By Dennis J. Duncanson
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Extra info for Changing Qualities of Chinese Life
In Malaya during one of the many crises of the rubber industry, a few months before the outbreak of the Korean War brought the world rubber depression to an end, it fell to me to propose to groups of tappers a contract with their employers, under which their pay- which had been tied directly to the mercurial price for the product on world markets- would be cushioned against slumps but also not soar in the booms. Generally speaking, the Indian tappers were keen on it, but the Chinese almost to a man turned the idea down, preferring to extract the maximum from the 42 Changing Qualities of Chinese Life market for their labour when the price was high and take their chance when it went down.
Evidently, despite the collectivization or nationalization of all the means of production in China proper, peasants and a great many urban workers have to fend for themselves when it comes to housing: although their home is the one substantial asset they can call their own, it is so thanks only to the failure of socialist transformation to yield enough surplus value to match the scale of development in low-cost dwellings of the economicmiracle countries. During my visit to Peking, the New China News Agency was blaming the Party advisers drafted to rural areas for interfering with production instead of improving it- a criticism that might be directed at the whole economy of China, since Chairman Hua Kuo-feng admitted that half the industrial output was substandard, and a quarter produced at a financial loss.
Rural incomes in Taiwan must be lower than industrial (although that would not be true, for example, in present-day Japan), as they are in Hong Kong; but universally in Hong Kong, and more often than not in Taiwan, rural families derive additional income from the construction projects and marginal services of the booming industrial sector a bicycle or motorcycle ride from their fields. In both places, many employers 34 Changing Qualities of Chinese Life provide big traditional fringe benefits- free meals and transport to and from work, and in Taiwan, as in Shanghai thirty years ago, both a small supplement from profit-sharing by way of a New Year bonus and, sometimes, living quarters too as an incentive to stick with the firm after training.