Identifying MacroStructual Trends in Asian Economies

This post recognizes the error in assuming that all Asian countries are undergoing similar socio-cultural-economic processes and placing diverse Asian countries on the same trajectory of development.

That said, when identifying and ranking important macro-structural trends in Asia, one must keep in mind the larger context of modernity within which these trends exist. The Asian nation-states are facing the structural, economic and socio-cultural trends so particular to modernity, namely globalization, contradictions of nationalism, and security problems that originate from the wrestling with conceptions of identity.

Asian nation-states are wrestling with neo-liberal globalization in this era of deterritorialized production and virtual capital, and trying to gain more economic security through inter-economic cooperation and alliances such as ASEAN and APEC. One example of inter-economic cooperation is the call for a Euro-style common currency. Yet, a trend particular to capitalist modernity is the creation of hierarchies of race, class and gender, and uneven development that tends to alienate and marginalize internal populations. Coupled with this is the fact that the core powers of the U.S., Western Europe and Russia have a vested interest in keeping Asia as semi-peripheral and prevent it from initiating a common currency, which would pose a definite threat to the current economic order of things. Therefore, they encourage foreign direct investment and neo-liberal development, and the U.S. specifically depends on China and Japan to finance its trade deficit. However, with Asian states slowly coming out of their financial crisis and looking for security in this era of increasing globalization, the trend is definitely towards more economic cooperation and integration.

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The World Economic Forum – The Crisis

Anti-Wef Demo Davos 2009 by JUSO Schweiz.

The ‘leaders’ of the world gathered at the World Economic Forum (WEF) this past weekend to advance the failed and flawed concept of ‘free trade’ to generate economic growth for their respective nations. The forum ended in “we don’t know what to do but we must do something quickly…”
Who elected these guys?

In the next few weeks, governments will follow the good bank / bad bank policy in an effort to get the banking sector under control. That is a short-term fix till the next crisis of capitalism.

Europe is ripe with unrest. The Guardian reports on the following protests and ‘riots’ that may be part of a larger picture of growing resentment against ‘failed states’ (and here we define failed states as those who cannot take care of the basic needs of their constituents):


Upset at the government’s handling of the economic crisis, protesters in PARIS clashed with police last week, throwing bottles and overturning cars
Thousands of protesters held rare rallies throughout RUSSIA on Saturday, calling for the resignation of the government as the country continues to sink deeper into an economic morass
Fuelled by fears of rising job cuts, wildcat strikes against foreign workers spread through oil refineries and other energy facilities in BRITAIN on Saturday
Venting their fury at the way that the political class allowed the
country to slip towards bankruptcy, ICELANDERS all but stormed their Parliament a few days ago
Last week in LATVIA—where growth has been in double-digit figures for years—10,000 people, rioting over the country’s economic troubles, besieged the parliament and threw Molotov cocktails at police
Some 7,000 protesters gathered outside the LITHUANIAN parliament on January 16 to demonstrate against the government’s reforms, forcing the police to fire rubber bullets to dispel the mob

In China, 20 million migrant workers lost their jobs, which threatens social stability since these workers were already displaced from their rural lands due to development.

Crossing over the Pacific and in Brazil, the less publicized but largest gathering of anti-globalization forces called the World Social Forum was held where more than 100,000 people convened to discuss how neo-liberal globalization was destroying itself and and how it was imperative to define the world we want. The forum also concluded with mixed results. Does anyone else see a pattern here?

It sort of reminds me of immigration reform conference calls: a chaotic bunch of good people who have a lot of ideas but little desire to go maverick with implementing them. If we can’t deal with tiny things like immigration reform, there is little chance of dealing with the collapse of the U.S. economy given how incompetent American economists are due to the stifling of heterodox ideas in Economic Departments across the country. The BEST economists are not hired by the U.S. government or businesses — they end up mostly as failed lecturers or professors in the Ivory Tower. That’s part of the reason this country is in a crisis — a failure to listen to solutions outside of the ‘capitalist world order.’

Quote of the Week: Americans Shouldn't Fear a Borderless World

There will always be immigrants. A human can work the same job in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas and make six times as much money on the north side of the border. That’s six times as much food in a baby’s mouth, six times as often that a family can run hot water and possibly the opportunity to invest. Some say immigrants, especially guest workers, become fourth class citizens. But they are often sub-castes in their own countries, invisible to the oh-so-keen eye of the developed world. Some say it robs developing countries of their skills and talent. But more people bring home skills and know-how than leave permanently in the “brain drain.” Lastly, some say it promotes dissolution of families. Love, however, is a little tougher with empty stomachs and untreated infections.

Or family need no longer mean a nuclear and extended unit sharing the same geographical location. In this world of globalizing communications, from Vonage to facebook to twitter, ‘family’ also means exchanging a few words with someone 3000 miles away and feeling connected through conversation, not necessarily building beer bellies.

Whole article is at the University Wire.

Feminization of Migrant Labor – Situating Migrant Women in a more Global Context

There is no doubt that women bear the brunt of the toughest and lowest-paying jobs (not to mention UNPAID housework). From sewing garments in sweltering factories to changing dirty diapers to wiping counters to doing the dishes to serving as “sex slaves” — the overwhelming majority of workers in these occupations are women.

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Take a look at the recent ICE raid at the Houston Action Rags USA plant–in effect a sweatshop rag factory where migrant workers–mostly women–would sort through used clothes that would later by exported to “Third World” countries. ICE officials said of the 166 workers they detained, 130 were females, including 10 who were pregnant.

The Houston Chronicle picked up on the gender disparity here:

Juana Maria Olvera, 35, was one of those detained at Action Rags USA and released because she is expecting a child.

”There are a lot of undocumented women working here, and a lot are single women who are working to support their families,” said Olvera. ”What is happening is a lot of the men come here and don’t go back to Mexico. They either bring their women, or find someone here.”

When ICE cracks down on migrant women workers, they devastate the mainstay of the family unit. But we need to situate the random detention of migrant women workers by the ICE in a more global context, as a global oppression of women. It is ironic that these migrant women were working in a “First World” rag-factory to produce clothes for “Third World” countries–countries that they have fled due to “First World” (neo-liberal) policies. For the most part, they would probably do the same jobs at home if the multi-national corporations came to them. Capital will go where it can seek the most profits–and what is more profitable than earning millions on the backs of women who have very little institutional support? Multi-national corporations like DKNY, Levi Strauss, Jessica McClintock to name just a few, have a mutable gendered labor workforce.

In coming to the United States, there is no hunt for the ‘American dream’ but sheer desperation for dollars. As Cynthia Enloe eloquently states in her seminal work Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics, women who travel are not creatures of comfort or privileged. These migrant female underclass of workers do not get institutional support, work in increasingly deplorable conditions and are more susceptible to sexual harassment and abuse. Just take a look at this story about an Ecuadorean family suing a bakery over working conditions–

Antonio DiBenedetto [the employer] groped the female immigrants and pushed one woman into an office where he tried to take off her clothes and sexually assault her, but the woman escaped by calling for the help of a co-worker, the lawsuit alleges.

DiBenedetto also forced female employees to watch him undress and walked around naked in front of them, the lawsuit alleges. He was also accused of telling the female employees that he would loan them money or not charge them rent if they engaged in sex.

This is a rare example of an undocumented immigrant family coming out of the shadows to jot down abuses in the workplace. For the most part, women who are sexually abused, harassed or treated inhumanely, simply stay quiet and stay in the shadows. Sometimes they are compelled to do so in order to protect their families and keep nurturing their young, no matter what the costs. And with the ICE, IMF, World Bank, workforce and exportation laws, it is harder for female workers to unite and unionize.

What is the main point of this blog post? Any movement for the advancement of women’s rights or gender equality, MUST address the needs of women who are victims of neo-liberal globalization.

When Sanctuary equals shooting self in the foot – Protecting undocumented juvenile "crack dealers"

Disclaimer – I LOVE SAN FRANCISCO

The experiment was a noble one — Instead of complying with federal immigration law, city officials in San Francisco would take on the cost of flying juveniles convicted of drug crimes to their countries. That would prevent federal deportation and criminal proceedings against these youth, giving them a clean slate and fresh start.

I have to give it up for San Francisco. It was a truly progressive, forward-thinking idea until 8 Honduran youth escaped from the Southern California group homes where they were being housed prior to their flights back to Honduras. Now, the city is the laughing stock of the country.

These are the kind of stories that annoy even progressive-minded Americans. Local San Franciscans are angry. Why are their tax dollars being used to fly these youth to their countries when they can be simply handed over to the federal government to prosecute? Well, the city has a sanctuary policy of not complying with federal immigration laws and harboring undocumented residents. Also, law enforcement in San Francisco and Berkeley are generally much more relaxed about drug laws than other places in the country. As a result, we start abusing our SANCTUARY CITY policy to harbor and protect juvenile crack cocaine dealers.

Yes, the alternative is worse from a human rights point of view–we are talking about juveniles after all who probably have no other means of subsistence. The problem is that the battle lines have been drawn and there is no middle ground in our restrictive immigration system. So when stories like these break out, it is tough to defend the “undocumented immigrant” or sanctuary city policies since we are no longer talking about undocumented students, hard-working immigrants who stay out of trouble, or migrant women slaving away in used-clothing factories (re:Houston).

Given by the comments at the SF Chronicle, an overwhelming majority of San Franciscans think the city is absolutely absurd for this sort of behavior. This one is actually in-line with how the city could be more forward-thinking:

Dear Gavin – Please just release them prior to booking, and save us some money. Love, the Taxpayers

Another way of looking at it: Since the 8 Honduran teens escaped the homes, they are now saving taxpayers money by being “productive members of society.”

The problem is not with small-time drug-dealers on the streets; it is with the bigger administration of criminalizing drug use and not attacking the source of the problem. By the same token, the problem does not lie with undocumented juvenile drug offenders, but a neo-liberal globalization that has created dire-enough conditions to perpetuate poverty, crime, hopelessness in many undeveloped and developing regions of the world.

I cannot sit and defend the behavior of the Honduran youth or city officials by providing rationales or excuses. Yet, this does not mean I support federal immigration or drug laws.

What I can do is grin at the goofy policies of San Francisco city officials, some of which have led to great social movements and progress for this state and country.