The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage

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Overview

What is the price of China's cheap goods? The answer, fully revealed for the first time in this explosive work of investigative reporting, is a chilling one. Drawing on years of firsthand reporting, often in areas forbidden to foreign observers, Alexandra Harney exposes a brutal world in which intense pricing pressure from Western companies combines with corruption and a lack of transparency to exact a staggering toll in human misery and environmental damage. This eye-opening expose offers a landmark view of what...
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The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage

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Overview

What is the price of China's cheap goods? The answer, fully revealed for the first time in this explosive work of investigative reporting, is a chilling one. Drawing on years of firsthand reporting, often in areas forbidden to foreign observers, Alexandra Harney exposes a brutal world in which intense pricing pressure from Western companies combines with corruption and a lack of transparency to exact a staggering toll in human misery and environmental damage. This eye-opening expose offers a landmark view of what is destined to become one of the defining business stories of the twenty-first century.
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Editorial Reviews

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.
From the Publisher
"A vivid portrait of factory life in the country that sells consumer goods for the lowest price possible." —-Kirkus Starred Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143114864
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/27/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,338,845
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Alexandra Harney, a former reporter for the Financial Times, has been writing about Asia for a decade.

Karen White has been narrating and directing audiobooks for more than a dozen years and has well over one hundred books to her credit. Honored to be included among AudioFile's Best Voices 2010 and 2011, she is also an Audie Award finalist and has earned multiple AudioFile Earphones Awards for narration and direction.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Better Mousetrap 1

Chapter 1 Hooked 18

Chapter 2 The Five-Star Factory 33

Chapter 3 The Physical Cost 56

Chapter 4 The Gold Rush 88

Chapter 5 The Stirring Masses 106

Chapter 6 The Girls of Room 817 148

Chapter 7 Accounts and Accountability 181

Chapter 8 The New Model Factory 235

Chapter 9 The Future of the China Price 272

Afterword 291

Acknowledgments 299

Notes 303

Bibliography 319

Index 327

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 3 of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 25, 2012

    Good not Great

    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.

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  • Posted May 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Firsthand report on what China's industrial surge means to its people and to the rest of the world

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 3 of 2 Customer Reviews

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