Not as surprised as most of the This American Life’s audience, I am quite calm after knowing the fact that Mike Daisey fabricated numerous details in his story about visiting Foxconn. The gun, the 13 years old under-aged girl worker, the abruptly dead end highway and the secret worker union, all the details of Mr. Daisey’s China experience that once shocked me and questioned by me are demonstrated as fake. As the host of the TAL show said, Mr. Daisey’s untruthful talk got a lot of attention and more people downloaded it than any episode the show has ever done. Those two episodes of radio shows also explained a question bothered me many years: where all the various biases towards China come from?
People believe what they want. I think Mike successfully hold this key point during his monologue, and used many different touching scenarios, such as talking to 13 years old girl worker in front of the factory gate guarded by armed security and showing a former Foxconn worker, whose hands are destroyed by constant over working at product line, the IPad he has assembled million times but never turned on once. Those scenes has been imagined over and over again in lots of Americans’ mind, even though they might not even familiar with Chinese culture or so. There are people advocate Mike’s monologue, not only because of it revealed “bloody fact” about China, but also because of it told the audience what they want to hear. In their perspectives, China is far less developed, uneducated country and seek nothing but profit. They somehow lost the ability of critical thinking when they heard what they believed.
After the retraction, it really comforted me, as a Chinese, that people all over the world are caring about Chinese factories’ working condition. And there are people like Rob Schmitz who understands China tries to express it in a better way from the inside. With the globalization, China has been playing a more and more important role on earth. But I consider the interaction between China and the rest of the world as still limited. I believe with more and more foreign students going to China and Chinese students studying aboard, this problem could be resolved.
Workers in China are generally considered to be abused by factories. In some aspect, I would say yes. Compare to United States’ standard, factory asking for over 60 hours a week and pay less than 2 dollars an hour sounds like a bloody hell. However, just like what was justified during the retraction, Charles Duhigg from New York Times believed “holding them (Chinese Factories’ working conditions) to American standards is precisely the right way to look at the situation.” However, “art performance”, such as Mike’s monologue, drawn tons of attention from the public, and with its dramatic and untruthful “plot”, “artist” enforced audience’s wrong ideas about the the society, China in this case.
“Should we feel bad of this?” is questioned by Ira Glass during the talk. During the era of globalization, people living in more developed area, as the main beneficiary of the economic system, are enjoying the low price product imported all over the world. Nevertheless, at the other end of this consumer chain, all the benefits we took are squeezed from the work out sourced to cheap labor force. “The lower the price, the larger the demand” is consider as one of fundamental theory in modern economics. But how can we fight with the price? Should we simply choose the more expensive “Made in USA” products other than “Made on Earth” ones? Or should we enforce the firms like Apple to improve their oversea plants’ working condition? I do not think the problem is as simple as this.
50 years ago, Japan was the China nowadays. Millions of work were out sourced to Japan due to its growing economy and eager to develop. Gradually, Japan recognized that cheap labor force and poor working condition should not be consider as advantage of competition. So they spent the next 30 years to change the laws and regulation so that all the working condition and pay can match western’s standard, even surplus it. However, the market also see the change. After a significant price increasing of daily product, the “Japan” was found—- China.
From the history, we have enough clue to say that, even if, after all the effort, Chinese factories’ working conditions are improved and base wages are increased, the capitalists will simply give up this “Japan” only discover another “China” somewhere else in the world. As long as the demand exists, the supply will never end.