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Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Karis and Mrs. Chung

Empty apartment, packed bags that come in at 22.9 kilos.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The team

Hedley Freake (U.Conn, Nutrition); Paul Hanstedt (Roanoke College, English); Dave Campion (Lewis and Clark College, History); myself; Gray Kochhar-Lindgren (U.Wa-Bothell, IDS); Glenn Shive (HK American Center at the Chinese University of HK); Joe Chaney (U.Ind-South Bend, English; David Pong (U. of Delaware, Asian History).

(and there were families...)

We gathered together for a final time at the home of Glenn Shive on the ocean near Sai Kung. I have had the pleasure of working with an incredible group of Fulbright scholars over the past 6 months or so. I believe that a commitment to general education, curriculum innovation, and students probably was a strong filter in providing me with good colleagues. If one of us had to be absent at a meeting with one university, the comment always was--the rest of you would say the same thing I would anyway! That meant that we were so much on the same page that we could easily walk into a room and collaborate and work with each other. They were wise, politically astute, creative, caring, and collaborative. Hedley Freake ate more things than anyone else. Dave Campion traveled more places than anyone else (he's still not done), David Pong taught us more Chinese history than anyone else, Glenn Shive offered us more opportunities than anyone could take advantage of, Paul blogged more than anyone else, Gray avoided powerpoint more than anyone else (a real challenge in HK), and Joe dealt with rhetoric far, far more than the rest of us.
I left my contribution to someone else:

Janel Currie was the one who reached out to her fellow Fulbrighters more often and in more thought provoking ways than anybody else....
PS My theory is that people that engage in GE are a self-selected bunch, somewhat different from many in academia. More broad-thinking, collaborative, interdisciplinary and just good fun. What I don't know is if we learned it from doing GE or we have always been that way.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The end is near

David, Ron, Dave, myself, Gary, Rodney
Polly, Hokling, Geraldine and Carmen behind me
John, Joe (another Fulbrighter in the back), Ahmer, Chris
And many others...

The Educational Development and General Education office of the Provost's office at CityU had a farewell lunch for me. They have been a wonderful group of people to work with and have been incredibly inviting to the two of us. And all farewell's or celebrations must involve a huge variety of food in Hong Kong!

Causeway Bay Times Square

Times Square in Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island is yet one more upscale shopping area. And as typical, there always temporary displays set up around some event or special advertisement. This time it was the world soccer tournament. Shopping/Recreation/Entertainment are melded together.

Tiananmen Square Aniversary

With a fellow Fulbrighter.

I went to Victoria Park on Hong Kong Island for the gathering recognizing the 21st Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. All week there had been skirmish between students and police over the placement of the "goddess of democracy" statue in different places in the city. This statue is a copy of the one that was in Tiananmen Square. This just increased the number of people that came out for the candle light vigil--between 115,000 and 150,000. A Hong Kong publisher also released what might be excerpts from the diary of Li Peng, one of the leaders that pushed for a military crackdown, justifying the actions but also saying everyone supported it. Nobody wants to really claim the responsibility for the disaster. Around the crisis Zhao Ziyang ended up falling from power over his opposition. I've just finished Zhao Ziyang's secret diary (he died in 2005). He was an amazing figure. He was the father of the market economy in China, but saw its relationship to democracy in that corruption was inherent in the society without more transparency, rule of law, and democratic structures. He reached this conclusion out of a pragmatic approach to societal change. Regretfully, he lost in the power struggle around Tainanmen, and corruption continues in China.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Factory Girls

I recently finished the book, Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang. Chang is an American who spent quite some time living in Shenzhen area in China, following the lives of several young Chinese women who came from rural areas and migrated to Southern China to work in the factories. It was especially meaningful to me because it is focused on the district right next to Hong Kong where thousands of factories are set up by companies from all over the world. This is where the factories moved when the left Hong Kong for the cheap labor of China. It is where virtually everything we use in the U.S. is manufactured. And it is in the news every day here for a variety of reasons.

In following the lives of several women over time, Chang depicts the challenge of thousands of young people living together in factory dormitories, cut off from relations in a culture that is very group oriented. Some of the migrants develop a cultural value of individualism, saying they can only depend on themselves, and don't tell parents what they are doing as they move from factory to factory, or how much they earn. They experience a move to the modern age overnight. The modern invention of the cell phone allows them to hide their mobility. In several instances, these migrants become subject to fly-by-night "self-improvement" opportunities that range from pyramid schemes that are supposed to make them rich, to learning English by machine. Disconnected from their social system, few rules exist and so they make up experience and reinvent themselves regularly to survive and move ahead. At the same time, pressures come from home to marry a local boy and send money home. In tracing the changes in one young woman's life, Chang illustrates how the money earned created an ability to be independent--to chose not to come home to live--and also changed the power structure of relationships within the family with the young and female having money and with it, power, or the ability to resist demands put on by the family structure. In the meantime, they remain disconnected from any other strong social network. Relationships come and go.

At the same time I was reading this book, I also was reading newspaper accounts of suicides in a major factory in Shenzhen. The factory, Foxconn, makes parts for Apple, Dell, HP and Sony, for example, but is Taiwanese owned. In Shenzhen they have over 400,000 workers in two plants and employ over 900,000 in China. Imagine that--almost a half million young people working in two plants!

Foxconn has experienced 13 suicide attempts since January, resulting in ten deaths. Most have involved jumping off of roofs or out of windows--all involve young people who have come to work in the factory. While this gets a great deal of press, I don't know if this is actually a high rate or not given the numbers, age, and dislocation of the workers. Such plants are all-contained with housing, stores, etc. The recent newspaper article claimed that Foxconn frequently violated the overtime guidelines in Apple's code. It appears that the limit is supposed to be 60 hour, 6 day weeks. Foxconn has the lowest costs of all competitors.

All of this reinforces my sense of the instability of China. There is great upheaval there at all levels. With this upheaval is increased social anomie and disconnectedness. In addition, despair comes from a tremendous desire to move up, but frustration at lack of meaningful opportunity. And no rule of law. It seems like a fragile society, or perhaps a fragile political system. And you can't measure development by what you see because of lack of accountability. For example, universities get money to build campuses and never pay it back.

As a colleague of mine said--a better measure of what is going on than GDP is the number of university graduates who cannot find work.