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Marx Awakes as China Rises

Author: Walter Russell Mead, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy
June 23, 2010
American Interest

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Most of the headlines that blare at us from newspaper pages and internet sites are noise.  Much of the breathless commentary that we get every day in the opinion pages and on cable news is fluff.

But every now and then in this world something real happens; a news story comes along that points to profound forces at work.  These often get less attention than, say, Lady Gaga's wardrobe choices at Yankee Stadium or for that matter General McChrystal's observations to a Rolling Stone reporter, but these are the stories that will remake the world.

There's a story like that by Mark Lee on Bloomberg today.  “As Chinese Wages Rise, Machines Replace Migrant Workers,” read the headline.  “New minimum wage laws, a looser yuan and worker strikes like those affecting Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. are raising costs at plants in China's Pearl River Delta, leading to increased automation of assembly lines.”

That headline and that paragraph point to changes, pressures and uncertainties that are far more consequential than anything that has happened in Washington since January 2009.  And like all real news, it has its good sides and its bad.

On the up side, the news that Chinese workers are fighting for and winning better wages is good for them, good for the cause of human justice, and (together with other recent developments like China's new flexibility on the value of its currency) enhances the chances for the world economy to rebalance itself in an orderly and positive way.

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