FaceTime to China

Screen shot 2013-10-07 at 2.48.18 PMThere must be some oxymoron when you find yourself sitting waiting on your Apple Iphone to FaceTime your Chinese teacher, in China, all the while getting questions prepared to discuss the controversial issues in which this exact device you are currently holding is made in.  Is that wrong?   Is it wrong that I didn’t even think twice about the fact that I’d be using Apple’s products to hold the interview?

I started off the conversation with informing my teacher, Zhao Laoshy, of the recent podcast we listened to, and the classes discussion.  You could see in her eyes she was immediately intrigued and ready to share her perspective and view.  She prefaced her opinion by stating she has never known anyone to work in a factory, relatives and friends, so when she heard this horrifying news in China she was ‘terrified’ and ‘surprised’.  She couldn’t believe that all these products were being produced ‘at the cost of people’s lives’.   She went on to discuss all the same facts, which we had heard, the poor conditions, the suicides, the wages, and the like.  To be honest, I was shocked to hear that her news was similar if not identical to what we had heard about the situation, so I asked her if she felt that the government censored what they heard.  At first, it sort of caught her off guard because it is very frowned upon to discuss the government but she said she felt that it was more of the next step that was hidden.  She felt informed about the situation but then once the original shock faded away, she never heard what the government was implementing as a solution to help.

After discussing the basics we asked what she her opinion of the conditions these people were placed in.  Her response surprised me a little bit, although she expressed her disgust and sadness, she went on to say that these people know what they are getting themselves into, and she feels that there are better conditions in other jobs that they can get.  So to a slight extent she felt that it could be an avoidable situation but understood that people do need jobs, and there are times you have to make decisions based on what’s best for your family.  I can’t say I agree or disagree with this statement but it is an interesting statement.

So is bad to be using their products? Is there a line to be made between the choices the employee makes when deciding to work under these conditions, is there a responsibility the employee should have when voluntarily going into these work places?  This doesn’t meaning I am asking is it okay for them to be treated this way, but does it change things when you know the employees are aware of the conditions before entering and still decide to work there?


2 comments on “FaceTime to China

  1. I know, for me, the whole experience makes me want electronics that are more sustainable, both from an environmental perspective, but also from the perspective of a sustainable economy which would be one that rewards work fairly, raises everyone out of poverty, and enables workers, firms, economies and societies to grow and adapt.

  2. I think government censorship plays a major role in what is ‘released’ to the general public about working conditions in China. It seems to be something they try to sweep under the rug and turn a blind eye too. Workers can only be treated poorly if the government allows it to happen. I believe with government intervention, we would see major improvement in employee treatment.However, this lack of restrictions is probably one of the main reason why these corporations find countries like China so attractive.

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