by Walden Bello, senior analyst at Global South, in the New York Indypendent
yesterday. I'll mention in passing that I specifically avoided disturbing news stories while on my writing retreat in Florida. So for almost three months I didn't read any stuff like this. And then, a jump head-first into ice water. Bello is one of the people that comes out of the global justice movement whose politics I most admire and trust. So to see him making this argument is disturbing.
Essentially, the logic here is that Asian economic growth has led to deepening inequality, but rising consumer power even among the poor created a situation in which political confrontation did not swing out of control. But now, with a weakening consumer base around the world, workers in Asia, especially China, Indonesia, and South Korea, are being laid off by the tens of millions:
In China, about 20 million workers have lost their jobs in the last few months, many of them heading back to the countryside, where they will find little work. The authorities are rightly worried that what they label "mass group incidents," which have been increasing in the last decade, might spin out of control. With the safety valve of foreign demand for Indonesian and Filipino workers shut off, hundreds of thousands of workers are returning home to few jobs and dying farms. Suffering is likely to be accompanied by rising protest, as it already has in Vietnam, where strikes are spreading like wildfire. Korea, with its tradition of militant labor and peasant protest, is a ticking time bomb. Indeed, East Asia may be entering a period of radical protest and social revolution that went out of style when export-oriented industrialization became the fashion three decades ago.
All of this will reverberate here, of course. We may be in for the ride of our lives.