Posts Tagged ‘China’

Chinese Factory Worker Can’t Believe The Shit He Makes For Americans

Friday, November 14th, 2008

FENGHUA, CHINA—Chen Hsien, an employee of Fenghua Ningbo Plastic Works Ltd., a plastics factory that manufactures lightweight household items for Western markets, expressed his disbelief Monday over the “sheer amount of shit Americans will buy.”

“Often, when we’re assigned a new order for, say, ‘salad shooters,’ I will say to myself, ‘There’s no way that anyone will ever buy these,'” Chen said during his lunch break in an open-air courtyard. “One month later, we will receive an order for the same product, but three times the quantity. How can anyone have a need for such useless shit?”

Chen, 23, who has worked as an injection-mold operator at the factory since it opened in 1996, said he frequently asks himself these questions during his workweek, which exceeds 60 hours and earns him the equivalent of $21.

“I hear that Americans can buy anything they want, and I believe it, judging from the things I’ve made for them,” Chen said. “And I also hear that, when they no longer want an item, they simply throw it away. So wasteful and contemptible.”

Among the items that Chen has helped create are plastic-bag dispensers, microwave omelet cookers, glow-in-the-dark page magnifiers, Christmas-themed file baskets, animal-shaped contact-lens cases, and adhesive-backed wall hooks.

“Sometimes, an item the factory produces resembles nothing I’ve ever seen,” Chen said. “One time, we made something that looked like a ladle, but it had holes in its cup and a handle that bent down 90 degrees. The foreman told us that it was a soda-can holder for an automobile. If you are lucky enough to own a car, sit back and enjoy the journey. Save the soda beverage for later.”

Chen added: “A cup holder is not a necessary thing to own.”

Chen expressed similar confusion over the tens of thousands of pineapple corers, plastic eyeshades, toothpick dispensers, and dog pull-toys that he has helped manufacture.

“Why the demand for so many kitchen gadgets?” Chen said. “I can understand having a good wok, a rice cooker, a tea kettle, a hot plate, some utensils, good china, a teapot with a strainer, and maybe a thermos. But all these extra things—where do the Americans put them? How many times will you use a taco-shell holder? ‘Oh, I really need this silverware-drawer sorter or I will have fits.’ Shut up, stupid American.”

Chen added that many of the items break after only a few uses.

“None are built to last very long,” Chen said. “That is probably so the Americans can return to buy more. Not even the badly translated assembly instructions deter them. If I bought a kitchen item that came with such poor Mandarin instructions, I would return the item immediately.”

May Gao of the Hong Kong-based labor-advocacy group China Labour Bulletin said complaints like Chen’s are common among workers in China’s bustling industrial cities.

“Last week, I took testimony from several young female workers from Shenzhen who said they were locked in a work room for 18 straight hours making inflatable Frisbees,” Gao said. “Finally, the girls joined hands on the factory floor and began to chant, ‘No more insane flying toys for Western pigs!’ They quickly lost their jobs and were ostracized by their families, but the incident was a testament to China’s growing disillusionment with producing needless crap for fat-ass foreigners.”


Half the Sky: How China’s Gender Imbalance Threatens Its Future

Friday, November 14th, 2008

– Just read an excellent article written by Mara Hvistendahl for The Virginia Quarterly Review.  

– It is all about the gender imbalance that is currently so endemic in China and many of the Asian countries.   In some places, the gender ratio has gotten to 153 males to 100 females and the consequences down the road of such imbalances are serious.   I highly recommend this article.

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When Wu Pingzhang took his wife to Nanjing so she might give him a boy, things were looking up. Development had finally trickled down to Suining, his forgotten corner of China. Landlocked and four hours from the nearest major city, in the hardscrabble Huai Valley, Suining was once the second poorest county in Jiangsu province. Now, farmers were finding work in Shanghai and the wealthy cities around it—constructing skyscrapers, laboring in China’s overnight factories, changing the diapers of nouveau riche babies. They were sending back money en masse, thousands of wire transfers all directed to Suining’s Agricultural Bank, and returning home with bags of cash. Once back, they bought apartments in new buildings and furnished them with appliances they had little experience operating. As an air conditioner repairman with two cell phones he kept on day and night, Wu Pingzhang was among the first to profit.

Liu Mei, his wife, was renowned for her cooking, and as his wallet swelled so did their bellies. By the time her belly grew for a different reason, Wu Pingzhang had enough money to rent a spacious room in town, away from his ancestral village, in a cluster of slapdash cement-block buildings, above a portrait studio called Flying on the Wind. To brighten the room, the studio lent him an airbrushed canvas backdrop—a floor-to-ceiling vista of clean white windows opening onto a glittering blue sky—and he arranged his own appliances, bought from customers secondhand, in front of the backdrop like a set in a play: a Wanbao refrigerator, a Midea microwave, a PANDA color television. The centerpiece was an upright air conditioner that stretched from the cement floor to near the ceiling. Wu even had enough to afford a frivolous indulgence, a collection of Cultural Revolution-era Mao pins he kept sheathed in a red velour case. He felt entitled to an heir.


– Hat tip to CFR.Org for alerting me to this article

Some owners deserting factories in China

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Financially troubled plants are being abandoned by the boss, leaving behind unpaid workers and debts.

Reporting from Shaoxing, China — First, Tao Shoulong burned his company’s financial books. He then sold his private golf club memberships and disposed of his Mercedes S-600 sedan.

And then he was gone.

And just like that, China’s biggest textile dye operation — with four factories, a campus the size of 31 football fields, 4,000 workers and debts of at least $200 million — was history.

“We’re pretty much dead now,” said Mao Youming, one of 300 suppliers stiffed last month by Tao’s company, Jianglong Group. Lighting a cigarette in a coffee shop here, the 38-year-old spoke calmly about the bleak future of his industrial gas business. Tao owed him $850,000, Mao said, about 60% of his annual revenue. “We cannot pay our workers’ salaries. We are about to be bankrupt too.”

Government statistics show that 67,000 factories of various sizes were shuttered in China in the first half of the year, said Cao Jianhai, an industrial economics researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. By year’s end, he said, more than 100,000 plants will have closed.


China loses track of 121 tons of ivory

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

– And we wonder why species are going extinct? Humans are surely a scourge on the Earth in so far as the other species who live here are concerned.

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UNITED NATIONS – China’s government lost track of 121 tons of elephant ivory over a dozen years that probably were sold on illegal markets, according to a previously undisclosed Chinese report to UN regulatory officials.

The “shortfall” in ivory described in the document between 1991 and 2002 – equal to the tusks from about 11,000 dead elephants – could provide fodder for representatives of a UN accord to reject China’s attempt next week to gain permission to import more ivory.

“We have not been able to account for the shortfall through the sale of legal ivory by the selected selling sites in the country,” Chinese officials reported in 2003 to the Swiss-based UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. “This suggests a large amount of illegal sale of the ivory stockpile has taken place.”

AP obtained the Chinese report from the Environmental Investigation Agency, a watchdog group based in Washington and London. EIA also has compiled a briefing for nations that signed on to CITES to try to prevent China from gaining permission to trade ivory at a CITES meeting in Geneva, Switzerland next week.


What does China see?

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

– A Chinese friend of mine, who’s been here in the U.S. for over 15 years, told me the other day that Americans really know very little about China or its motives or history. I found his comments interesting, educational and more than a bit enlightening.

– He’s still deeply angry over Tiananmen Square. But he’s also mad about a lot of the stuff going on now vis-a-vis Tibet and the claims in the American press that all the Chinese that come out and demonstrate for China and the Olympics are just paid stooges of the Chinese government.

I’ve written my share here on Samadhisoft about problems in China and I’ve also written recently on Immigration and Assimilation. Both of these are hot topics and can easily lead to hurt feelings and misunderstandings. But, if I seem to pick on China, it’s only because she’s so big. The U.S. and many other countries come in for their share of criticism here as well.

– And, as for the Immigration and Assimilation discussion, it is not directed at rejecting the folks who want to move to a new country. Rather, it is directed at pointing out that the folks in the receiving countries have a right to decide who they want to share their country with.

– Here’s a poem written by a Chinese which expresses a lot of what things look like from the Chinese side and the points it makes are well worth thinking about:

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When we were the Sick Man of Asia,
we were called The Yellow Peril.
When we are billed to be the next Superpower,
we are called The Threat.
When we closed our doors,
you smuggled drugs to open markets.
When we embrace Free Trade,
you blame us for taking away your jobs.
When we were falling apart,
you marched in your troops and wanted your fair share.
When we tried to put the broken pieces back together again,
Free Tibet you screamed, It Was an Invasion!
When we tried Communism, you hated us for being Communist.
When we embrace Capitalism, you hate us for being Capitalist.
When we have a billion people,
you said we were destroying the planet.
When we tried limiting our numbers,
you said we abused human rights.
When we were poor, you thought we were dogs.
When we loan you cash, you blame us for your national debts.
When we build our industries, you call us polluters.
When we sell you goods, you blame us for global warming.
When we buy oil, you call it exploitation and genocide.
When you go to war for oil, you call it liberation.
When we were lost in chaos and rampage,
you demanded rules of law.
When we uphold law and order against violence,
you call it violating human rights.
When we were silent, you said you wanted us to have free speech. When we are silent no more,
you say we are brainwashed-xenophobics.
Why do you hate us so much, we asked.
No, you answered, we don’t hate you.
We don’t hate you either, but, do you understand us?
Of course we do, you said, We have AFP, CNN and BBC’s…
What do you really want from us?
Think hard first, then answer…
Because you only get so many chances.
Enough is Enough, Enough Hypocrisy for This One World.
We want One World, One Dream, and Peace on Earth.
This Big Blue Earth is Big Enough for all of Us.

– To the source of this poem:

Life and Death in Capitalist China

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

The Salt Lake City Tribune published a six part series recently about what the embrace of unencumbered Capitalism in China has meant for the workers there. This should be a wake up call for all of those who think that if Capitalism is unleashed, all our problems will be solved.

Their core idea that Libertarian Capitalism will solve everything because every time a problem arises, an entrepreneur will also arise to provide a solution – is deeply flawed. The only problems that get addressed are the ones that provide someone with a significant profit on the other end of the sequence. And the pell-mell rush to profit by the strong, using the weak as fodder, produces many problems of its own.

No, the political and governmental systems we devise must take the good of their people as their highest goal and limit Capitalism whenever its activities begin to impinge on that good. Capitalism is the engine of creation and advance but as an engine, it must be throttled and controlled so that it benefits all people and not just the rich and powerful.

Read the following to see just how very wrong things can go.

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Salt Lake Tribune Special Report:
Chinese workers lose their lives producing goods for America

By Loretta Tofani
Special to the Tribune

GUANGZHOU, China — The patients arrive every day in Chinese hospitals with disabling and fatal diseases, acquired while making products for America.

On the sixth floor of the Guangzhou Occupational Disease and Prevention Hospital, Wei Chaihua, 44, sits on his iron-rail bed, tethered to an oxygen tank. He is dying of the lung disease silicosis, a result of making Char-Broil gas stoves sold in Utah and throughout the U.S.

Down the hall, He Yuyun, 36, who for years brushed America’s furniture with paint containing benzene and other solvents, receives treatment for myelodysplastic anemia, a precursor to leukemia.

In another room rests Xiang Zhiqing, 39, her hair falling out and her kidneys beginning to fail from prolonged exposure to cadmium that she placed in batteries sent to the U.S.

“Do people in your country handle cadmium while they make batteries?” Xiang asks. “Do they also die from this?”

‘Big problem for Americans’
With each new report of lead detected on a made-in-China toy, Americans express outrage: These toys could poison children. But Chinese workers making the toys — and countless other products for America — touch and inhale carcinogenic materials every day, all day long: Benzene. Lead. Cadmium. Toluene. Nickel. Mercury.

Many are dying. They have fatal occupational diseases.

Mostly they are young, in their 20s and 30s and 40s. But they are dying, slow difficult deaths, caused by the hazardous substances they use to make products for the world — and for America. Some say these workers are paying the real price for America’s cheap goods from China.

“In terms of responsibility to Chinese society, this is a big problem for Americans,” said Zhou Litai, a lawyer from the city of Chongqing who has represented tens of thousands of dying workers in Chinese courts.

The toxins and hazards exist in virtually every industry, including furniture, shoes, car parts, electronic items, jewelry, clothes, toys and batteries interviews with workers confirm. The interviews were corroborated by legal documents, medical journal articles, medical records, import documents and official Chinese reports.

And although these products are being made for America most Chinese workers lack the health protections that for nearly half a century have protected U.S. workers, such as correct protective masks, booths that limit the spread of sprayed chemicals, proper ventilation systems and enforcement to ensure that their exposure to toxins will be limited to permissible doses measured in micrograms or milligrams.

Chinese workers also routinely lose fingers or arms while making American furniture, appliances and other metal goods. Their machines are too old to function properly or they lack safety guards required in the U.S.

In most cases, U.S. companies do not own these factories . American and multinational companies pay the factories to make products for America. From tiny A to Z Mining Tools in St. George to multinational corporations such as Reebok and IKEA, companies compete in the global marketplace by reducing costs — and that usually means outsourcing manufacturing to China. Last year, the U.S. imported $287.8 billion in goods from China, up from $51.5 billion a decade ago, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Those imports are expected only to increase.

Never even visit the factories
Worker health and safety are considered basic human rights. But in the global economy, responsibility to workers often gets lost amid vast distances and international boundaries.

“This is a big-picture problem,” said Garrett Brown, an industrial hygienist from California who has inspected Chinese factories that export to America. “Big-picture problems don’t have quick or easy solutions.”

The International Labor Organization (ILO) publishes international standards for workplaces. China agreed to many of those standards and also enacted a 2002 law setting its own rigorous standards. Under Chinese law, workers have the legal right to remain safe from fatal diseases and amputations at work.

But the law has not been enforced, Chinese and international experts agree. Economic growth has been a more important goal to China than worker safety.

Even the World Trade Organization, which maintains some barriers to trade to protect consumers’ health, does not concern itself with issues of workers’ health. As a result, enforcement of health and safety standards has been left to the governments of developing countries and the companies that outsource to those countries.

Often, smaller companies never even visit the factories where their products are made. Larger companies try with only limited success to audit operations, often complaining that their efforts are failing. Records are falsified and unsafe machines are used after audits. Safety guards are removed so workers can produce faster.

“Through auditing tours, we can make good improvements and changes, but those changes are not sustainable,” complained Wang Lin, a manager for IKEA based in Shanghai. “Chinese government law enforcement is greatly needed,” added Wang. “Without that, companies cannot sustain a good compliance program.”