With both potentially the world’s largest consumer market and a workforce of more than a billion low-wage workers, China plays prominently in most multi-national companies’ growth strategies. But now there are other reasons to pay attention to this awakening giant.
Several important developments in business and communications are coming to a head in China that will have major implications globally.
- Numerous products exported from China have been shown to be grossly defective posing grave health problems, from pet food full of melamine, spinach with dangerous amounts of pesticides, other toxins found in candy, toothpaste and seafood, appetite suppressants that pose risk of heart attacks (left), to defective tires prone to tread separation. In each of these cases, the Chinese manufacturer has denied responsibility and insists the products are safe – not a good sign that China companies are ready to step up to their responsibilities to global consumers. Chinese exports of every type of product certainly will face increased scrutiny for injurious product defects.
- Blogs in China are far out-pacing the Chinese mass media in presenting information disconnected from government-sanctioned “news.” Tight reigns on Chinese media make them less interesting that many of the best blogs in China. Chinese bloggers increasingly serve as informed sources for international mass media correspondents based in China. Media are learning to individually evaluate the reliability of bloggers as accurate sources just as they would any independent source, writes Rebecca McKinnon this week from the World Journalism Education Conference in Singapore. Look for this trend to proliferate in other parts of the world with tight controls on media, McKinnon writes, as well as political hot spots, such as the Palestinian territories, where bias from each side obscures the underlying truths that may be brought to the surface by citizen journalists living in the moment.
- In the past week, the Communist government in China has reversed itself regarding the Internet, now taking an "if you can't beat them, join them" stance. Writes the Poynter Online's Fons Tuinstra: "In the 1990s, authoritarian regimes like the Chinese government saw the Internet as a lethal threat. Today they see the net as a tool for sustainable development." Tuinstra quotes an editorial in the People's Daily June 21: People should note that developing Internet policies well will enrich the development of socialist democratic politics. However, it does not represent all people yet. Only by comprehensively and objectively mastering Internet politics, and rationally understanding it, can we better promote its development." (Note to Comrades: Good luck mastering and understanding the Internet's politics! You may want to start by rationally considering the concept of extreme diversity of thought.)
(Previous Force for Good posts on China: China Launches Not-So-New Virtual World, Epic Showdown Looms in China: Don't Bet Against the New Media )