The Fuel Powering the World’s Retail Market

Never before has ill treatment in Asian factories been so publicly discussed, debated and decried by the media and on so many different media platforms. Details about what goes on behind the world of Western advertising and production have been increasingly difficult to cover up, and in this recent environment of media convergence, a company can rarely escape being put under the microscope for a quick check-up by citizens and companies alike.

However, this Western precedent is only slowly coming to countries like China, a country whose industry zealously guards their workers like a hawk and is not a stranger to using threats and intimidation to control the efforts of workers in their plants. Or is this just how Western media presents them?

Despite only being allowed a lunch break and 2-3 10 minute breaks throughout a long day that starts before 6 a.m., a Chinese worker in the controversial Foxconn factory commented that “he did not want his life to change too much”, and the majority of the this 2012 article from Business Insider’s Chinese partner Chinahush indicates that workers are not particularly upset about the job. However, this could just be because the interviewee was officially commenting on daily life in a newspaper and was manipulated by the company’s press officer.

How can we really know?

Technological giant Apple has recently been examined for neglecting to take care of its workers in China where many of its iconic products are currently being manufactured. During production of the company’s Iphone a 25 year old worker took his life following his loss of an Iphone 4 prototype, but the cause of his suicide has been debated in international media since the world became aware of the little known manufacturer Foxconn. The employer released a statement following the suicide where the worker “was not able to cope with the stress” of the loss, but other Chinese media reports have indicated that he may have been “interrogated and beaten up”. Other troubling issues involving Foxconn include a workers strike at their Wuhan plant in Taiwan where many of their employees threatened suicide as a result of terrible working conditions, and  that there is a 5% employment of underage workers at their Chinese plant ‘Ipod City‘ in Shenzhen.

Western and Chinese investigation into workers rights in Chinese factories has become an increasingly important issue in our media as we finally begin to become more inquisitive about how most of what we buy comes from one country.  They are the fuel behind the world’s retail market. But their manufacturing monopoly on modern consumerism begs the question; how do Chinese workers manage to churn out such enormous quantities of product to service the always expanding world economy? 

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