The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage

The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage

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by Alexandra Harney
     
 

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In this landmark work of investigative reporting, former Financial Times correspondent Alexandra Harney uncovers a story of immense significance to us all: how China's factory economy gains a competitive edge by selling out its workers, environment, and future. Harney's firsthand reporting brings us face-to-face with a world in which intense pricing

Overview

In this landmark work of investigative reporting, former Financial Times correspondent Alexandra Harney uncovers a story of immense significance to us all: how China's factory economy gains a competitive edge by selling out its workers, environment, and future. Harney's firsthand reporting brings us face-to-face with a world in which intense pricing pressure from Western companies combines with ubiquitous corruption and a lack of transparency to exact a staggering toll in human misery and environmental damage. This eye-opening expose offers, for the first time, an intimate look at the defining business story of our time.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Presents the inconvenient truths about China and globalization that flat worlders have overlooked."
-Clyde Prestowitz, author of Three Billion New Capitalists

"Anyone running a company that outsources manufacturing to China, or is thinking of doing so, needs to read this book."
-Financial Times

"The gritty, corrupt reality of the Chinese economic miracle is the great business story of our time and Alexandra Harney has got it."
-Karl Taro Greenfeld, author of China Syndrome

Publishers Weekly

Dreaded by competitors, "the China price" has become "the lowest price possible," the hallmark of China's incredibly cheap, ubiquitous manufacturers. Financial Timeseditor Harney explores the hidden price tag for China's economic juggernaut. It's a familiar but engrossing tale of Dickensian industrialization. Chinese factory hands work endless hours for miserable wages in dusty, sweltering workshops, slowly succumbing to occupational ailments or suddenly losing a limb to a machine. Coal-fired power plants spew pollutants into nearly unbreathable air. Migrants from the countryside, harassed by China's hukousystem of internal passports, form a readily exploitable labor pool with few legal protections. The system is fueled by Western investment and, Harney observes, hypocrisy. Retailers like Wal-Mart impose social responsibility codes on their Chinese suppliers, but refuse to pay the costs of raising labor standards; the result is a pervasive system of cheating through fake employment records and secret uninspected factories, to which Western companies turn a blind eye. But Harney also finds stirrings of change; aided by regional labor shortages, rising wages and intrepid activists. Chinese workers are demanding-and gradually winning-more rights. Packed with facts, figures and sympathetic portraits of Chinese workers and managers, Harney's is a perceptive take on the world's workshop. (Mar. 31)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Financial Times Limited
Anyone running a company that outsources manufacturing to China, or is thinking of doing so, needs to read this book.
—Morgen Witzel
Kirkus Reviews
Financial Times reporter Harney paints a vivid portrait of factory life in the country that sells consumer goods for the lowest price possible. With a manufacturing workforce of 104 million people, China dominates global production of consumer goods, selling everything from clothing to computer parts at half or even one-fifth the amount that it would cost to make them in the United States. The author, who lives in Hong Kong, focuses on the consequences of China's ceaseless pursuit of economic growth, from unethical business practices to pollution to an epidemic of occupational diseases. Drawing on interviews, she takes us into factories and their dormitories to show youths who have flocked from the countryside to take dangerous manufacturing jobs. We meet 17-year-old Li Gang, who worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week to earn $39 monthly as a zagong ("dogsbody"), the lowest-ranking employee in a plastic-bag factory; and Li Luyuan, 20, who sleeps in cramped quarters with a dozen other girls, trying to save enough money from her job producing DVDs and sweaters to buy a new home for her parents. These migrants are taking legal action to win better working conditions, posing a challenge to efforts to maintain the China price. Harney brings us into model factories, where rules on working hours and product safety are followed, and into the "shadow" factories (often operated under contract to the same owners) where anything goes in the drive to produce cheaper products. Despite efforts by companies buying consumer goods from China to enforce a code of conduct, most suppliers falsify time cards, hide the use of unapproved materials and otherwise engage in dishonest practices. Western importersknow it and often look the other way. In the face of growing labor unrest and pollution, Chinese officials hope to move the economy away from reliance on exports by fostering domestic consumption. Essential reading for anyone concerned about how dangerous pet food and children's clothing manufactured in China make it into American stores.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143114864
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/27/2009
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Clyde Prestowitz
"With unusual insight and reportorial perseverance Alexandra Harney presents the inconvenient truths about China and globalization that flat worlders have overlooked. This book is very important and is a must read for those who want to understand how today's world really works."--(Clyde Prestowitz, President of the Economic Strategy Institute and the author of Three Billion New Capitalists)
From the Publisher
"A vivid portrait of factory life in the country that sells consumer goods for the lowest price possible." —-Kirkus Starred Review

Meet the Author

Alexandra Harney was a reporter and editor at the Financial Times. She has reported from Japan, China and the United Kingdom, among other places. From 2003 until early 2006, she was the FT's South China correspondent based in Hong Kong, where she still lives. A 1997 cum laude graduate of Princeton University with a degree from the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs, Alexandra was born in Washington, DC and currently lives in Hong Kong. This is her first book.

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China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
jmussett More than 1 year ago
This book starts out with quite a bit of enthusiasm and luster but it starts to fade about halfway through. It seems as if some of the chapters could have been consolidated as they were covering much of the same ground. There were also too many small characters that were developed in one portion of the book, then left behind, never to be revisited; they became confusing and detracted from the overall voice of the work. Many great points were brought to light but the proposed fixes were too general and lacked an individual viewpoint and intellectual ingenuity.
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
Shoppers know that the ubiquitous "Made in China" labels on everything from basic food and clothing to high-end electronics usually mean low prices. But most consumers don't realize the full extent of the repercussions that the "China price" extracts from the Chinese and the rest of world. Journalist Alexandra Harney undertakes an in-depth investigation into what Chinese workers must endure to save the average American family $500 a year: low wages, crushingly long work days and brutal - sometimes deadly - working conditions. But she also reveals the hidden costs the world pays for the China price, including climate change, air pollution, unemployment and unsafe products. Harney gained unprecedented access to secret factories, workers' homes and government offices to hear the personal, often chilling stories of what China's economic boom has meant for millions of people. Although Harney's argument ignores some mitigating factors, such as China's right to industrialize and the good that growth in China has achieved, getAbstract strongly recommends reading this book before your next shopping trip: Reflect on what that "$3 T-shirt or $30 DVD" player really costs the world.