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WMU talk to explore changing Chinese workplace

Feb. 17, 2011

KALAMAZOO--The rapidly evolving Chinese workplace and the reasons behind it will come into sharper focus next week when a visiting economist speaks as part of Western Michigan University's Werner Sichel Lecture Series.

Photo of Dr. Mary E. Gallagher.Dr. Mary E. Gallagher, associate professor of political science and director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan, will address "Changes in the World's Workshop: How New Laws, More Demanding Workers and Activist Trade Unions are Transforming the Chinese Workplace" from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23, in Room 2028 of Brown Hall. Her presentation is free and open to the public and replaces a Jan. 12 talk by Dr. Gary Jefferson, which was canceled.

In 2008, the Chinese government passed three ambitious labor laws to improve working conditions at Chinese companies and the employment security of Chinese workers. Employers criticized these laws as a return to the age of the "iron rice bowl" under socialism. These protective measures coincided with the onset of the global financial crisis and a rapid decline in China's export markets. Gallagher will discuss these important trends, upcoming local and national legislation and the implications for the future of the world's workshop.

In addition to being a political science professor, Gallagher is director of Center for Chinese Studies at U-M and is a faculty associate at the Center for Comparative Political Studies at the Institute for Social Research.

Dr. Gallagher received her doctoral degree in politics in 2001 from Princeton University and her bachelor's from Smith College in 1991. She was a foreign student in China in 1989 at Nanjing University and taught at the Foreign Affairs College in Beijing in 1996-97. She was a Fulbright Research Scholar in 2003-04 at East China University of Politics and Law in Shanghai, China.

From 2005-07, Gallagher was part of the public intellectual program for the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, a program that brought together academics and policymakers working on U.S.-China relations. She has consulted for the Department of Labor and the Congressional Executive Commission on China.

Her book "Contagious Capitalism: Globalization and the Politics of Labor in China" was published by Princeton University Press in 2005. She has published articles in World Politics, Law and Society Review, Studies in Comparative International Development and Asian Survey. She teaches classes on Chinese politics, comparative politics and labor rights in the global economy.

The Sichel Series is organized by the WMU Department of Economics and named in honor of longtime WMU economics professor Dr. Werner Sichel, who retired in 2004. Now in its 47th year, the speaker series brings highly regarded economists to the area to discuss timely and important economic issues. The theme of this year's series is "Dragon vs. Eagle: The Chinese Economy and U.S.-China Economic Relations."

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Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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