Ensuring social stability is now more important than promoting economic development. That’s how one official explained a new order given to companies by provincial governments in Shandong and Hubei. It states that companies must secure approval from authorities if they want to fire 40 or more employees – adding an extra obstacle to the provisions of the labor contract law enacted earlier this year. About 680,000 people in Shandong lost their jobs in the first nine months of the year.
An example of what those authorities are trying to prevent occurred this week in Gansu province. A protest over the forced demolition of homes and eviction of tenants escalated into violence as demonstrators broke windows of the local Communist Party headquarters and destroyed cars.
Workers in Detroit probably wish they had a law to protect them from layoffs. Executives of the Big Three US automakers have been on Capitol Hill this week, pleading for a huge government bailout. But a different kind of boost may be available in China, where auto sales might help Motown. General Motors has unveiled three new models for the China auto market, bringing its total number of models in China to 24.
We don’t know if Cuban President Raul Castro, to paraphrase a TV jingle, would really rather have a Buick. His island nation is stuck in a 1950s time warp when it comes to cars. Chinese President Hu Jintao no doubt saw those old classics when he went there this week to sign trade and investment deals. Some say that Raul admires the way China has implemented market reforms, but it’s probably a bit premature to apply to open a GM dealership in Havana.