Hoping for a Chinese Century?

According to the official statistics, about a quarter of Chinese college students who graduated in the year 2010 were unemployed. Of the students who graduated in the previous year, about 15 percent remained unemployed. Those college graduates who are “employed” often have to accept a wage that is no higher than that of an unskilled migrant worker. About one million college graduates (compared to the current annual graduation of about six million) are said to belong to the so-called “ant tribes.” That is, they live in slum-like conditions on the outskirts of China’s major cities. The surge of housing, health care, and education costs have further undermined the economic and social status of China’s existing and potential petty bourgeoisie, forcing them to give up their aspiration to “middle-class” living standards.

One of the darker parts of this excellent Monthly Review article on the contemporary political situation in China.

Here are the stats for the US via a NYT article entitled “Outlook is Bleak”:

Not quite as bleak as China — no ant tribe infographics yet. But we have another problem: we haven’t given up middle-class aspirations. Instead, we’re content with the dream neoliberalism continually offers up: a future crappier and more difficult than the past, but bearable.


Still, today’s economy will force many graduates to settle, says John Irons, policy director at the Economic Policy Institute. Young people who start their careers in a bad economy tend to accept jobs at lower wages, and that leaves them at a disadvantage with their salary for about a decade, he says.

Just give it ten years! The American Dream is still available, you’ll just need to get a cheaper model. And you might have to lie about that master’s degree you spent forty grand on.

But now [Berenzweig] sometimes considers that degree she paid so dearly for a liability, at least when it comes to some jobs. She takes it off her resume when applying for waitress jobs.

Meanwhile China has other some advantages: a class-for-itself.


In the words of a prominent Chinese worker-activist, compared to the working classes in other capitalist states, the Chinese (state-sector) working class has developed a “relatively complete class consciousness,” based on its unique historical experience in both the socialist period and the capitalist period.

. . .  and at least one proven method for stemming neoliberal privatization:

When the Jianlong general manager threatened to fire all workers, the enraged workers beat the manger to death. Although the provincial governor and thousands of armed police were at the scene, no one dared to intervene. After the beating, Jilin Province was forced to cancel the privatization plan. The Tonghua Steel workers’ victory was a huge inspiration for workers in many parts of China. Workers in several other steel factories also protested and forced the local governments to cancel privatization plans.

Of course, the glum resignation you so often find in the declining US petty bourgeosie is not exactly the mood required for this task:

Worker-activists in other provinces saw the Tonghua victory as their own and regretted that “too few capitalists have been killed.”

Almost makes you want that Chinese Century the newspapers keep talking about!