Between the wave of 18 young worker suicides at Foxconn facilities in 2010 and the outbreak of coronavirus at the end of 2019, we (Jenny Chan, Mark Selden and Pun Ngai) engaged with Foxconn workers through first-hand interviews as well as their shared poems, songs, open letters, photos and videos, supplemented with meetings with managers and government officials in multiple research trips. Dying for an iPhone (Chan, Selden and Pun 2020) is a study of a new generation of Chinese migrant workers’ hopes, dreams and struggles to survive. The book developed the analytical framework of a “global factory regime” to explain the buyer-supplier power dynamic in transnational manufacturing. Big buyers (such as Apple) and big suppliers (such as Foxconn Technology Group) are highly interdependent in outsourced electronics production, wherein the fluctuation of orders, coupled with tight delivery requirements, shifts production pressure from global tech firms to contract manufacturers. From this critical perspective, the management systems regulating factory floors in China are not only shaped by the authoritarian practices of the domestic nation state but also by the boom-and-bust purchasing practices of multinational corporations in global supply chains. The dialectics of domination and resistance are interwoven in the life and death struggles of Chinese workers who produce our iPhones.
About the Speaker
Jenny Chan is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Department of Applied Social Sciences of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and an elected vice president of the International Sociological Association’s Research Committee on Labour Movements. She is the co-author, with Mark Selden and Pun Ngai, of Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn, and the Lives of China’s Workers (Pluto Press & Haymarket Books, 2020; translated into Korean by Narumbooks, 2021). Her research, funded by the Junior Research Fellowship of the University of Oxford’s Kellogg College (2015 to 2018) and the Early Career Scheme of the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (2018 to 2021), focuses on the informalization of work and employment in a globalizing China. www.dyingforaniphone.com
About the Chair
Anand P. Krishnan is a Visiting Associate Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS). He holds a PhD in Chinese Politics from the Centre for East Asian Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, for his doctoral thesis titled, 'Market Dynamics and State Responses in China: Social Welfare and Industrial Workers, 1987-2008'. His main area of research is labour relations in China, and also focussing on studies through a comparative framework with India (and, in the global south). He was a Non-Resident Fellow under the China-India Scholar Leaders Initiative, of the India China Institute, The New School, New York City, from 2018-21. In 2016-17, he was also a Visiting Fellow, at the Harvard-Yenching Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. He has also completed a two-year India-China comparative research project funded by the Indian Council for Social Science Research, on Labour Relations and Welfare in Small and Medium Enterprises in Mumbai and Wenzhou (2014-16). Previously, he was a Research Associate and Programme Officer, ICS. His interests also lie in China's Political Economy, informal labour, social policies, and labour's interface with urban questions in the global south.
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