Urbanization and Globalization: The Consumption Reality of China and the Adidas Group

This summer I will stay in Shanghai for about a month to conduct my research. During my stay in Shanghai, I would like to deepen my research on the dynamics of the Asian and Chinese market. Thanks to globalization and the Open Door Policy the Chinese population has been able to reach out to different realities. Consequentially, Chinese workers have been able to observe and take inspiration from the working habitat in other countries and ask for a better working condition for themselves. This increased the cost of labor in China and the buying power of the workers in the chain of production. Therefore, brands like The Adidas Group have started to outsource their chain of production elsewhere and to consider Chinese people as consumers rather than just a part of the chain of production. My research would focus on the sporting goods industry and to producers like the Adidas Group. This interest depends upon two main factors. Firstly, I have a personal interest in the sporting goods industry as my future career path. Secondly, I think that it is interesting to study the dynamics of the sporting goods industry especially in a country like China where women and other groups of society are starting to gain more importance as people and as consumers. An example of this is The Adidas Group’s recent advertising campaigns in China. The brand has launched advertising campaigns targeted to Chinese women that are extremely different from those targeted to women who live in Western world.

I plan on conducting an interview-based research and I have been reaching out to manufacturers as well as a reputable newspaper. I also plan on interviewing people that work in the stores and in the factories and customers of the stores themselves. I believe that this will give me the opportunity of understanding how this phenomenon is viewed by the different parts of the industry. I will also back up my research with readings I have been doing and will continue to do in preparation for the trip.

I will be going to China with the Lang Study Abroad Program. I believe that this will help me through my process because it will allow me to keep on studying Chinese and gain an understanding of Urban Development (both courses offered by the program) while I am there. I am studying Chinese right now and I have been doing so since last semester, but I think that studying Chinese while in Shanghai will make me more confident in speaking with people during the interviews as well as during quick talks in the stores. I have been to several summer camps and I am an international student at The New School. Therefore, I built up an ability to adapt to changing situations which will help me get accustomed to Shanghai and the dynamics of the research project very quickly.

Aside from the research project, I am excited to go to China because I have a genuine passion for exploring new cultures and new things. This is especially true in the case of China, because its culture is so different that what I am used to. Additionally, last year I picked up the study of Chinese, a language that I started to study briefly while in High School, and I also grew an interest for worldwide news and narratives that touched on the recent economic and cultural development of China. Because these topics are of great interest to me, I am excited to experience them for myself.

As far as documenting my research goes, I already have a blog, “The Nextplorer”( www.nxtplorer.com) and I plan on documenting some of my findings here. Documenting my experiences is a cornerstone of my blog already. Indeed,  “The Nextplorer” is a blog about random findings and experiences that I collect all over the world. For the rest of the information, I plan on organizing it on my personal notebook and on computer software like Google Drive. I find Google Drive to be an excellent tool for organizing notes and other material. You guys should use it too!

State-Permeated Capitalism in China and India – Talk w/ Tobias ten Brink

Politics Talk: Tobias ten Brink

Tuesday, April 15 @ 6:00 pm

Wolff Conference Room
6 East 16th Street, Room 1103, New York

Tobias_ten_BrinkThe Politics Department at The New School for Social Research presents Tobias ten Brink, Heuss Lecturer Department of Politics, NSSR  and Senior Researcher Frankfurt University, who will deliver a talk entitled: “State-Permeated Capitalism in China and India: A Global Political Economy Perspective.”

Tobias ten Brink just earned his “Habilitation” on “Capitalist Development in China” from the Goethe-University Frankfurt. In 2012/13 he was a Visiting Scholar at the MIT, Cambridge (Department of Political Science), and at Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China. Since 2012 he has been a senior researcher at the DFG-project “A ‘BICS’-Variety of Capitalism? The Emergence of State-Permeated Market Economies in Large Emerging Countries.”

He belongs to a new generation of researchers who systematically use insights from the comparative and international study of capitalisms for the analysis of China and other large emerging economies. He also conducts research on questions of the transformation of the state and the state system.

His articles have appeared in Critical Asian Studies, dms – der moderne staat, Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, China: An International Journal, Leviathan and Critique Internationale. His book Geopolitik, which he wrote at the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, has been awarded by the German Publishers & Booksellers Association in the category “Humanities international” in 2010.  Recent Books include Global Political Economy and the Modern State System, 2014, Leiden/Boston: Brill. Chinas Kapitalismus. Entstehung, Verlauf, Perspektiven [China’s Capitalism: Emergence, Trajectory, Paradoxes], 2013, Frankfurt/New York: Campus.

Research in China and Cambodia

For my research on labor identity of female garment workers I will be heading to Hong Kong, Southern China and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I’ve chosen these locations because of their strong ties to the global garment manufacturing industry. For decades Hong Kong tailors have been revered for their meticulous attention to detail and fine craftsmanship. After the Handover in 1997, China harnessed these skills and the economic value of Hong Kong to rapidly transform Shenzhen, a city spitting distance from Hong Kong. With Shenzhen’s status as a Special Economic Zone it was able to thrive in the global market, attracting foreign investment and quickly transforming into the capitalist labor market we know today. China’s economy has matured drastically since Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward. Labor costs are rising and competition is high. Because of an increase in labor laws, a growing number of companies are shifting their production to South East Asia. Cambodia is one of these countries where manufacturing and garment production has found a new home. In recent months Cambodia’s garment workers have pushed back against their employers demanding accountability, fighting for safer work environments and higher salaries.

Through my research in China and Cambodia I aim to capture a key narrative of the globalizing garment industry. I am interested in the interplay of modernity and consumption, particularly in relation to the identity of the female worker. In addition, I would like to investigate the possibility of intergenerational growth in the garment industry from industry laborers to fashion designers. This line of inquiry has the potential to show the evolution of Chinese society from peasant to migrant to the creation of a creative class, and the difference between industrializing to industrialized.

In preparation for the trip I am completing a survey of scholarly readings including writing by Jonathan Bach on Shenzhen’s urban growth and status as a Special Economic Zone, Aihwa Ong on factory women and capitalism, Simon Springer on neoliberalism in Cambodia’s authoritarian state, and Tamara Jacka on female migrant labor in China. Compiling readings across a variety of disciplines will serve me best during the interview phase of my research so that I might have an easier time identifying the powers at play.

I am really looking forward to the travel phase of this project. Being at home in other cultures, the feeling of embarking on a journey through personally uncharted waters excites me. I first experienced Hong Kong as a toddler. Having spent quite a bit of time as a young child in such a busy city had a big affect on my worldview. Growing up between the US and Hong Kong, I traveled to many countries in Southeast Asia but it wasn’t until 2013 that I first traveled to Cambodia.

Last January I traveled to Phnom Penh with the Urban Design program at Parsons. Our group of five students partnered with three students from the INDA program at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand and three students from Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh to learn about the changing urban fabric of the city. We spent four days under the guidance of Sa Sa Bassac artists zooming around the capital on tuktuks in the blistering heat, eating pieces of iced sugarcane and absorbing as much knowledge about urban development and Khmer culture as possible.

This trip fueled our final studio projects for the following spring semester and the relationships we initiated continued as Season of Cambodia, an exposition of traditional and contemporary Khmer art and culture, started in New York City in March. The next three months were an ecstatic blur of Khmer music, dance and theater performances, art gallery shows and delicious meals with new friends.

Outside of my research, I’m looking forward to exploring each city’s many markets. Market culture fascinates me. I love the hustle-and-bustle and eclectic mixture of stalls. It is a highly organized system that appears to be one big swirling mess. I’m hoping to come up with a wide selection of video and audio clips to document not only my process and the stories I gather but the also the rich cultures of China and Cambodia. To document my research, I will be running my own blog and using it as a tool to organize my video, audio and photography. The blog will also serve as record of my scholarly readings and reflections.



3rd Annual India China Conversations Symposium, April 14th

ES Feb2014  UpdatedThe Third Interdisciplinary Symposium for Emerging Scholars on India China Studies is part of the India China Institute’s continuing commitment to build a community of scholars who are engaged in research that focuses on new and innovative approaches to understanding India-China relations. The Emerging Scholars program also draws on The New School’s tradition of fostering horizontal and vertical knowledge sharing across disciplines and amongst scholars in different stages of their careers. read on

Anti-Corruption Movements in China and India (Video)

We had a great recent event featuring Dissent Magazine contributor Mehboob Jeelani, Dissent Magazine Editorial Member Jeff Wasserstrom, The New Yorker Contributor Jiayang Fan, and Jonathan Shainin, Web editor at The New Yorker. The event was moderated by ICI Academic Co-Director Mark Frazier. For anyone interested in issue of political change and transformation in China and India, especially as they relate to movements for transparency, accountability and social reform, there was lots of lively talk and exchange among the participants.

In case you missed the event, you can watch a recording of the talk and discussion below.

The Influence of Critical Theory in China – Talk by Zhong Minghua

For anyone familiar with the history of The New School, there has been a long-standing relationship between our university and the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, going back to the days of Alvin Johnson and the founding days of the university. This week ICI hosted a Chinese delegation from Sun Yat-sen University in China, including Zhong Minghua, who is Dean of the School of Social Science Education at Sun Yat-sen University. Professor Zhong gave a talk on the role and influence of the Frankfurt School and figures like Herbert Marcuse, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm and Jürgen Habermas.

The Frankfurt School was imported into China in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was a study that was massively introduced, translated, and commented on in the 1990s and accompanied by deeper research after this period. This school of thought, an important current division of Western Marxism, had become an essential resource to cope with the problems of China during its era of opening reforms. Today, the resources of the Frankfurt School are significant to China in building modernity and constructing culture.

In case you missed the event, you can listen to the whole program below, as well as see the accompanying powerpoint.

[Note: Professor Zhong gave his talk in Mandarin, followed by a translation in English. Throughout this podcast there is a mix of both languages.]


Discussing China and Global Stability with Kostas Vergopoulos and Michael Cohen

In case you missed our recent public event with University of Paris VIII economics professor Kostas Vergopoulos and moderator and GPIA Director Michael Cohen, not to worry.  Professor Vergopoulos’ talk focused on China as a major economic power in the international community and the future of global stability.

His central argument was that China has a huge savings surplus, but with minimal foreign direct investment (FDI) and limited domestic consumption, thus leading to what he called a “sterilization” of global currency. In other words, by withdrawing money from the global economy and not putting it back into circulation through investing abroad, China is contributing to further economic stagnation, even while this would seem to be harming China in the process–for example by not re-valuating its currency in relation to the dollar.

You can listen to the audio of the full talk and discussion following the event below.

The Dao of World Politics Book Launch (Video)

Video from the launch of The New School for Public Engagement Professor L.H.M. Ling’s new book, The Dao of World Politics: Towards a Post-Westphalian, Worldist International Relations.

This book draws on Daoist yin/yang dialectics to move world politics from the current stasis of hegemony, hierarchy, and violence to a more balanced engagement with parity, fluidity, and ethics.

The author theorizes that we may develop a richer, more representative approach towards sustainable and democratic governance by offering a non-Western alternative to hegemonic debates in IR. The book presents the story of world politics by integrating folk tales and popular culture with policy analysis. It does not exclude current models of liberal internationalism but rather brackets them for another day, another purpose. The deconstruction of IR as a singular unifying school of thought through the lens of a non-Westphalian analytic shows a unique perspective on the forces that drive and shape world politics. This book suggests new ways to articulate and act so that global politics is more inclusive and less coercive. Only then, the book claims, could IR realize what the dao has always stood for: a world of compassion and care.

The Dao of World Politics bridges the humanities and social sciences, and will be of interest to scholars and students of the global/international, as well as policymakers and activists of the local/domestic.

This event was sponsored by the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy and the India China Institute at The New School.

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