WRITING STYLE: 3.75/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 3.5/5
The whole world talks about China; from my B-School professors lecturing on importance of China; to our Director and HODs trying to bring in teachers to make us learn Mandarin; to ex-colleagues in asset management industry selling China focused mutual funds to HNIs; to my present day steel plant colleagues procuring spare parts and machinery from China; I have everybody around me talking about China. From being just a kid learning about the big bad guy in the north (my great grandfather who also happen to be a freedom fighter in India’s struggle for Independence wrote a book on the events leading to and the fallout after the 1962 war with China), to the professional realizing the value of China in every-day life of any citizen of the world, I have always tried to learn more and more about our dear neighbour in the North. ‘The China Price’ by ‘Alexandra Harney’ was an attempt to further this knowledge.
The book is an honest and fair effort to portray the true picture of the China Price. You will learn the astonishing and unbelievable reasons that contribute to the unbeatable China price. It tells the compelling tale of millions of Chinese labours and the massive affect the China price has on their lives. Millions of Chinese toil day and night, working for up to 18 hours a day and for 7 days a week to get us the China Price. They live in shanty one-room homes or dirty dingy dormitories; work in sweat shop like conditions without windows or proper ventilation, without proper safety apparatus and systems in place, suffer from fatal occupational diseases like silicosis (which becomes cancer, heart disease and tuberculosis in later stages), and take home wages (0.57$ an hour) which are a mere 3% of what their US and other developed country counterparts take home. To know about their truth is depressing as well as shocking.
The book also makes an effort to bring to limelight the consequences which the Chinese people face as a result of our choices as a consumer. The role of MNCs, which manufacture in China, in the lives of Chinese labour and also the effect of poor policing and policy implementation by Chinese government which further adds to the miserable life led by these workers. In the dual pursuit of conflicting interests of everyday lower prices and improvement in working conditions of Chinese labour, companies often forget that the promise of everyday lower price is not possible without compromising of worker’s safety and interests.
The China Price takes investigative journalism to a whole new level. The book is carefully documented and very meticulously researched; Alexandra has really gone to great lengths to arrange secret undercover interviews to get first person accounts of various parties involved with the China price. I liked the way she attempts to address each problem with a chapter dedicated to it and making each chapter interesting & equally thought provoking by presenting it as a story of various characters which she came across and interviewed. Alexandra does a very good job of adding an appealing personal & emotional touch to an otherwise academic and research based book.
Now, coming to the negatives I would like to say that they are more related to the genre of the book than the content or writing style. Firstly, the book is a little academic in nature and therefore not many of us would find it very appealing. I found many chapters very intriguing but few of them did not arouse my interest, especially the one on “Accounts and Accountability” and this was because of the lack of storytelling approach which was presented in other chapters really well. In addition to this I would like to point out that though I found the conversations and interviews with concerned parties interesting, I did not respond well to the overload of data and numbers which tended to bounce off my mind the moment I turned the page.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to everyone who is remotely concerned with the China price. But wait, wouldn’t that include the whole world because in the end all of us are consumers and thus all of us are linked to the China Price.