China's economic miracle is a myth that serves to disguise the miserable lives of millions of abused workers, a Brussels-based labor rights group said yesterday.
The Asian giant's economic success had been achieved without regard for its people, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions said in a report released ahead of next week's WTO gathering in Hong Kong.
"Most people seem to have been too blinded by China's economic results to see their dark side," Guy Ryder, the confederation's general-secretary, said in a statement.
The report, Whose Miracle? How China's workers are paying the price for its economic boom, said the economy was "sweat-shopping" its way to success, basing its competitiveness on low wages and the exploitation of its workers.
Ominously, it argued the situation in the world's most populous nation was going from bad to worse, as the chasm between rich and poor widened steadily.
The nation's successful poverty eradication in the early 1980s has stagnated in the 1990s and the new millennium, and China's deeper integration into the WTO could make the situation worse, according to the report.
More than three quarters of rural households, which still make up the majority of Chinese, are predicted to lose real income between 2001 and 2007, it said.
"If they were aware of the international limelight China's rulers are basking in, most of China's population would ask, `What miracle?'" Ryder said.
"For the workers toiling in the engine room of the so-called miracle, its unjust reality is more like a nightmare than a dream," he said.
The report was issued as the abject conditions of Chinese miners was highlighted in a gas explosion at a colliery in northern of Hebei Province that may have claimed more than 100 lives.
China has been the world's fastest growing major economy for the past 25 years, and is this year expected to again record GDP growth of more than 9 percent, but even so, there will likely not be enough jobs.
China may have as many newly unemployed people as the rest of the world put together and will have to create up to 300 million new jobs in the next decade to keep unemployment from rising to untenable levels, the report said.
It said the gap between the haves and have-nots was growing, with the richest parts of the country now more than 10 times better off than the poorest parts.
An increasing number of rural migrants desperate to find work in the cities live as illegal aliens in their own country, according to the report.
"China is experiencing a surge in inequality, creating not one country and one people but winners and losers, through discrepancies in living standards within and between cities and provinces," the report said.
In seeking to curb labor unrest, China's rulers were finding themselves trapped in a "Catch-22" situation, the report argued.
Trying to keep social control by denying workers the freedom to organize in independent trade unions, they fuel social unrest and disorder through crackdowns on those who speak out against the status quo, it said.
"As China becomes further integrated into global trade, investment and institutions, increasing pressure must be put on the country to respect basic human, social and political rights. As long as it does not, it will be far from miraculous for its people," the report said.