The Corner

Re: What Tom Friedman Left Out Cont’d

From a reader:

Dear Jonah…


You Corner piece on Friedman (03/02 01:51 PM) is right about ignoring authorities. In November I moved back to the States from southern China after 6 years there. Imagine a place where about 90% of the drivers got their license within the last 5 years. That’s China. I’ve been with people who don’t know how to put their own car into reverse–they just drive around the block again. Police don’t hand out traffic tickets. It’s all handled by cameras. So everyone knows where the cameras are–slowing down when they see them, driving like a bat out of hell when they’re out of range.


Also, mugging is a bit of a problem. China can’t trust its own cops to have guns, so you have these little street-corner guys in uniforms that don’t fit (probably shared with others), and who can’t–and don’t–do anything to stop a crime in action. We heard that they often get paid to disappear or at least look the other way.


And, from another reader:


Just a quick note on smoking in China (or Chinese areas).

I used to travel extensively and regularly in China and Taiwan.

What struck me (as funny) were all of the NO SMOKING signs in the airports.  The locals would smoke anyway and, what was really delicious, they smoked UNDER the NO SMOKING signs.  There were tons of areas that weren’t directly under the signs, of course, but the smoking under the signs was common enough that I had to conclude that it was sortakinda on purpose.

One more reason that I like the Chinese *people*.

Please keep up the great work and have a great day,


Hi Jonah,


While I agree 100% with what you wrote abt China today, your comment about Apple and “child labor” is a tad misleading.  The “children” at issue were 15, and the legal age to work in China is 16 (see, e.g., here).  As a guy who worked a steady (part-time) job when he was 15 (hooray texas labor laws!), I find this example a bit misplaced when discussing bad Chinese governance.


As you point out, there are a lot of other examples of such governance that make the point far better… and don’t play into the hands of the AFL-CIO’s self-serving “China sweatshop” rhetoric.


Anyway, just my $.02.

Fair enough on the last bit. But the point remains that “well-governed” China is chock-a-block with firms doing illegal things. And as the first reader noted — and I forgot to stress — the cops are not trustworthy in “well-governed” China.


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