Bloomberg is reporting that China has revoked the visas it granted AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and other international labor officials who had intended to travel to Beijing next week at the invitation of OECD’s Labor/Management program. The OECD was hosting a meeting in China on the social responsibilities of multinational corporations. President Sweeney had stated that it was particularly important to highlight this issue in China in light of the huge investments underway there by multinational corporations. If there were any doubts before today about China’s views of genuine unions, as opposed to the state controlled unions it allows, this move should eliminate them. While the global labor movement has been unstinting in its support for labor rights in countries like Burma – which, by the way, is heavily backed by China – there have been some indications that some in the labor movement thought it made sense to work out a rapproachement with China’s state labor organization, the ACFTU. Clearly this is impossible without a genuine right to freedom of association in China. A renewed campaign for this right should now very much be on the agenda of global labor.
The link to the Bloomberg piece is posted here and I am also posting a link to a column in today’s Financial Times by Joe Studwell on the Chinese economy. Studwell is the author of the excellent book, China Dreams, which I reviewed for Dissent when it was published. That review is linked near the bottom of this page. Studwell, editor of the highly respected China Economic Quarterly, is one of the most astute commentators on the Chinese economy and he calls attention to what he sees as the inherent fragility of the Chinese economy.