Cheap gadgets require human suffering
China is the most powerful engine of production for the technology industry, and the blood, sweat and tears of Chinese workers is what fuels that hungry engine, at a tremendous cost to human rights.
Basic human rights reforms in that country aren't going to happen necessarily within five years or perhaps even ten. But it would be naive to say that China can sustain the quid pro quo of having the trappings of a despotic neo-communist nation and all of the worst aspects of modern capitalism indefinitely.
The sad truth is that in order to feed the world’s thirst for the latest and greatest in inexpensive smartphones, tablets, computers and other consumer electronics, a vast number of human beings in China need to suffer.
That is unless the world grows a conscience. But it's possible that international pressure and negative public relations regarding Chinese factory working conditions may force companies into having to take action by themselves, such as by building their own factories and employing their own workers.
And in the case of companies like Motorola, that is already happening. We can expect Apple and others to do the same, and it will translate into higher manufacturing costs that will directly affect consumers.
Opportunity for all
Although my primary interest is in helping Americans create and save jobs, it’s important to take a global view of this issue. Everyone, regardless of what country he or she lives in, deserves the opportunity to find good work, support a family, live with dignity, be healthy, and perhaps even save for the future.
Governments of nations like China and India, with almost incomprehensively large populations, have been trying to transform their economies over the last 30 years, realizing that fully participating in the world economy is the only way to keep their people fed (and keep unrest to a minimum). At the same time as these huge nations have joined the world economy, the Internet has collapsed distances between our nations, enabling us to collaborate and manage remote workers with almost the same level of interaction as those within our borders.
This has created a transformative impact on jobs worldwide, and what we're seeing in China is only the tip of the iceberg. The world's economy will change drastically in the coming 80 or 90 years, and it's up to our business and government leaders to make sure that those changes are positive for all.