Jonathan Unger

Jonathan Unger is director of the Contemporary China Centre at Australian National University. The most recent of his 14 books is Chen Village: Revolution to Globalization, co-authored with Anita Chan and Richard Madsen. Unger is lead author of a chapter in Wal-Mart in China on the conditions of employees at Chinese Wal-Marts.

Recent Articles

Wal-Mart’s China Connections

From production to retailing, Wal-Mart’s China operations display a 
dystopian collaboration between low-wage employer and autocratic state.

W ith more than 10,000 suppliers in China manufacturing for Wal-Mart, the great majority of its merchandize is “Made in China.” Wal-Mart is now becoming a major retail presence there as well. The company has already opened close to 200 stores in 101 Chinese cities and hopes to roll out ever more big-box emporiums across the urban Chinese landscape. What happens when the world’s biggest retailer and the world’s biggest country do business with each other? Wal-Mart isn’t the first multinational to source so heavily from Asia. Beginning in the 1970s, the relocation of labor-intensive manufacturing to Asia nurtured the growth of the Four Little Dragons (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore), whose companies entered into contracts to manufacture for Western brand names. When China opened up to foreign investment in the early 1980s, offering vast stretches of greenfield sites, attractive tax breaks, and an abundance of labor at just one-tenth the cost of the Dragons’ wages, another...