“Free” trade agreements were sold to the American people (and indeed are still embraced by the Rushpubliscum Party) as a “win-win” for everyone. for us, cheaper goods. For the people overseas, jobs, jobs, and more jobs. There were, of course, a few things that we weren’t told about. Just a few little things. Like the fact that “free” trade agreements are anything BUT free, as laws have been written to (1.) force American taxpayers to subsidize the costs of an American firm moving its facilities overseas, and (2.) tax codes that allow American firms to avoid tax payments on any money generated and kept outside of the US, which practically begs American firms to move everything not rooted to the ground out of this country. And, of course, we’ve all heard the horror stories of overseas firms being like labor camps, with uncompensated hours worked, barbed-wire fences, guards patrolling the grounds, and skyrocketing suicide rates.
But “free” trade is about so much more than the impoverishment of Americans and the indentured servitude of foreigners. You see, most corporations only care about the bottom line. They flat-out don’t give a damn if they have to destroy their workers, or their environs, as long as that bottom line stays fat. We saw it here, at places like Love Canal. Did anyone really think that, in the absence of laws to deter them, they wouldn’t go right back to doing things the way they’d done them here?
Surprise of all surprises: they haven’t. If anything, they might even be worse now than they were then. And the Chinese people are paying the price for American greed.
Feng Xiaofeng moves down an alleyway toward her home in Wuli, an ordinary village in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, with an extraordinary problem.
Feng slides open the doors with a quick thrust. But before she says a word, she begins to cry and points at two identically framed photos side by side on her wall. They show an older and younger man. They look like blown up passport pictures or perhaps faded formal portraits.
These photographs haunt Feng.
“I don’t want to stay in this house. I don’t want to sleep here at night,” she says. “My husband was the pillar of the family and when he died it was like the pillar of our house collapsing. Then my son was taken too.”
Taken 10 years apart by cancer.
The sound of crying draws villagers to Feng’s small courtyard. They have stories of their own.
They say Wuli was once famed for wooded hills and fertile soil. Government officials came in the 1990s and promised riches. “All the local officials did was fill their pockets with money,” says an older woman angrily. During this period, a number of textile companies moved into Wuli, building their plants across town.
“All these factories should be moved, because they have caused the cancer,” says one man, as others nod. “All of these factories should be removed from here.”
They tell us that Wuli is now a “cancer village.”
The term surfaced a few years ago, when trailblazing Chinese journalists and activists like Deng Fei unearthed evidence of unnaturally high rates of cancer across China, mostly in rural areas dominated by industry.
Deng, who was working for a Hong Kong based magazine at the time, focused on the impact of water pollution in rural China.
“Since water is so important to people, the pollution has a more significant impact on people’s health,” he says.
“China is suffering from the negative impact of improper economic growth patterns. And the country will continue to pay the price for heavy pollutants in the future.”
This year, facing public pressure, the government admitted that cancer villages exist. “China has been producing and utilizing toxic chemical products. Many places experienced a drinking water crisis and pollution caused serious social issues like the emergence of cancer villages,” stated a document published in the wake of the cancer villages revelation.
Deng calls it a ‘very significant step.”
“Only by acknowledging the problem can we put real efforts in dealing with this issue” he says
For countless millions of Chinese, it’s already too late. They are going to get sick, and die, because of what was done to them. All in the name of a “free” trade that is neither free, nor much in the way of trade.
This is criminal. Someone, or a few someones, need to pay a heavy price for what’s been done to the citizens of the cancer villages.