Saturday, November 26, 2005

China's Lax Environmental Laws Take High Human Toll

In their mad dash to industrialize China, government, factory and corporate officials who are in charge of establishing the industrial factories in China have often cut corners in safety and environmental standards. Corporate officials from the U.S. who have built massive factories in Chinese cities to maximize profits, while exporting American jobs to China, have trained factory workers how to lie to government officials in China when government safety or wage inspections are conducted. The going minimim wage in China is susposed to be 40 cents an hour, but many workers are actually given closer to 24 cents an hour. And worker safety also suffers greatly in this dash to profit at the expense of American jobs as more and more of the U.S. economy is exported to China each day. Increasing numbers of Chinese workers are developing health problems such as "brown lung" from breathing toxic fumes on a daily basis that would not be tolerated in an American factory regulated by OSHA, state or federal regulations, or by a union worksite in which union workers either report or regulate such worker health threats.

This week, an even worse environmental disaster spread beyond the walls of a Chinese chemical factory and took away the drinking water supply from nearly 4 million Chinese in the Northern city of Harpin, China, close to the Russia border. An explosion in a petrochemical plant caused 100 tons of poisonous benzine to flow into the Songhua, River. For nearly ten days Chinese officials attemped to keep the chemical spill secret from the people of Harpin, instead of immediately informing them so they could store clean drinking water in bottles or jugs before the pollution arrived. Now there are severe shortages of clean drinking water, as government officials have informed the people in Harpin too late. A 50 mile long flow of colorless poison now floats on the Songhua River, defying the efforts of Chinese People's Liberation Army soldiers to clean up the problem, now that the government finally acknowledges the problem.

It is no wonder that Chinese government officials attempted to keep quiet about this chemical disaster. With record exports to the U.S. of goods including toys, variety and even food products, the government does not want to acknowledge any problems that question the safety of export products from their nation. Yet the trend is clear, China often allows less than minimum wage jobs to cut labor costs and have lured away as many as an 30 million American factory jobs by some estimates. China has a $200 billion dollar trade deficit with the U.S.

China allows lax environmental standards that allow air pollution levels that are so bad that for a child to breathe in 500 Chinese cities means air that is so polluted from factory production as well as the epidemic of up to 90% of Chinese men smoking cigarettes, that it is the equivalent of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day for these small children simply to breathe air. This is absolutely outrageous, and such dirty air pollution levels would face far stricter regulation in the U.S.

With a trend of cutting corners in labor, safety and envirnmental standards, China also has managed to undercut American jobs with an undervaluing of their currency, the yuen, by about 40% by valuing this currency against the American dollar rather allowing it to float against world currencies like other world currencies do. Only recently has China pledged to change this unfair competition that further cut into American jobs with this unfair currency evaluation tactic.

As the American industrial revolution rolls away from the U.S., and China becomes the major world industrial nation, a variety of greedy profiteering trends have allowed the people of China to be exploited by low wages, dangerous working conditions and subjected to terrible environmental standards. Greedy profiteering by ruthless capitalism simply benefits no one. Decent labor, safety and environmental standards are as vital to the people in China, as they are for the remaining factory jobs in the U.S. that have not yet been exported to China. Children in China deserve to breathe clean air, their parents paid fair wages in safe factories, and American consumers assured of safe product exports from China that are quickly filling more and more American store shelves as American made products slowly disappear.


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