Not in My Backyard!
AN AIR ABOUT THE PLACE
In 2004, an American executive of a Fortune 500 company asked me to advise him on negotiations with a potential Chinese joint-venture partner that owned a factory just outside Shanghai. This and another operation in the hills of Anhui Province made the Chinese owner the largest supplier of a particular automotive component in China at the time. He greeted us at the entrance of the factory—a short, rotund man in his mid-50s, hair streaked gray. His name was Wang. He bludgeoned us with unctuous smiles and enthusiastic handshakes, then gave us a tour of the voluminous shop floor. I noticed about two dozen young girls in their late teens at wooden benches near one of the walls. Mechanically, they leaned down to the floor to dip paint brushes into gallon cans of gooey adhesive and then lathered the components they were holding with bare hands. They wore no breathing apparatus to protect them from the fumes. As we walked, I began feeling lightheaded and nauseous. Within minutes, my breathing shortened and my eyes began watering. The weather was hot and the air heavy; I began to feel suffocated, almost panicky. By the time we made our way to the conference room, 20 yards from the exit of the manufacturing hangar, my head was pounding—only after a mere five minutes of exposure to toxins that the young women in the factory worked with ...