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Hernando de Soto’s talk at UC Berkeley January 29, 2010

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The Shining Path had cache because it protected to property rights of poor people in Peru—gave people a sense of security to their tenure

  • In cities then, 65% of people had control of land but no title
  • At the same time, a lot of people didn’t have business rights either—and so, a lot of liability

There were questions whether poor people in Peru even had beliefs in conventional land ownership

  • Turned out that communities had local knowledge and records of who owned what—so it wasn’t that people didn’t believe in formal conventions of land ownership

Formal titling destroyed Shining Path’s business—was an antiterror strategy at its heart (more…)

Holding China Accountable? (Travers Ethics Conference 10 Oct 08) October 13, 2008

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I only managed to attend the two panel discussions in the morning session, but here
is a quick summary of the talk which took place on Oct 10th, 2008.

Strategies for protecting consumers in a globalised world

The FDA is massively under-resourced wrt to regulation/inspection of Chinese producers. While inspection rates for European producers/factories are somewhere between 60-90%, India around 50%, the rate for China is a woeful 11%. This is a result of two factors: i) the large number of producers in China owing to the small and medium sized (SME) status of the majority of exporters, and ii) the acute shortage of Chinese/Mandarin speakers at the FDA. The few process inspections that the FDA does do in China are often done through interpreters (employees of the firm being inspected), with the result that the floor/plant manager’s actual answers may not be reflected in the inspection, e.g. FDA Inspector: “How often do you clean this vat?”, Plant manager: “Once a month”, Translator: “Every day”, FDA Report: “Meets FDA import requirements”.

The FDA has put together a plan to address the under-resourcing in 2007, but this is taking time to work through the government bureaucracy.

Challenges for the Chinese regulatory system

Local governments have strong vested interest to sweep reports of contamination/adulteration under the carpet owing to strong ties to local producers (local party leaders on the boards of state-owned enterprises) and concern for impact on local industry/employment. The central government has very poor
information sources at the local level and is unable to act.

The lack of a free press also limits information flow to the central government. Corruption is rife amongst journalists, e.g. journalists hearing of a potentially dangerous product are often bribed (and actively solicit bribes) to stop reporting on the issue. Food safety is also considered a sensitive issue by the central government and journalists have been dismissed or censured for reporting on these issues. Media regulation is post-publication with no way for journalists to see if publishing a report will have negative consequences pre-publication, provding a strong incentive not to risk report potentially “sensitive” stories.

Weak legal system and legal institutions fail to provide a check on unscrupulous producers. Fines even for cases where deaths have been caused are generally very low. Local courts are under pressure to protect local producers for economic/employment reasons.

(Reported by Yan Phao)

Outline of talk: Africa’s Chinese Enclaves October 10, 2008

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Ching Kwan Lee

Raw Encounters – Africa’s Chinese Enclaves

Below is an outline of the talk given 10/9/08, for your reading pleasure.

(more…)

EVENT: Labor Relations in Africa’s Chinese Enclaves September 16, 2008

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This sounds fascinating! I’m definitely going…

Raw Encounters: Labor Relations in Africa’s Chinese Enclaves
A Talk with China Expert Ching Kwan Lee

Thursday, October 9, 12 Noon
Newman Hall, 2700 Dwight Way (at College Avenue), Berkeley

China’s return to Africa in recent years has attracted much media and
political attention worldwide. Join us for a presentation and
discussion with Ching Kwan Lee, who will report on her recent
fieldwork in Zambia’s Copperbelt and Tanzania’s textile mills, where
she saw first-hand the impact of China’s investment in Africa. She
will focus primarily on labor relations, including a discussion of
encounters between Chinese managers and African workers and how these
encounters impact local societies.

Ching Kwan Lee received her PhD in Sociology from UC Berkeley and is
now Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los
Angeles. She is author of Against the Law: Labor Protests in China’s
Rustbelt and Sunbelt and Gender and the South China Miracle. Her
current projects include studies of the impacts of Chinese investment
in Africa, and labor and property rights activism in China.

Sponsored by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education,
Center for Chinese Studies and Center for African Studies.