China labor activists say facing unprecedented intimidation
As China's economic growth slows, fuelling industrial unrest, independent labor advocates say they have never faced so much intimidation - and they expect it to get worse this year.


KFC calls on diners to inspect its kitchens
KFC has a message for Chinese diners worried about eating their fried chicken after a safety scare at the fast food chain: come see how we operate for yourself.


Chinese town trades lead poison test results for milk
After a test showed farmer Zhao Heping's toddler grandson had high levels of lead in his blood two years ago, local officials in China's Hunan province offered the child medicine, he says – and milk. In return, Zhao says, officials asked that he hand over his grandson's blood test results.


Foreign interns pay the price for Japan's labor shortage
Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 was a regular work day at Kameda, a family-owned apparel factory housed in rusting corrugated metal buildings in the western Japanese city of Hakusan. For three Chinese women, it was a day of escape.


How Big Formula bought China
In the two days after Lucy Yang gave birth at Peking University Third Hospital in August 2012, doctors and nurses told the 33-year-old technology executive that while breast milk was the best food for her son, she hadn't produced enough. They advised her instead to start him on infant formula made by Nestle.


In China, managers are the new labor activists
Behind China's biggest strike in decades last month was a new player in Chinese labor activism: management.


Chinese Look Overseas for Surrogates
Wealthy Chinese are hiring U.S. women to serve as surrogates for their children, creating a small but growing business in $120,000 “designer” American babies for China’s elite.


Japan's Silver Democracy
The Costs of Letting the Elderly Rule Politics


INSIGHT-Corporate sleuths on edge after China detains foreign consultants
The detention by Chinese authorities of a British corporate investigator and his American wife in the wake of a corruption probe into pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has had a chilling effect on other risk consultants working in China.


Reform agenda puts China's economic superagency under scrutiny
Behind China's two investigations into irregular pricing of infant formula and pharmaceuticals announced this month is one powerful institution and its struggle for relevance as Beijing attempts a transition to a more consumption-led economy.


Bad Education
Is Japan’s vaunted school system failing to prepare Japanese students for the global economy?


The Child Who Made My Belly Hurt
When it comes to women, Japan is an outlier compared with other highly industrialized countries: It lags regarding women’s roles in politics and business, in the salary gap between the genders — and in obstetrics and gynecology.


Without Babies, Can Japan Survive?
THE first grade class at the elementary school in Nanmoku, about 85 miles from Tokyo, has just a single student this year. The local school system that five decades ago taught 1,250 elementary school children is now educating just 37. Many of the town’s elegant wooden homes are abandoned. Where generations of cedar loggers, sweet potato farmers and factory workers once made their lives, monkeys now reside. The only sounds at night are the cries of deer and the wail of an occasional ambulance.

Alexandra Harney: Rural Japan
If there is anywhere in Japan that appears to be in decline today, it is the countryside. Rural areas have been depopulating since the 1950s, when young men, sometimes with their families in tow, migrated to the cities to find work in the urban factories that propelled Japan’s postwar industrialization.


The New Japanese Worker is Chinese
These days Japan’s newsstands are filled with shrill, hyperbolic and sometimes nationalistic titles about China. “The China Risk.” “The End of China.” “China: Withdraw or Stay the Course.” Such headlines reflect the anxiety of a declining nation that fears its rising neighbor.

China's factories are missing girls, too
How can it be that a company clever enough to satisfy Apple Inc.’s famously stringent requirements can’t figure out how to keep its workers from killing themselves and hurting one another?

How a Hong Kong Alley Rat Changed a Young Couple's Life
When we found him, he was blind and soaking, slumped in an alleyway, clearly close to death. He struggled to stand, then listed to one side and collapsed again. We watched him for a moment, horrified. And then, because we couldn't just leave him there to die, we picked him up and brought him inside.


The Plight of China’s Favored Sons
For China’s government, social stability is threatened by a gender imbalance likely to leave up to 40 million Chinese without a wife.


Now Do You See the Smog?
This week, as smog forced the closure of roads and the cancellation of flights in northern China, my Beijing landlord called. "The pollution is awful," he said. "Don’t open your windows, and definitely don’t go outside."


China's Copycat Culture
If you’re worried about China overtaking the United States as one of the world’s leading innovators, consider this: While Americans mourned the passing of Steve Jobs last month, the Chinese had just finished closing near-perfect copies of Apple retail outlets in the southwestern city of Kunming. While one country celebrated a man who represented three decades of new ideas, another was still playing whack-a-mole with companies that do nothing more than copy.


Japan's Earthquake and the Hazards of an Aging Population
Much as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina highlighted ugly realities in American society, the recent earthquake has uncovered a troubling side of Japan's national life: the vulnerability of its poor, neglected, and increasingly elderly rural countryside.


The Best-Laid Plans...
A Japanese city's Twitter feed shows how difficult it is to prepare for natural disaster
On March 11, the cheerfully reassuring voice of the Kesennuma City Crisis Management Department greeted its Twitter followers, as it did every morning, with a tweet about the weather.


Extremely Fast Food
At 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon in Nagasaki every seat in the Sukiya beef-bowl outlet is occupied. As Japanese pop music plays in the background, employees in maroon polo shirts and khakis move swiftly through the restaurant, delivering and clearing trays of food.


This Old World (NYT Book Review of Shock of Gray)
Three of the four people who care for my 94-year-old grandfather in his home near Washington were born outside America. None migrated to the United States to do this kind of work. But all remain, and earn a decent living, thanks to senior citizens like my bionic Pop-Pop, a retired doctor powered by a pacemaker and a defibrillator.


Why I Write
I have been writing since I was a little girl. Both of my parents are writers, and they encouraged me and my brothers to think in stories. While we waited for the bus to school, my mother used to dream up stories about people in passing cars – who they were, where they were going, why they had closed the door with their coat hanging out.


Susumu Shimoda Cycles by Value
Susumu Shimoda, president of Japan's leading specialty bike retailer Asahi, was standing in the aisles the morning his first overseas store opened in August. Out of the crowd of shoppers in Beijing, one man emerged, five relatives in tow. "You look like the boss around here," Shimoda remembers the man telling him in Chinese as a local executive interpreted. "I'm buying two bikes. I'd like a discount."


Workers' Paradise Missing Personal Growth
Even with Chinese factory wages up more than 20 percent this year, the country’s labor shortage is already forcing some plants to turn away business.

The Rise of the Parasite Singles
A nationwide search for missing elderly people in Japan is turning up more macabre and mysterious stories every day. The hunt began earlier this month after Tokyo officials found the mummified body of an 111-year-old man in his bed, 30 years after his death. On Aug. 10, the city of Kobe admitted that the last registered address of the woman who at 125 years old would be Japan's oldest citizen has been a public park since 1981.

Nitori Furnishes Japan
One trip to America was all it took to change Akio Nitori's life and the future of furniture retailing in Japan. It was 1972, and Nitori, then 27, was the owner of two furniture stores on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. On a study tour organized by an industry association, Nitori spent a week in California, shopping and observing the way Americans lived.

Friending the Elderly in Japan
In 1997 Shinji Yamasaki was advising European private banks seeking a foothold in Japan when two facts struck him: Older Japanese were wealthy, and nobody knew how to market to them. Within three years he'd quit his job at Bain & Company to create Senior Communication, a consulting group that runs Japan's largest social networking site for seniors.

The China Export Edge
Anyone pinning their hopes on a rapid revival in American manufacturing as a result of a revaluation of China's currency needs to meet Ben, the owner of a coastal Chinese shoe factory.


New Zealand Struggles to Keep Wine Prices Up
Twenty-five years ago, New Zealand was not even a blip on most wine lovers’ radar. Then came Cloudy Bay, a crisp, fruity wine with an elegant label that turned New Zealand sauvignon blanc into a global brand.


Where's the Chinese Toyota?
The common perception of China relying on industrial policies to make its economy successful is just an illusion," says Fan He, assistant director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "If industrial policy works, it's mainly at the local level."


The Herbivore's Dilemma
Ryoma Igarashi likes going for long drives through the mountains, taking photographs of Buddhist temples and exploring old neighborhoods. He's just taken up gardening, growing radishes in a planter in his apartment. Until recently, Igarashi, a 27-year-old Japanese television presenter, would have been considered effeminate, even gay. Japanese men have long been expected to live like characters on Mad Men, chasing secretaries, drinking with the boys, and splurging on watches, golf, and new cars.


The Chinese Migrant's Mindset
The threat of social instability is one of the biggest worries stalking the Chinese economy in this year of political anniversaries. Chen Xiwen, a senior rural planning official, said last month that approximately 20 million migrant workers have lost their jobs since the financial crisis began last year. That's about the same number of jobs China shed over four years during the reform of state-owned enterprises in the mid-1990s. The fear is that these workers will take to the streets in anger.


Sayonara, Prada
At the 109 shopping mall in trendy Shibuya, saleswomen in ruffled miniskirts shout their welcome in sticky-sweet tones above a din of club music. Japanese girls with clouds of strawberry-blond curls and heavy fake eyelashes cruise the mall’s 10 floors, shopping bags dangling from their wrists.


U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission
Testimony on China's Role in the Origins of and Response to the Global Recession
I believe that too often, the voices of ordinary people both here and in China get lost in the debate about our two countries. So I am particularly glad that you have invited me to share with you what I am seeing on the ground in China.
Read or watch the testimony, delivered in Washington, D.C.


Migrants are China's 'factories without smoke'
In the crowds still stranded by snow at train stations around China stand some of the country's most valuable economic assets: migrant workers.