Things you don’t expect to see:
- Richard Simmons tongue-kissing a woman
- Nuns smoking weed in public
- A Harold Meyerson column that doesn’t deserve ridicule
According to a report by Keith Bradsher in the New York Times last month, such multinational companies as Canon (the printer and copier maker) and Hanesbrands (the North Carolina-based underwear empire) are expanding or building factories in Hanoi, where they churn out products for Wal-Mart and other American retailers. Foreign direct investment in Vietnam increased 136 percent between 2006 and 2007, while it increased just 14 percent in China.
The reason for the move south is straightforward: Vietnamese factory workers make about a quarter of what their Chinese counterparts earn.
But why Vietnam and not, say, Thailand, where labor is similarly cheap?
Vietnam’s edge, it seems, is political. “Communism means more stability,” Laurence Shu, the chief financial officer of Shanghai-based Texhong, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of cotton fabrics, told Bradsher. This view, Bradsher reports, is common among Asian executives and some American executives, too, though they have the presence of mind never to say so on the record. After all, Vietnam, like China, outlaws independent unions. Absent free speech and free elections, no radical shifts in the government’s economic policies are likely to be sprung upon unsuspecting American businesses. (emphasis mine)
He goes on from this observation to rhetorically ask why the hell the Vietnam war even happened if businesses were going to decide communism was A-OK anyway. I’d take this as yet another example of how not only is being pro-market not the same thing as being “pro-business”, but big business is actively ANTI-market. The possibility of someone other than them having bargaining power anytime soon is anathema, and any haggling must go downward, not back and forth.