A couple of weeks ago, I posted a question on GF Patisserie's Facebook page about Wal Mart. Besides an overall negative response towards that company, I got the sense that a lot of people have a very distorted image of China. Slave wages, human rights, pollution and many more opinions that I feel are partially warranted (pollution) but many comments were taken straight from FOX News it seems.
I happen to love China. Warts and all. No country is perfect. China has it's challenges, but every emerging nation did in it's history. I would like to remind my American friends that your country had to go through a civil war to get united....a fact so many conveniently forget to mention. Not to say anything about your challenges on relations with each other.....even TODAY.
Anyway, back to China. During my second last trip over there, a friend who tagged along, asked one of my suppliers about the human rights situation in China. At that moment I really wanted to be invisble and not in the same car, but it was my supplier's answer that really stunned me. He is a smart man, successfull in business and a great host every time I do business with him. After reflecting for a moment on the blunt question, he basically said to come back and back and in a few years we can witness that the people of China will enjoy the very same human rights every other free country does.
He said much more of course, but many of you might not agree with his comments, so I won't repeat it here, in summary he is very right about it. And he is a Chinese citizen. Who lives it every day. I am still stunned and grateful for his insight.
Slave wages. Two of my rules when buying from a supplier are that there is no child labor (though I started waiting tables at the age of 14 myself and nobody protected me....) and that I get to speak to some of the workers with my translator by myself.
This request does raise eyebrows, but is always granted. This way I find out how they are treated, how much they get paid and if they are happy with their jobs. The average wage in a factory is 300.00 USD, free food and accomodations. Office people I spoke with, earn more. Every New Year they get a bonus in relation to the factory's earnings. Two thirds of the folks I speak with are happy to have a job, though more than 50% want to better themselves and start their own business one day to earn more. For this, they are willing to work three times harder they say.
My personal opinion is that we, the consumers, are as much at fault about third world conditions as the countries themselves. We all want deals. Cheaper, better, lower prices. So companies around the developed world do whatever it takes to make us happy. Trust me, it is much easier to beat up a supplier about price, than it is to tell a client you are raising your prices to adjust cost factors. Next time you get dressed, ask yourself how much you are prepared to pay for those clothings.
Pollution is the one thing I have a big challenge with. Not only do factories not care, it's the people as well. Litter is everywhere, all the time. It will take at least another generation with plenty of education and guidance from their government, but until then, I am watching helpless as not much changes.
ELECTRIC BICYCLES AT CARREFOUR
FRESH VEGETABLES AT CARREFOUR
ONE OF MY SUPPLIER'S WAREHOUSE
COFFEE SHOP IN SHANGHAI
ONE OF MY HAPPIEST SUPPLIERS
A PROUD CARPENTER
RUBY, WHO WORKS IN A SHANGHAI OFFICE
ANOTHER MASTERPIECE RESTRIKE