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Yin Tian '07 Studying Wal-Mart in China

Does Wal-Mart's Expansion Ruin Labor Market?

By Emily Lemanczyk  |  Contact Sharon Rippey 315-859-4672
Posted July 30, 2004
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When Yin Tian '07 first arrived at Hamilton, she knew little about the global market and the effects of globalization. After taking several courses, including Political Theory, Macro and Microeconomics, Tian became more aware of the world around her, and the great economic and social effects of globalization. As a Levitt fellow, Tian hopes to learn more about the global economy and the way larger U.S. corporations affect her world. For her project, "Wal-Mart in China: The Gigantic U.S. Corporation's Expansion Ruins China's Labor Market," Tian will work with William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Government Cheng Li to investigate Wal-Mart's strategies in Shenzhen and Shanghai, China, and examine Wal-Mart's real influence to China's labor market.

For her project, Tian will examine Wal-Mart and its effect on both American and Chinese labor markets. "The nation has suffered from the high unemployment since the early 1980s when it first half-opened its door to the foreign competitors," Tian said. As the official unemployment rate is 4.7 percent, (and could be as high as 10 percent) unemployment is a huge problem for such a large country.  Tian explains the Wal-Mart's history in China: "Wal-Mart is the largest corporation in the world and it has expanded not only in every state in the United States but also UK, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Mexico and several other countries. In 1996, Wal-Mart began its expansion in China and chose Shenzhen, a Special Economic Zone next to Hong Kong, as its first laboratory. Several years later, it moved its Asian headquarters into Shenzhen and now has almost 40 stores nationwide. It claims to have created 150,000 jobs in China and would like to expand even faster."

Summer Research 2004 

However, has Wal-Mart really created employment in China? Tian believes that it has not, and hopes to come up with some definitive answers in her research. Tian argues that maybe U.S. multinational corporations like Wal-Mart are not really creating jobs for Chinese people; instead, multi-nationals just push all the other Chinese retailers out of the game and steal their employees.

By analyzing articles in newspapers and magazines, Tian was able to learn about politics and economics in the U.S. and have a deeper understanding of the main issues discussed on Capitol Hill and Wall Street. She describes how she became involved with the project: "When talking to Professor Li… we [examined] the debate about whether outsourcing from China is the major cause of the U.S.'s high unemployment and here came the topic. I am very interested in Professor Li's idea that both parties didn't address the issue of whether multi-national corporations from the U.S. have really created jobs for China."

Tian is very excited to be working on the project. "I am rising sophomore from China. With Professor Li's help, I feel very lucky to become a Levitt Fellow. [Better yet,] the project I am doing is about my home country. This is one of the benefits I got for being a small liberal arts college student….Because of the scale of the community, the college can provide us enough opportunities to do what we feel confident doing."

--by Emily Lemanczyk '05

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