Get at the root of the problem

When I was watching this play, the main thing I was thinking was that the factories in China still have many problems, regardless of what was presented as true or untrue.  I thought the play was well done because it tried to show both sides of the story equally.  In other words, it was not trying to say that Apple is horrible, or that Apple is a great company, but rather pointed out that there is this controversy.  Some of the horrible things Mike Daisey were not true.  But, we cannot discount that some of the horrible things Mike Daisey said are true, and even having some those working conditions be true is unacceptable.  So, I began thinking what actions could be done to end these working conditions and who is responsible to doing these actions? 

I believe the Chinese government needs to have the primary role in changing and regulating working conditions.  At first I thought that if the consumers would care more about the working conditions creating their purchased products, maybe this would stop the problem.  It could cause a chain reaction: the consumers wouldn’t purchase, the companies would to have to regulate and enforce better working condition, and the factories would have to change their working conditions in order to stay in business.  However, I realize this change reaction seems unrealistic because of how many steps it is.  Much of the play focused on our reliance on technology.  We are mesmerized by it.  In order to the first step in the chain reaction to occur, we would have to stop being mesmerized by technology and instead be committed to ending poor working conditions.  As soon as the iPhone 6 is in front of most people they are going to want to touch it, play with it, and own it, and it would be hard to convince a large enough portion of society to cause an impact to resist this urge.  Additionally, the play made it clear that there is still a lot of unknown facts and controversy about the true working conditions in these Chinese factories.  If Apple auditors cannot solidify concrete facts about the working conditions in China, how can we expect consumers to know enough about Apple’s working conditions, or of other brands they purchase, to decide to stop purchasing?  These two points made be think the while consumer awareness and action could help, they should not be held responsible for the change.

What about Apple?  Are they responsible? Based on the video of Steve Jobs that was in the play, I do not think Apple can be held ultimately responsible either.  It did truly seem like they have been auditing Foxconn, trying to get to the core of the problem, and addressing the working conditions.  He mentioned that Apple does a report once a year, which I do think could be increased.  However, companies would waste resources if they are constantly required to audit factories overseas. Also, Foxconn is one of the better factories in China.  If Apple took its business to a different factory, working conditions might not improve.  Therefore, I think the change that would have the biggest difference would be if the Chinese government imposed stricter requirements on working conditions.  The Chinese government is at the root of the problem.  If factories were required to follow certain conditions, the factories would be shutdown if they did not follow them; they would be forced to change.  It would be easier to address the problem at the root, instead of attacking it at different points, the consumers and companies, and hoping for a chain reaction.  Obviously this is much easier said then done, and China might not enforce the working conditions even if they were imposed, but I think this is were the main efforts should be placed. 


6 responses to “Get at the root of the problem

  1. Reading your blog post I began to ask myself about the Chinese government and what it actually could/would do in regards to the working conditions. There have been working condition problems going on for years in China and nothing seems to be changing. It seems pretty clear to me that China is going to continue ignoring the fact this stuff is going on, which is an unfortunate truth. The only way to see something change is through the consumers and you acknowledged how hard this would be. Children are becoming exposed to Apple products earlier in their lives and it seems unrealistic for people to just stop buying them. Lastly, I agree with you that there should be a report done more than once a year. It is great that Apple does a report but I definitely agree that they can do one each quarter to make sure everything is going as planned. It seems like eliminating the problem going on in China is impossible, but instead we just have to monitor it and not let it get too far out of hand.


  2. That is a good question, and I have no idea. I would say that if no companies used their factories then they would change to bring business back to the country, but they this would be having to go through a chain reaction again, which I said would be hard to accomplish. The chain reaction of customers to companies to factories sounds good because it provides everyone a motivation to change, but I do not think it is realistic. I think the motivation would just have to be China wanting its people to be treated better, but that doesn’t seem to have much impact so far.


  3. I think you hit the nail on the head, Courtney, with that last statement about the Chinese government not wanting its people to be treated better. This is why I think it’s going to fall on Apple and other companies who outsource to China to set the standards. At this point it is pretty unrealistic to count on China enforcing regulations that would better their people. The Chinese government is not going to bother because they don’t care.


  4. Chain reaction is a good metaphor for how change would occur. However, one difference is that where as a chain reaction is linear, this one may have directions of feedback in both directions. In other words, instead of it having to start with consumers, Apple, or the Chinese government, or other actors taking steps can influence other links in the chain reaction.


  5. How long should Apple or its stakeholders wait fro change in China? What if they can spur change by acting now? Should they wait because acting will only further insulate the Chinese government from changing?


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