Workers in Asia are Facing Major Challenges from the Current Neoliberal Development

There are at least two major challenges for workers and the ways of organizing and resistance in the current Asia neoliberal development: the expansion of China Overseas Investment and the shrinking of democracy.

These major challenges were addressed in the Asia Transnational Corporation (ATNC) Monitoring Network ‘Biennial Conference’ in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 17-21 November 2017. The conference was attended by 45 participants as the delegations from the various organization and individual members of the network.

In the last two years, Outward Direct Investment of China has significantly increased. In 2015, China already became the world’s second-largest source of outbound foreign direct investment (FDI) with infrastructure network project as the prominent sector. In Southeast Asia for example, Chinese investment has grown rapidly from US$ 1bn in 2007 to US$14.6bn in 2015.

This expansion has been accelerated by the ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR), a major development strategy proposed by President of China Xi Jinping first unveiled in September and October 2013. Under OBOR, the infrastructure projects funded by China capital are designed to connect Asia, Europe and Africa through six economy corridors. In this regard, Pakistan already integrated within the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

First plenary session discussed on the current neoliberal development trends in Asia. Credit: Lennon (SPA)

ATNC members discussed the major issue appears within this development framework. As the evidence already emerged in many cases, the expansion of capital in particular funded for infrastructure project will further damaging the environment. This is true since OBOR will continue the extraction of the fossil fuel. At the same time, this continuation will also follow by the forced eviction of local communities.

Delegations from Southeast Asia shared the country report. Credit: Lennon (SPA)

This capital expansion is also coupled with the shrinking of democracy in many countries in Asia. As the delegations from Southeast Asia reported, there is a growing trend of the rise of militarism and right-wing populism. Some of the countries experience this trend are Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia.

Philippine under Duterte become the biggest number of human rights defender killed in Asia (Front Line Defenders Report, 2017). Most of the killing is related to the land dispute which nearly in the context of mega projects, extractive industry and big business.

While in Cambodia, main opposition party dissolved by Supreme Court only recently. Workers in Cambodia also facing difficulty to organize a resistance and to establish union since the new Trade Union law passed in 2016.

These described major challenges workers facing become the priority to be addressed by the ATNC members in the following years. Within this priority, ATNC members will organize interrelated activity: a research to have a better understanding of the capital expansion in Asia and to identify proper leverage to improve labour working condition, educational activity to equip the members with knowledge to resist, and campaign activity to raise the concerned issue.

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