Rod Dreher

Walter Russell Mead takes note of tectonic, and potentially terrifying, changes in China as that nation rushes from an agricultural society to an industrial one. Excerpts:

Bewildered by urban life, desperate to win some kind of a foothold, living from hand to mouth and sending money to children or aged parents at home, these workers tend to be hardworking, desperate, disciplined — and used to living on very little.
But that changes with time. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, ironically, were the first to analyze the phenomenon. Peasants, they said, were hard to organize. (Marx compared them to potatoes, who could only be organized by putting them into a sack.) Factory workers are different. They work together, rather than each on his or her own tiny plot of land. Their interests are distinct from the factory owners, and easy to recognize. They have many opportunities to build trust and to organize on and off the job. They also have power; when peasants quit farming, they starve. When workers lay down their tools (especially in a tight labor market), the factory lies idle, costing the owner. Moreover, as perhaps Marx and Engels failed fully to recognize, factory workers can gain power in other ways — in western history, they mostly gained it through voting.
The point is that China’s labor force is shifting from helpless and uprooted peasants to savvy urban veterans.

Mead calls this change “almost infinitely more important than almost anything else going on.”

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