Leslie T. Chang: The voices of China’s workers

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100 thoughts on “Leslie T. Chang: The voices of China’s workers”

  • Grow up, learn to participate in a discussion without attempting to insult people and actually participate in civilized dialogue, then you might be taken seriously.

  • Jayathri Nethmini says:

    I've looked at some of the posts. I reckon it's a solid video. My brother simply would like to become extraordinary with girls. He studied alot from Master Attraction. (Google it.) The information on the subject of getting women through night clubs from Master Attraction got him his very first sex encounters in around a few years. I'm pissed however coz I heard them all.

  • I looked over all the observations however I believe that is a high-quality movie clip. My older brother simply would like to get staggering with sexy females. He began to understand a shit load from Master Attraction. (Google it.) The recommendations concerned with seducing women in clubs from Master Attraction got him his very first fucks in 4 yrs. I got pissed though coz I heard them all. Grrrr.

  • I understand the pain and suffering of the Chinese people in the hands of big despicable corporations in bedded with their corrupt malicious subhuman politicians. We consumers can not be held accountable for your ills because we did not cause your misery, so why don't you direct your anger, resentment and frustration toward the appropriate culprits who made your lives a living hell. We consumers have no guilt nor do we concern about you, we're not at fault, we owe you nothing so please fuck off.

  • You are such “GENIUS”..You funny fuck.. Can I not consume? Do I get to boycott? Do I have a choice? Not a single consumer product in my life that is not made in China or partially made in China. Go fuck yourself.

  • LittleMissEvel says:

    What about the people jumping off buildings in protest at factory conditions… she even mentioned them at the beginning and didn't go back to it..

  • I've read a lot of Chinese Government propaganda when I studied mainland China it in college. She doesn't mention that many of the things she's saying mirrors this propaganda. She was not transparent how she embedded herself, which in FTZs like Donguen's would require notifying the govt. If so, it's likely she was fed contacts. Even talking about labor organizing in China is illegal.

  • I feel for the workers, especially since I live in China, but some of the comparisons that Leslie Chang is making are bad.

    If I (American) was working in a Lamborghini factory, how long would it take me to buy the product I was making?

    Hell, I can't afford a $500USD iPhone either.

  • LittleMissEvel says:

    While i attempt not to buy goods from China, boycotting on it's own is not effective especially while the majority of the population does not think about these things let alone care. As well as this most countries as economically dependent on China these days (and this reflects politically) it is almost impossible to steer away from everything made in China.
    The only thing which will really have a big enough impact is if governments limit imports.. which seems unlikely.
    However..

  • The speaker dismissed human rights concerns of those in the developed world without refuting their factual basis. Obviously when a caring, aware person sees "made in China" on a label, s/he wonders if buying it will be a vote for oppression. It is not an exaggerated sense of self importance which tells us how we vote with our dollars matters; it matters far more than which corporate shill you vote for in the booth. The particulars of the talk were interesting; the conclusions entirely wrong.

  • Her key point that few workers would want to go back to the way things were doesn't really lead anywhere, although it is clearly to add weight to her put-down of those consumers who (egotistically, in her mind) think it is important not to support oppressive factory conditions with their buying decisions. She comes off as an advocate for the brighter side of globalization, but she fails to prove anything but the truism that young people will make the best of an inexcusably bad situation.

  • What is missing is the "voices of workers"? After the talk, we know nothing about their lives. She totally failed to connect the amusing conversation fragments with the realities of globalization, and never sheds any light on how realistic these womens' ambitions (vaguely stated rather than explored) are, what their lives are really like, etc. It would have been far more informative had she included older women to get a sense how their dreams worked out; not just naive teenagers.

  • The talk could have been titled "unanswered questions", which suggest themselves to anyone who cares about workers, like "how did the worker procure the bags?", "How many hours a day/week do you work?" "Can we explore your pay vs wants/needs?" "Are bathroom breaks regulated, and is it a problem for you?" "Are you locked in?", "How much time do you spend reading books, etc?", "Education; thoughts?" "What do you know/think of the human rights groups and their portrayal of your country?", etc.

  • The fact is, not everyone can do journalism well, because it isn't just asking easy questions and reporting the results of pleasant conversations. When life is hard, we all naturally avoid the most painful aspects of it, preferring light conversation to avoid the pain. But a good journalist doesn't just joke around about the easy things to talk about; you have to ask uncomfortable questions, and follow-up questions; we all need to be drawn out. Instead, this is like a tourists' report.

  • This is the weakest Ted talk I've seen; most are very good; some are sublime. This was at best mildly interesting in parts, but very misleading in it's implications and half drawn conclusions, which leave doubt that the speaker ever read a book about any labor struggle anywhere; the universal devices to control workers seem of no interest to her. In fact, if she is even vaguely familiar with the history of brave women fighting for their rights as workers/people, she doesn't hint at it here.

  • @LittleMissEvel, There are no perfect solutions in life; only trade-offs. Imagine how many subsistence farmers are driven by hopelessness to suicide. They just don't happen to have high roofs to jump off of, so they do it by other, less noticeable means, and die in quiet desperation, outside of the gaze of the media. You don't help these workers by knocking out the lower rungs of the economic ladder, dropping them back down onto the farm, or worse.

  • The only way economic growth can happen everywhere is if we free all our trade. You don't even need a free market. All you need is to free the trade and commerce.

  • Americans think that before they went to factories for 10 to 12 hours a day they were sitting on the beach enjoying a life of leisure. The reality is, if farm life was so much better than the factories we would have never flocked to the cities and factories in massive numbers. Every country that industrializes has to go through the growing pains.

  • Then why did she bother making a big point that she thought that the "voices of workers" was what is missing in all the concerns western consumers have about how globalization exploits Chinese workers (which she belittles without any evidence the concerns aren't fact based)? She brought back random quotes, without shedding any real light on what life is like for the women; fine for a tourist; not so great for a self-described journalist.

  • Find one American who thinks what you claim we think. I've lived here all my life, talked about China to many people, and never heard that silly straw man before. "Growing pains" doesn't excuse anything; if the Fortune 500 companies can't make a profit without locking people in factories and paying them less than a living wage, they don't deserve anyone's business. The fact that life sucks for farm workers too, hardly justifies inhuman conditions in factories.

  • She goes into a lot of detail about the lives of the women in her book "Factory Girls". Still, it's strange to me that in this talk she acts like everything is A-okay in China, just because the girls still have human ambitions. Having read her book, I'd say that the outlook for most of the factory population is still pretty bleak; it's just a lot more complex of a problem when you are on the ground talking to workers

  • Of course it's more complex, but it's a massive turnoff that she belittles those who care enough to vote for human rights with their dollars. I have too many unread, and half read Chomsky books to bother seeking out one by someone whose comments could have shed light on the human rights situation, but instead chose to use them to denigrate allies of the girls she talks about. It smacks of elitism for a traveler to sneer at people concerned with, but who can't go to places she's been.

  • I've lived in China. The theory that globalization is better for everyone is a banker's paradise.

    I used to work for the best investment bank in the world, until I realized its us bankers that force this utopia consumerist mindless garbage on people. The Chinese are so consumerist driven, they sell their kidneys just to get an iphone or ipad. 

    Yes some of these people fare better by finding slave labor factory jobs, but that doesn't mean they have to be treated inhumanely and forced to work 18 hour days. 

    Really, things would progress quickly in China not from Free Trade but internal reform. Recognizing fundamental rights of man, granting private property rights, and creating a system based on the Rule of Law. 

    These are foundations toward fostering an environment of growth and sustainability. 

    The average home price in Beijing is over 70x the annual salary of the average worker in Beijing. 

    In the end its a lose-lose situation. Our insatiable demand for cheap goods forces US workers and middle class to extinction and creates quasi-institutionalized slavery 10,000 miles away. Something will eventually give and when that happens, it won't be pretty.

  • There are a great number of people in industrialized first world countries who are not aware of the terrible conditions in the rural regions of developing countries, nor have any connection to people in suffering from these conditions. I found this talk refreshing because it reminds me of real conversations from people in similar scenarios (as a 1st gen US citizen, they remind me of my family's struggles). Whether or not this is moral in the larger context is a different story (from the point of view of multinational  corps.), but there is indeed a context to consider when thinking about folks in this type of situation. Reducing our view of these workers to our prejudiced belief in the exploiter/victim economic paradigm does them a disservice. I have been to China on business, I have been to the factories, and I hope that they will earn greater labour protections… but I also understand context. That, I believe, is the main point of her excellent presentation. She certainly is not saying that their state of affairs is 'hunky dory'.

  • i'm glad i am too poor (blessed are they) to afford all these gadgets that cause all this grief and guilt (all my electronics are second hand and kinda bust ass, except for my 47" 3D 1080P 120Mhz BIG SCREEN TV!! that took me 2 yrs to save for THEN was so cheap even I could by one..) but trying to assuage the guilt of buying stuff made in chinese factory camps "cuz its better than where they came from" or cuz  "golly, you've changed since you've been gone 2 years and eat a little better" aint gonna do it. time to pay a couple of bucks more and force the companies to force the factories to pay/educate more. maybe even start making some of this stuff again in the west…?
    like she said- she nor you or I would want to do those jobs- not even for decent money in some cases…

  • I'm sorry, but I have to point out that this is a brutal mis-reading of Marx. Leslie Chang wants to suggest that the factory worker is 'alienated' from the products s/he is making because s/he doesn't understand them or can't purchase them. This couldn't be farther from Marx's concept of 'alienation'.

    Marx thought that alienation was a result of work being 'external' to workers, in the sense that it is something they are forced to do against their will. As Marx puts it, the worker, "does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind." An analysis that I think still applies to the routine, repetitive, and monotonous tasks of modern factory work.

    The worker is further alienated because the very product that s/he is making generates the wealth that causes the class disparity they suffer from. The harder s/he works, the greater the force exploiting her or him.

    'Alienation' is a concept from the 'early' Marx, from his "Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844" – which were never published. Marx had left the concept of alienation behind by the time he wrote "Capital" in 1867, and the forms of exploitation that he develops in that later published work are actually VERY good at describing our current situation. I would suggest that Leslie Chang spend some time reading Marx before she starts criticizing his ability to contribute to this conversation. Whether the workers want the products they are making is COMPLETELY irrelevant to the analysis – the worker who makes toilet paper fits into the same system of capital and exploitation as the worker who makes iPhones.

    Chang is probably right that 'guilt' is not the right response to the situation for workers in China, but she is deeply wrong about Marx.

  • i am feeling so much better now typing this comment on my 700 bucks iphone that takes 100 to produce with the difference going in the pockets of people ho play golf most of their time … what a fucked up world we live in , the only thing that makes me smile at the end of the day is that i know now that the children of this generation will gain enough education to never go back to these slave type jobs ever again and that is all i hope for them

  • ImaginaraGames says:

    Doesn't change the fact that a lot of western owned factories have poor working conditions and health hazard. These must be changed. 

  • Archiebald Arsledon says:

    This is a brilliant talk. An insight into the way people work and what they think. I have been to quite a few factories in China and she describes it all so well. These workers are often such nice generous people too. Thank you.

  •  Magnífico livro. Mostrou-me o outro lado da china que não conhecia. E o cotidiano; a luta; das pessoas que constam na historia, me instigou a batalhar mais pelo que tanto prezo.

  • Cynthia Jiang says:

    while westerners are talking about rights and democracy, factory worker in China they care about having a better life through hard work in the factory. Not until they are rich and enjoys a lot of leisure time will they think about rights. Human rights are just higher level of pursuit. But the good news is,  things are improving in China and with more money and more education, workers live a hopeful life and they could have higher level pursuit, such as spiritual life and human rights.

  • Western countries usually judge China on facts 10 years ago, which is not a good way to look at a country that is changing so fast. What I know is factories in China are now having a hard time hiring new labors even though they raise the salary to 400 or 500 dollars a month. Though the labor is still cheap comparing to US, the price for Chinese labor grows a lot, and keeps growing. Earning less than 1 dollar a day is already not the case.

  • At least Chinese has honesty job and can choose what they want to do.
    They don't cheat money, don't borrow money, they are progressing.
    Chinese never begging others.
    No need pity, no need crying, no need dressing.
    Just look at yourself, Just feed yourselves, don't bother others.
    Thats all I can say.
    US is just a joke to China.

  • Even Lincoln says:

    I came back watching this video every a few months. This video keeps reminding me we are enjoying everything we have at the cost of other people`s life who work more than 60 hours every week and earn ridiculously little money.

  • Punished Zero says:

    So we shouldn't be concerned about the Chinese labour's quality of life because some of them are satisfied with it? We shouldn't be outraged that these people are taking this poor quality of life in exchange for an increasing unemployment rate in western countries? Sure building the products here would cost more, but then they would be of a higher quality.

  • ummm…i have made a fortune produce products in china and selling to the west, so i can say with utter certainty that the reason why the QC girl couldnt explain what her job is was because there is no fucking QC in china.

  • Well, your sample size is too few, right?
    I wanna ask her if she had read, finished and understood all 3 volumes of Karl Marx's book Capital.

  • Ashen One From China says:

    As a Chinese, I can say Don't help them, don't help the Chinese, don't pity them, you will never know how these poor assembly line worker will turn out in a few years.

  • Gabriela Retana says:

    “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves” -Harriet Tubman

  • Don't necessarily disagree with anything, but the thing is, companies could make life easier for everyone still. I mean what's a couple extra 15 and 30 minute breaks to Walmart's profit, right?

  • because these workers are not being well educated.they don't experience university education.so they can only do low salary job.if you experience university education and you can get high salary job.

  • I wonder if she saw any male factories, I bet those are fucking horrific. I've seen some gnarly gifs of work accidents from them.

  • So, at the beginning, the speaker presents this idea that westerners are "peculiarly self-obsessed" to think that an individual can drive the need for these factories. It's not any one person who's doing it, it's the millions of people in aggregate, and the corperations that encorage it.

  • "Our desire for cheap goods…" It's not the consumers fault its the greedy oligarchs that control Apple that are the beneficiaries of these lower wages and higher prices. The workers get screwed over with very low wages and we the consumer get screwed over because many of these products are over priced.

    Iphones are not worth $1500 USD.

    We also lose jobs to these workers which means we can't get better wages because these jobs are offshored to people forced to work for less money.

    These fkn oligarchs are either paying no tax or almost nothing in taxes.

    Apple the most valuable company is worth a trillion dollars.

    That's not in my bank account nor do they pay a fair amount of tax.

    They stuff all the money in some off shore account which pays no tax.

    This whole system was built for oligarchs to exploit people.

    Social engineering on a global scale.

    Ever wonder what USA is doing?

    It's a grand plan to take over countries and exploit their people and their resources.

    Globalisation and offshoring is another name for slavery and exploiting the poor.

    It's also about taking over a country and its people.

    What did we fight for in wars?

    Again its always about oligarchs getting wealthy using social engineering.

    Find some cheap land build businesses then build high density housing around them.

    It's the greatest ripoff of the poor I've ever witnessed.

    Stop consuming thats the solution.

    Stop buying crap.

  • I'm so glad I can finally hear from the daughter of a family that can afford 3 generations of tuition at Harvard talk about class and social mobility. Also love the cutting edge commentary on Marx done by someone who clearly hasn't even thumbed through the 80 pages of the Manifesto. This talk is garbage and her book is garbage apologia to make urban bourgeoisie in America get warm fuzzies about the fact that there are suicide nets at the factories where their consumer goods are made. That's like slapping someone in the face and telling them "It's great actually, because it could be worse, I could slap you twice".

  • Paula Ann Stewart says:

    This is the single most ridiculous TedTalk I habe ever heard:o…#YellowVests #OccupyWallStreet #OccupyNYC…so Chinese factory workers are just poor fashionistas. With poor financial literacy skills. DISGUSTING! Anything to assuage your Guilty feelings about how America exploits and destroys Chinese youth.

  • Paula Ann Stewart says:

    Who is paying her? #YellowVests #giletsjeunes OF COURSE THEY WILL LIE??? They are depressed and suicidal!

  • This talk could have been executed a lot better… Just because these 'females' have ambition and do not place much value in high end brands or goods does not mean their quality of life is even close to acceptable. The living conditions she described, being forced to leave your children in the village for months or even years to afford basic needs is messed up. And the reason they don't know any better is due to the oppressive Chinese government who censor out the rest of the world. The entire globe relying on China and their cheap goods produced from exploiting these poor workers is not only a sad and urgent issue within China but makes us incredibly dependent on China and at their very mercy.
    China is the pinnacle of Asian history and culture YET beautiful historical sites and cultural traditions have slowly been destroyed by Western influence, the industrial revolution and poverty which drives people to only be able to worry about getting through the day.

    Not sure how I feel about no more self sufficiency in the western world, soon enough China will economically take over the world whilst we sit and watch continuing to buy Made In China goods.

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