AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 335

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Session 335: Social Impacts of China’s New Growth Model

Organizer: Guenter Schucher-Nicolai, German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Germany

Complaints about labor shortage, an increase of the statutory minimum wage in several Chinese provinces as well as a spate of strikes in foreign invested companies have fuelled debates about the necessity to move on to new growth model in China. Even if the recent substantial moves towards social welfare policies are benign, they hardly in themselves constitute a sustainable solution to China's precarious longer-term political economy issues. The panel will consider policies to re-tool China for the next decade, where the move away from the current low value-added production appear increasingly indispensable as the mounting demographic pressure necessitates increasing productivity. The apparent longer-term policy consensus in the top leadership is to expand and complete the social security, to reduce export dependency by strengthening domestic demand, upgrade the technological level of coastal industries, expand industrial job opportunities in in-land provinces, strengthen ecological and economic efficiency of industries, achieve an equalization between rural and urban residents, and improve the skills levels of the work force. Panelists will examine diverse social implications of the envisaged new growth path and the social pressures for taking that path. This panel is part of the "Changing China" multi-session series sponsored by the Journal of Current Chinese Affairs.

Packaging policies of the new growth model.
Flemming Christiansen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

The paper will examine how the Chinese political system decides and carries out the policies that together form the new growth model, by examining coordination and collaboration between distinct levels of jurisdictions and among diverse public authorities. A range of ecological and social policy concerns will be tracked in terms of central and various local levels of public management, adopting new approaches to policy making and government behavior.

In dire need of skilled labor. New challenges to the vocational education system
Guenter Schucher-Nicolai, German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Germany

Education is the cornerstone of national growth and social progress, as President Hu Jintao made clear in July 2010 during a high-profile work conference on national education in Beijing. Without further improvement of the education system there are serious doubts that China could reach its ambitious goals of raising the quality and efficiency of economic growth, pushing the shift in the economic development model and promoting autonomous innovation. While geographic mismatch and skills mismatch is serious for college graduates a shortage of people with the right set of skills and capabilities is even more obvious for vocational training. In spite decades-long debates about reforms the vocational education system in China still suffers from systemic disregard. This paper will discuss fundamental problems of vocational education and future development.

In dire need of skilled labor. New challenges to the vocational education system
Jinyang Zhu, Independent Scholar, Germany

Education is the cornerstone of national growth and social progress, as President Hu Jintao made clear in July 2010 during a high-profile work conference on national education in Beijing. Without further improvement of the education system there are serious doubts that China could reach its ambitious goals of raising the quality and efficiency of economic growth, pushing the shift in the economic development model and promoting autonomous innovation. While geographic mismatch and skills mismatch is serious for college graduates a shortage of people with the right set of skills and capabilities is even more obvious for vocational training. In spite decades-long debates about reforms the vocational education system in China still suffers from systemic disregard. This paper will discuss fundamental problems of vocational education and future development.

Demographic Challenges and the Coming Change of the One-Child Policy
Thomas Scharping, University of Cologne, Germany

The paper will assess the current state of major demographic factors in China’s development and projections of them for the coming decades. It will present both recent Chinese survey results and own calculations of key variables, comment on the prevalent uncertainty in establishing their true levels and discuss alternative scenarios under debate in China. Major issues within this context are the decrease of fertility levels since the mid-1990s, the rapid gains in life expectancy, the accelerating pace of urbanization, the shrinking family sizes and the threatening burdens imposed by population ageing. China’s demographic transition as marked by these trends has been triggered by the economic restructuring of the country, high economic growth and the profound social changes associated with them. Above all, it will affect critical areas like employment and old-age care. The paper will also scrutinize the continuing internal conflict on population policies in China and the moves under way for adapting or discarding the one-child policy.

The violence of human capital: education, development, and "failed youth"
Terry Woronov, University of Sydney, Australia

Virtually everyone who studies China - and Chinese themselves - are aware of the special focus placed on human capital in China's development models, which stresses ever-increasing education and training as the key to both personal/individual and national development. Both foreign observers and outsiders and Chinese intellectuals see this stress on education as a felicitous combination of "traditional Confucian culture" and contemporary economistic approaches to development, and as such the concept of "human capital" is now deeply naturalized in Chinese society. This paper, however, seeks to counter the naturalization of the development of human capital, by looking at the ways this concept has been transformed into a set of ideological and moral prescriptions for children and young people's lives. At the same time, through a close look at the lives of young people who have been locked out of this developmental pathway in their mid-teens, this paper examines the violence at the heart of the human capital model and the lives it leaves behind.

Sexualities at Work: White-Collar Beauties in Urban China
Jieyu Liu, University of Leeds, United Kingdom

One of the gendered consequences of China’s recent economic reforms is the emergence of the ‘white collar beauty’ phenomenon. Preliminary interviews indicated that highly-educated young women often aspired to such jobs, where they expected to deploy feminine charms and skills in interactions with company clients. This paper examined this further, using participant observation and in-depth interviewing data to examine the performance of emotional, aesthetic and sexual labor within the organizational cultures of Chinese companies. By analyzing the situation facing educated women who had to negotiate a sexualized work culture in a society where women’s sexuality was strictly moralized and rarely discussed, this paper hopes to illuminate the sexual politics and demand inherent in the operations of commercial companies in China’s new market economy and to enhance knowledge of the position of professional women in the new labor market in East Asia.

China’s New Challenge—Balancing the Interests of Labour and Overseas Investors
Chun-yi Lee, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Since 1978 the Chinese government implemented the ‘Open Door policy,’ foreign direct investment (FDI) became a main driver of China’s economic development. Cheap labour and abundant natural resources were essential for attracting FDI. The huge transformation of the relationships between employees and employers has during the subsequent 30 years become contentious. The suicide by 13 workers in a Taiwanese-owned electronic assembly plant in Shenzhen between 2007 and 2010 has through the media coverage come to symbolize these new types of labor disputes vis-à-vis overseas investors. The paper reviews the effect of the new Labor Contract Law implemented on January 1 2008. Although it has been argued that this Labor Contract Law will strengthen workers’ rights, this paper examines its limitations and more generally the inability of the emerging labour market to deal with local conflicts, and analyses the origin of these limitations in the relationship between diverging interests of central and local levels of the state.