Book Talk: Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn, and the Lives of China’s Workers
Jenny Chan, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Mark Selden, Senior Research Associate in the East Asia Program, Cornell University, and at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute
Moderated by: Qin Gao, Professor of Social Policy and Social Work; Director, China Center for Social Policy
This book talk focuses on the life and death struggles of a new generation of Chinese workers who produce our iPhones, Kindles, and Xboxes. Between the rash of employee suicides in 2010 and the outbreak of coronavirus at the end of 2019, my colleagues and I engaged with Foxconn workers through interviews as well as their shared poems, songs, open letters, photos, and videos, supplemented with meetings with managers and government officials. Taiwanese-owned Foxconn is the world’s largest electronics manufacturer and China’s largest exporter. During the period of rapid business growth in the wake of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, Foxconn workers and interning students were transferred between factories to reach ever-higher productivity and profit goals. This reflects an emergent pattern of massive, corporate-led forced migration. From a broader perspective, the fluctuation of orders, coupled with tight delivery requirements, shifts production pressure from global buyers like Apple to Foxconn and smaller suppliers in transnational manufacturing. In key nodes of globalized electronics production, large-scale labor strikes can send important messages to the Chinese state, to Foxconn, and to global brands. Should workers at Foxconn and elsewhere succeed in organizing and mobilizing effectively, they would inspire many more to strive to make a better future together.
Cosponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, the Columbia China Center for Social Policy, and the Columbia School of Social Work
Online via Zoom. Registration information will be provided soon.