And perhaps most remarkably, Chinese authorities are letting the strike happen — in a very public way.
In the kind of scene that more often plays outat strikes in America than at labor actions in China, print and television reporters from state-controlled media across the country have started covering the walkout here, even waiting outside thenearly deserted front gate on Friday in hope of any news.
Until now, the authorities had been leery of letting the media report on labor disputes, fearing that it could encourage workers elsewhere torebel. The new permissiveness, so far at least, coincides with growing sentiment among some officials and economists that Chinese workers deserve higher wages for their role in the country’s globalexport machine.
And without higher incomes, hundreds of millions of Chinese will be unable to play their part in the domestic consumer spending boom on which this nation hopes to base its next roundof economic growth.
“This is all because there is a major political debate going on about how to deal with the nation’s growing income gap, and the need to do something about wages,” said AndreasLauffs, a lawyer at Baker & McKenzie who specializes in Chinese labor issues.
If wages do rise, that could bring higher prices for Western consumers for goods as diverse as toys at Wal-Mart and iPadsfrom Apple.
The Chinese media may also have found it a little easier, politically, to cover this strike because Honda is a Japanese company, and anti-Japanese sentiment still simmers in China as alegacy of World War II. Certainly, the strike is hitting Honda hard, as the resulting shortage of transmissions and other engine parts has forced the company to halt production at all four of itsassembly plants in China.
Honda has an annual capacity of 650,000 cars and minivans in China, like Jazz subcompacts for export to Europe and Accord sedans for the Chinese market. Because Honda’s prices...