The Big Time
The recent wave of suicides at the Foxconn manufacturing plant in China have served as an eye opener for many to what life is like living in a factory culture. Proposed wage increases across Chinese factories, have created a dialogue here in the United States, voicing concerns about manufacturing practices, what wage increases will mean in terms of product costs, the impact it will have on our economy and bottom-line American companies profit margins. While the changes that are happening in China will impact our wallets, there is a positive shift occurring within the Asian factory working class.
We are no longer simply citizens of a small town economy, producing its own goods and services and being paid what that economy will bare. The people who manufacture our goods are for the most part a vast and faceless population. In the days when small town business drove the local economy, you personally knew “Tom the Shoe Maker” and drank coffee with “Joe the Tailor.” Today, it is all too easy to cast aside the lives of the people building our cell phones, sewing our shirts and driving our profits because we will never see their faces and never know what their lives are like.
There is a large population in the United States that has feared and been angered by the perceived edge China has in manufacturing, which could play a role in our look-the-other-way mentality when it comes to social responsibility in far east manufacturing practices. This perception is challenged in a recent article by Helen H. Wang, titled: “Myth of China’s Manufacturing Prowess.” Wang astutely points out that, “There is a key misconception about China’s manufacturing prowess. In the United States and Europe, the manufacturing industry was created due to technology innovation. In China, the manufacturing industry is being created in response to global demand. Chinese manufacturers take orders from Western companies. ... They have no involvement with product development, innovation, market research and even packaging. Chinese manufacturers have no experience in bringing their own products to overseas markets.”
In essence, what China has offered up to the world economy are hundreds of thousands of nimble and quick hands to build whatever western culture can dream up, and they do this for pennies on the dollar. As global citizens, it is high time we ask the questions: where does our responsibility end and what is our responsibility to those who have helped make our American dream come true?