The iPhone 5 is set to be released in the United States, Hong Kong, and a few other places later this week, and the sparkly new phone is putting renewed focus on conditions inside the Chinese factories where the devices are made.
Leslie T. Chang wrote an excellent book on life inside PRD factories called Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China in 2008, and says workers inside these factories aren’t just toiling to meet the needs of decadent western consumers:
“We, the beneficiaries of globalization seem to exploit these victims with every purchase we make and the injustice feels embedded in the products themselves,” Chang says. “This simple narrative equating Western demand and Chinese suffering is appealing … but it’s also inaccurate and disrespectful. We must be peculiarly self-obsessed to imagine that we have the power to drive tens of millions of people on the other side of the world to migrate and suffer in such terrible ways … By focusing so much on ourselves and our gadgets, we have rendered the individuals on the other ends into invisibility, as tiny and interchangeable as the parts of a mobile phone.”
She argues these employees are also working for a better life for themselves, their families, and their offspring. You can watch one of her talks on the issue below, in the latest edition of Nanfang TV.