Romney's remark insults Chinese

Updated: 2012-10-29 07:25

By Hong Liang (China Daily)

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made a variety of unfounded accusations against China in his second televised debate with President Barack Obama, all of which have been pointedly rebutted by the Chinese government. Such talk is, as most sensible people in the United States and China understand, nothing more than vote-grabbing rhetoric full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

However, by branding China as a country that "cheats" to compete in global trade, Romney has crudely insulted many millions of Chinese migrant workers. These honest and hard-working people, who can be found toiling away in the factories in the coastal regions or on construction sites in both big and small cities, have made a significant contribution to turning their country from a backward agriculture economy into a global industrial powerhouse over the past three decades.

More recently, many of them have found employment in the rapidly expanding service sector in the major cities, particularly Shanghai and Guangzhou. In so doing, they are playing a key role in spearheading the restructuring of the economy to achieve more balanced and sustainable growth in coming years.

They are willing to work hard, live away from their families and endure harsh conditions and various degrees of discrimination in the cities in which they work in the hope of earning enough money to provide their children with a better life.

Nobody subsidizes these people. Many of them have succeeded in realizing their dreams not by cheating but by putting in an honest day's work and saving as much as they can.

The young woman who owns a laundry shop near my home in Shanghai has a story that is more powerful than any official rebuttal against governor Romney's crude remarks.

She told me she left her home county in Zhejiang province when she was still a teenager in the early 1990s to come to work as a seamstress at a Shanghai garment factory. During the busy seasons, she and other workers were often required to work two long shifts a day. She earned very little but spent even less, eating as cheaply as possible and sharing a tiny apartment in a squalid tenement block with several other fellow workers.

There was not a trace of bitterness in her voice nor any embarrassment in her demeanor when she talked about those hard times. To her, it was all worth it. In a little over 10 years, she saved enough money to get married and start her own business in Shanghai, her adopted home.

Her shop may be small, with barely enough space for a commercial-sized washer and a sewing machine, but she has more integrity than many Wall Street bankers, buy-out artists and private fund moguls, and among the people in the neighborhood she has a reputation for providing an excellent service at reasonable prices. She told me she has a daughter in primary school now and she's saving for her to go to university when she grows up.

She is a decent person who, seeking to advance her life, has also helped advance the economy of her country.

She and hundreds of millions of workers like her are the backbone of China's competitiveness in the global marketplace.

Nobody can accuse them of cheating.

(China Daily 10/29/2012 page8)