums in the underdeveloped eastern province. China also constructed 80 percent of the country’s roads, beginning with a loan of 250 million yuan in 2009. This equals about $36,040,200 million.

In the short term, the Chinese have reduced the cost of construction and have created jobs for local people according to Qinghai Liu, A Chinese expert in the research on China’s investment in Africa. Evidence exists to support her claim as well. One example is the construction of the Administrative Office Complex located in the capital city of Kigali. The Chinese builders employ some 260 Rwandan employees and provide them training in construction skills.

China is also funding an agriculture technology center to help improve Rwanda’s farming. Construction has also extended into real estate. Chinese enterprises are building 4,500 villas and apartments in Vision City for an emerging middle class. Recently, the Chinese embassy donated building materials for housing for the most vulnerable families.

The Tradeoff

The Rwandan government has found a willing investment partner in China whose aid is not preconditioned on democratization, liberalization and privatization. Rwanda has even modeled its development on China, lacking an emphasis on personal and social freedoms. Should Rwanda be unable to pay its debts, it is unclear what China might do to make good on its investment. Sri Lanka is the only country to have defaulted on its loans with China in the past. China seized the economically vital port of Hambantota in a response that remains controversial to this day.

Though there are obvious political and social concerns that come with the investment in Rwanda, the poor are benefiting. There is evidence that China is playing a concrete role in helping to lift Rwandans out of poverty. In big and small ways, China is helping Rwanda in its development, and not just the rich are benefiting.

Caleb Carr
Photo: Google

2019 Coronavirus
The 2019 coronavirus outbreak in China has infected thousands and killed hundreds of people in Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Germany, France, the United States and other countries. As a result, there are strict preventative measures, as currently, only supportive care exists – meaning there is no definitive cure. Understanding all relevant information about the virus itself and the reaction of the global health community is highly relevant, important and necessary.

The 2019 Coronavirus (2019-nCoV or COVID-19)

Originating in Wuhan, China, the 2019 coronavirus is a viral infection that causes breathing problems. The 2019 coronavirus is within the same family of viruses – but a different strand – that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome. It transmits from human to human through coughing, sneezing and other moist bodily particles. Symptoms include breathing difficulty, fever and cough, similar to typical viral infections.

Treatment

People can use supportive care for symptom relief, such as fever relief with Tylenol. No one has developed an antiviral for the 2019 coronavirus yet, which would consist of suppression of further viral infection of host cells, rather than viral eradication.

Prevention

The CDC recommends avoiding crowds to reduce the chance of interacting with infected persons. People should also practice hand-washing and good hand-hygiene practices. These measures include avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth, and covering the mouth and nose when sneezing. Moreover, people should disinfect surfaces frequently.

Monitoring

Those individual(s) who might have traveled on a plane or are concerned about becoming infected should monitor for symptoms. Symptoms are likely to occur between two to 14 days after traveling to China or interacting with individuals(s) who have traveled to China. Contact with the 2019 coronavirus can occur within six feet of a person and/or can occur directly when touching moist bodily particles. If symptoms occur, one should notify and visit a doctor’s office immediately.

Global Health Response

The WHO International Health Regulations Committee first met to advise the Director-General on disease control and prevention strategies. WHO then visited Wuhan, China in January 2020 to establish a plan with China’s President, Xi Jinping, in treating existing patients and containing the virus. Globally, WHO is currently conducting research to find a viable treatment for COVID-19; the U.S. is simultaneously conducting a vaccine trial to prevent further spread. WHO and various international health ministries are gathering up funding, projected to be about $675 million, to support the Strategies Preparedness and Response Plan. The plan outlines preparedness protocol for countries, in particular, those with limited health systems, to stop virus transmission, treat patients and collaborate between countries to carry out all necessary operations.

Global Response

Many countries and organizations, such as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, Belarus, Brunei, Cambodia, Egypt, Iran, Japan and Pakistan among many others, are sending medical supplies and equipment to help China in addressing COVID-19 treatment needs. Doctors in China are administering care to patients in temporary treatment centers while other health officials are managing supplies and equipment to ensure appropriate use. Furthermore, various Chinese companies are investing in research; other organizations are fundraising to support disease control efforts. Chinese city locals and groups are also coming together to lend a hand in stopping the outbreak.

Globally, support is even coming in from philanthropists, international businesses and foreign aids. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $100 million. These efforts are all contributing to research, treatment and prevention funds. Foreign aid from the U.S. comes in the form of a medical advisory board going to China to work with its health officials while the European Union is providing $11 million USD for research on the virus.

Information regarding the 2019 coronavirus is emerging daily. Health organizations, governments, non-government organizations and businesses are pulling resources to contain the illness and its outbreak.

– Hung Le
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in China’s Xinjiang ProvinceXinjiang is a remote autonomous region in northwest China. While Xinjiang had periods of independence, the province became part of communist China in 1949. There are 40 different ethnic groups in Xinjiang, but the Uighurs, who are the traditional inhabitants of the area, and the Hans Chinese compose the ethnic majority of the region. While the economic disparity between the Hans and Uighurs gave rise to a certain amount of ethnic tension, the Chinese government’s recent treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang led to many human rights violations and poverty in Xinjiang.

Poverty in China’s Xinjiang Province

The historic racial tension between the Uighurs and Hans seems to be the root cause of poverty in Xinjiang. The Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking Sunni Muslim minority in China. In general, the Hans Chinese and the Uighurs disagree on who has the historic claim to Xinjiang. Since 1949, and centuries before, the Uighurs resisted the Chinese control over Xinjiang. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there was a surge of support for the Uighur separatist groups within Xinjiang. The Chinese government feared that this Uighur support for separatism might lead to the region declaring itself as a separate state called the East Turkestan. Due to this fear, the Chinese government started to characterize the Muslim traditions, practices and activities of the Uighurs as a national security threat.

The Chinese government’s hostile stance against the Uighurs had a wide-reaching effect throughout Chinese society. After years of the Chinese government’s repression of Uighurs’ religious practices and culture, it has presented the Uighurs as terrorist sympathizers to the general Chinese public. This perception of the Uighurs is a further cause of poverty in Xinjiang. According to The Guardian’s reporter Gene A. Bunin, it is common for businesses to deny service to a Uighur person. Due to the Chinese government’s crackdown on the Uighurs, many Uighurs are losing their rights, livelihoods and potentially their lives. Bunin reported that Uighur restaurants in inner-China are the only ones on their street that Chinese flags and posters about the determined struggle against terrorism cover.

China’s Strike Hard Campaign

In 2014, the Chinese government launched the Strike Hard campaign, which aimed to quell these Uighur separatist sentiments. While the government presented this campaign as a campaign to eradicate terrorism within China, the Strike Hard campaign justified the establishment of political reeducation camps throughout Xinjiang. An estimated 800,000 to 2 million detainees are Uighurs and other Muslims. Reports suggest that Chinese authorities arrested these detainees for trivial reasons such as traveling to a Muslim country, attending services at mosques and sending texts containing Quranic verses. While official reports about the detention camps are scarce, some have made allegations against the Chinese government for torture, sexual abuse and mistreatment of the detainees.

The Xinjiang Economy

While Xinjiang’s economy largely depends on agriculture, there is a recent push to develop the region’s mineral resource harvesting and heavy industries. The recent growth in China’s energy needs further increased the importance of the region to the Chinese government. Some estimations state that Xinjiang has 38 percent of coal reserves, 30 percent of crude oil output and 30 percent of natural gas output in China. During China’s economic boom in the 1990s, the Chinese government invested heavily in Xinjiang’s industrial and energy projects. This, however, meant the mass migration of the Hans Chinese into Xinjiang. The Chinese government stated that this mass migration of the Hans to Xinjiang happens in the name of national unity and inter-ethnic mingling. However, many Uighurs protested that the Hans Chinese were taking their jobs, making it difficult for the Uighurs to support themselves.

In 2018, the Chinese government launched a three-year plan to eradicate poverty in Xinjiang. While people do not know the exact amount of money the Chinese government will spend on its poverty relief program, the $960 million the Chinese government spent in 2017 gives hope to many people in Xinjiang. In addition, many think that the forced detention of the Uighurs, which caused poverty in Xinjiang, is the result of the Chinese government’s desire to secure Xinjiang in its Belt and Road Initiative. Since Xinjiang will play a big part in the project, many think that the Chinese government is trying to eradicate any possibility of separatist activity in Xinjiang.

Poverty in Xinjiang presents a bleak picture. More specifically, poverty in Xinjiang is the story of the Uighurs. The picture of Uighurs forcefully detained against their will is reminiscent of the Orwellian dystopia that many are familiar with. While the Chinese government’s heavy investment in Xinjiang might have improved the economic conditions in the region, many are still doubtful that this improved economy is benefiting the already marginalized Uighurs. The international community still looks to China, hoping that China will improve its human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Labor Exploitation at Foxconn ChinaFoxconn China is a major factory town in Shenzhen, China. It is a factory town that a Taiwanese company called Foxconn created. Foxconn is one of the largest contract electronics manufacturers in the world. People commonly refer to the town as Foxconn City and it employs over 350,000 workers. Foxconn bans the outside world from entering its large factory town. Major tech companies, such as Apple, Amazon, Dell, Google and Hewlett-Packard, contracts Foxconn to produce electronics. Here is some information about the labor exploitation at Foxconn China.

Labor Exploitation at Foxconn China

In 2010, labor exploitation at Foxconn China came into the spotlight when numerous workers committed suicide by throwing themselves off their dorm buildings. Reports determined that there were 18 suicide attempts and 14 confirmed accounts of death in 2010. One might question if the working conditions changed in 2019.

Labor exploitation at Foxconn China takes on multiple forms. On a surface level, all of the line workers at Foxconn China seem to be full-time employees. What many do not know, however, is that many line workers at Foxconn China are part-time student workers. These part-time workers are usually students from Chinese trade schools who are “interning” at Foxconn’s factories. These so-called internships are usually underpaid line jobs.

These part-time student workers are in danger of labor exploitation at Foxconn China. Oftentimes, these “interns” only receive $3.15 per hour. In 2019, Amazon.com came under scrutiny for violating Chinese labor law concerning these student laborers. In China Labor Watch’s 2019 report, the organization accused Amazon’s Foxconn factory of violating the Chinese student worker laws. Because each intern worker receives a production quota, they must do overtime and night shifts, which Chinese labor law does not allow.

The Reality of Labor Exploitation

The Guardian’s 2017 report gives a glimpse into labor exploitation at Foxconn China. Suicide notes and interviews with suicide survivors reported that workers at Foxconn China experience long workdays, harsh management and minimal pay. The Guardian interviewed a young man named Xu. Xu told the Guardian that the management of Foxconn China is often harsh to its workers. According to Xu, managers of Foxconn factories often publicly humiliate workers for being slow or make promises that they will not keep. In one case, Xu stated that a manager promised to pay double for overtime hours but only gave regular pay. This kind of degradation and inhumane work hours seems to be the root cause of suicides in Foxconn.

In 2019, Apple and Foxconn came under scrutiny for breaking the Chinese labor law. China Labor Watch’s investigation revealed that, as of August 2019, 50 percent of the workers in Foxconn City were temporary workers. According to Chinese labor law, only a maximum of 10 percent of a company’s employees can be part-time workers. In addition, the Chinese Labor Watch accused Foxconn China of making its student interns and workers do overtime. Chinese labor law on student internships does not allow student interns to work overtime or night shifts. While Apple denied many of the accusations, Apple did admit that the number of part-time workers in its Foxconn facilities exceeded the Chinese labor law’s regulation.

The Future for Foxconn Workers

Li Qiang, the director of China Labor Watch, gave a piece of hopeful news in her interview with a software company called Moz. Li pointed to a couple of improvements that Apple made in regards to fostering better working conditions for its line workers. Apple started to issue reports on the state of working conditions for its factories overseas. In addition, some experts suggested that a decrease in iPhone sales might also help the Chinese line workers. Due to the falling sales numbers, Foxconn had to cut back on both employee counts and overtime hours. As a result, many manufacturing employees are quitting their jobs, which may force the factories and management to treat their next round of employees better.

It is true that Foxconn China has not made any major improvements since the 2010 suicides. However, it is clear that major companies such as Apple are making an effort to improve the lives of the Chinese line workers at Foxconn China. While these minor improvements on labor exploitation at Foxconn China might not look like enough, it is the collection of these small changes that can bring about a major change and improvement. As long as there are people who closely monitor the labor exploitation in Foxconn China, there will be future improvements for the workers in China.

YongJin Yi
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