Not All Factories in China are Sweat Shops

Originally Published at Speak Without Interruption on February 15, 2010 by Bob Grant — publisher/editor for Speak Without Interruption. Posted on iLook China, 3/5/10 at 08:00

As I write about my personal experiences in China, I again want to note that they are strictly that—my “personal” experiences.  I am certain there are people, who have visited China who could contradict everything that I have, or will write.  The products I imported perhaps did not lend themselves to the typical “Sweat Shop” stereotype in terms of the factories that produced them.

However, I never saw or visited any factory that, in my mind, would fit that definition.

If the factories were not what I would call “modern”—they were certainly clean.  The employees (factory workers) wore uniforms at most places I visited.  They seemed proficient in their work and the products produced, and for the most part, were without quality problems—certainly no different from products produced in other countries.

There are more photos at Speak Without Interruption

Most of the factories tended to be in Industrial Parks that were quite large.  Usually, the factories were a “small city” into themselves.  There was housing provided for the employees on the factory grounds along with areas for recreation.  I don’t suppose there was another way of doing it, but I saw a lot of laundry hanging from outside the housing units plus commercial apartments buildings I saw throughout China.

Most factories had certifications that were either the same or similar to those held by US factories.  I saw elaborate R&D sections in most of the factories I visited.  The office space was usually as modern and pleasant as any I had visited in the US.

A ritual that I truly enjoyed was at every meeting when hot tea was served. Sometimes the owner or general manager had tea to make in their office and other times it was brought in.  However, I can’t recall a meeting where tea was not offered.

Being a non-smoker, another ritual I did not enjoy was in almost every meeting I attending most of the parties present smoked.  I heard a figure once that 85% of Chinese men smoked. I can attest that this is probably a good estimate.  Once inside the office or meeting room, the smoke became quite thick and uncomfortable for me; however, I was their guest and felt I could put up with the discomfort in the course of conducting my business affairs.

I have fond memories of my factory visits and discussions. I think the fact that I came to China, and met with the factory personnel aided my business immensely versus doing business in name only.

If you enjoy this piece by Bob Grant, you may want to read “A Contradiction of Times” at


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