Had you heard of Shenzhen?

Did you know where Shenzhen is? Did you know what goes on in Shenzhen? Personally I had never heard of this area in China. But a part of me thought a place like this existed, I just did not want to believe it. I did not want to know where my iPhone, iPad, MacBook and other products I use on a daily basis were made. Listening to the podcast “Mr. Daisey and Apple” from the radio show called This American Life really amazed me. Mike Daisey goes on a trip to Shenzhen, China. A city full of factories that manufacture products for companies such as Apple, Dell, Nokia, Panasonic, etc. These factories are packed with people of all ages doing strenuous manual labor for 16 hours a day at minimal pay. Throughout this radio show there were a few points that Daisey made that truly shocked me.

A Photo of Shenzhen

A Photo of Shenzhen

One upsetting realization I had was the young age of the workers in the factory. He spoke with a young girl whose job was to clean iPhone screens at the age of 13. When I was 13, I was worried about what time my parents would be able to pick me up from softball practice not what time I had to be at work in the morning. Daisy said that most of the factory workers didn’t even look college age. They are younger than I am right now making the products that I use on a daily basis. To make matters worse these workers spend all day and night making these products, but they do not even get use them or even to see them in use. A man who Daisey spoke with whose job was to make iPads gasped when he saw Daisey use his, because iPads don’t exist in China. Yes every single one is made in factories in China, but they are all shipped across the sea so that we can all enjoy them.

These workers a worked harder than I can even imagine, some even to their deaths and we don’t even realize it. We say that we “wish things still had that human touch like they did years ago.” But we just don’t know that the workers make every product we use with their bare hands. Manual labor is cheaper than running a machine, so these workers are given nearly the most intricate products to make with their bare hands. Everything is hand made, we just don’t know it.

That is my biggest issue, not knowing. Does Apple really not know? Or do they just see what they want to see. Do we really not know? Or do we just want to believe that the thousands of products that get made in “China” and sold in our local retail stores are made in factories in China with safe working and living conditions. I just don’t buy it. I think Apple knows and I think every person who owns an iPhone or a Macbook assumes they are made in a place like Shenzhen, and yet we do nothing about it. I am just as bad as everyone else. I don’t know how to stop it, but I know that something needs to be done. Whether boycotting Apple products or just telling others about Shenzhen, I know that I need to make a bigger effort to change what is going on in Shenzhen. This is a task that may be bigger than I realize, but I truly respect Mike Daisey for doing what he did. He is a brave man, who is spreading the word about the wrong that is going on in Shenzhen and doing his part to make a change.

Photo from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d7/Shenzhen_CBD_and_River.jpg


2 responses to “Had you heard of Shenzhen?

  1. I, too, felt ignorant that this was the first I had ever heard of Shenzhen. We read “Made in China” on virtually every device we own. But when you stop to think about it, China has nearly 1.4 billion citizens… So that’s a pretty big generalization to make. For as much as we use our iPhones and iPads and Macbooks, we rarely, if ever, consider their roots. These were not just “Made in China.” They were meticulously constructed, piece by piece, chip by chip, by human hands. Can individual consumers effectively raise awareness of the labor issues in Shenzhen? Or should Apple, with its growing fan base, finally speak out about the company’s operations in China?


  2. I have taken two China related courses here at Bucknell, and each class discussed Shenzhen’s role in strengthening China’s economy because it lured much foreign direct investment. Although I did not visit Shenzhen when I studied abroad in Hong Kong (Hong Kong and Shenzhen practically border each other), living so close to that city made me uneasy at times. I was so close to the problem, yet I was still powerless. Apple’s products are gaining popularity in Hong Kong and China, so it will be interesting to see how the Chinese react to news about labor abuse. I suppose the greater question is whether the Chinese government will allow its people to discover such abuse.


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