Americans doing Business in China – Part 1/16

February 21, 2012

Before I started putting this series of posts together, I read an ABC News piece by Bill Weir on “A Trip to the iFactory: ‘Nightline’ Gets an Unprecedented Glimpse Inside Apple’s Chinese Core” — (Note: clever play on words.)

Weir’s piece is a long one but there are some telling points I’m going to share before I launch into a series of guest posts from an American that did business in China successfully for a number of years. Each one of these guest posts stands alone but provides a glimpse into another person’s experience doing business in China.

However, in 2010, Apple was crucified in the Western media due to a number of suicide at Foxconn, which is the Taiwan owned company that assembles/manufactures about 90 percent of Apple’s products. If you were not aware of it before, many Taiwanese do business in China and Foxconn is an example.

In his piece, Weir said, “They (the suicides) went up during a three-month span in the spring of 2010, when nine Foxconn workers jumped to their deaths. A total of 18 Foxconn employees took their own lives, or tried to, in recent years and given the company’s massive size, it is a suicide rate well below China’s national average. But when people started jumping in a cluster, Woo tells me that Tim Cook rallied a team of psychiatric experts for advice. They suggested nets, on the chance it might save impulsive jumpers.

“But Foxconn wasn’t Apple’s only problem. The company says they stopped a supplier named Wintek from using a toxic chemical to clean iPhone screens after 137 workers were injured…

“Apple says they have been ordering audits of its suppliers since 2006, and since 2007 have been publishing the sometimes disturbing results…

“It is a Monday after a Chinese holiday, and since many overworked migrants will just stay home, the people who lined up before dawn know that the chances of getting an assembly line job are better than average. And in a country of 1.3 billion, where jobs are scarce, getting there first matters; especially for their families back in the village, where most of their paycheck will end up…

“Starting salary is around $285 a month or $1.78 an hour. And even with the maximum 80 hours of overtime a month, the Chinese government considers them too poor to withdraw any payroll taxes…

“We mostly found people who face their days through soul-crushing boredom and deep fatigue. Some complained of being overworked, others complained of being under worked and almost all said they were underpaid…

“We do have labor unions at Foxconn … but it’s not a freely elected labor union yet. I expect to see that in the next year or two, they will become more like a collective bargaining union, and they will be freely elected. In fact, I see that some legislations in more progressive provinces (of China) would require labor unions to be sitting on the board of companies…”

The exclusive full report from ABC’s “Nightline” will air Tuesday, February 21 at 11:35 p.m. US ET/PT. This link to Hulu is where much of the full episodes of “Nightline” are posted for online streaming the day after the original broadcast.

Continued February 22, 2012 in Americans doing Business in China – Part 2 (a guest post)


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Working Conditions in China

June 17, 2010

The Editors in Room for Debate express varied opinions about “What Do China’s Workers Want?”

Worker strikes at Honda plants and suicides at a PRC Foxconn facility, a Taiwan owned company, have made splashes in the global media lately. I read what the five editors had to say and sided with Leslie T. Chang, author of Factory Girls. Her experience speaks for itself and lends weight to her opinion. Chang spent three years following the successes, hardships and heartbreaks of two teenage girls, Min and Chunming, migrants working the assembly lines in Dongguan, one of the new factory cities that have sprung up all over China.

Chang says, “It is important not to interpret the recent spate of worker suicides as protests against factory conditions. In my experience, the greatest pressure on workers comes from interpersonal and emotional concerns rather than conditions inside the factory, which workers tend to take for granted.” 

I recommend clicking on the link for “Room for Debate” and reading what Chang and the others editors say. I agree with Chang’s assessment because of the importance of family in a culture heavily influenced by Confucianism.

See Middle Kingdom Wages Rising


Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning My Splendid Concubine and writes The Soulful Veteran and Crazy Normal.

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Where Does the Money Go?

May 6, 2010

“China doesn’t keep all the money paid for products made in China. Everyone in the supply chain shares.” I heard Zachary Karabell say this at the 2010 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

Today, I read a post in Bind Apple that emphasized the fact that Apple products are made in China but didn’t mention that Apple also manufactures in the United States, Malaysia and Indonesia and other countries. The post also emphasized the sixty-hour workweek and low pay as if it were a bad thing.

In fact, Apple says, “Their products and components are manufactured by a wide variety of suppliers around the world.  The final assembly of most products occurs in China.”

Most Chinese do not mind working sixty-hour weeks and the money earned may be low by American standards but is higher than most rural Chinese earn. 

These factory workers also send money home and manage to save, since China’s average saving rate is 40%. China’s culture is based on Confucianism, which focuses on collective rights instead of the individual.  Those workers are not working for themselves. They are working for their family and that includes parents and grandparents, who are contributing too.

Learn more about who Confucius was, or see what was going on at Apple’s Foxconn facility in Guanlan, China.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart. He also Blogs at The Soulful Veteran and Crazy Normal.

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First China Quiz (there is one prize)

March 3, 2010

China Quiz—the answers are in the first hundred posts at iLook China. The first person to answer all the questions correctly will win a free copy of either “My Splendid Concubine” or “Our Hart”.  If the winner lives outside the United States, I will provide a free e-book copy for them to download. There is no deadline. This quiz and the prize will be kept open until the first person answers all the questions correctly. The answers may be found in the first one-hundred posts.  If you find an answer from another source, provide the source but it must match or be similar to the answer found in iLook China. Write your answers in a comment to this post. Make sure there is a way for me to contact you.

1. Why did I write American Hypocrisy, my first post at iLook China?
2. What Chinese city would you find next to the Westlake?
3. What is the name of Zhang Zimou’s night spectacular on the Li River?
4. What is the first of all virtues to most Chinese and what does it mean?
5. Why was the Reuter’s employee roughed up outside Foxconn’s walled city-like facility in Guanlan?
6. During what Dynasty did the Chinese invent paper money and add credit type loans to the banking system?
7. Bob Grant said, “In all honesty, over the years, I have ___ ___ __ ___________ __ ________ flight anywhere inside China.” (fill in the blanks for the six words that are missing)
8. After Mao died in 1976, what did Deng Xiaoping introduce to China for a brief period-of-time, and what was the public allowed to do?
9. What American president’s administration seems to have been the role model for the changes in China’s health care system and what kind of health care system was this?
10. Before the Communists won China in 1949, what was the life expectancy for the Chinese people?
11. What was the name of the health care program that Mao started and how did this system work?
12. (Fill in the blank) Chinese Internet users are _____ times as likely to have blogs as Americans.
13. How far did Tom Carter walk while taking pictures for China: Portrait of a People?
14.  Where will a Disneyland be built in China?
15. On February 28, 60 Minutes ran a segment about a Taiwanese man spying on the United States for mainland China. What was this man trying to discover and why would China care?
16. Who moved China’s first Capital and what was the name of that first capital?
17. Construction of the Longi Rice Terraces was started during what Dynasty?
18. What do the Chinese think about the crew of the Tough Titi, an American B-24 Liberator bomber?
19. What did Confucius say about the importance of gaining an education?
20. What happened in 1421?