Tag Archives: Made in China

Made in China or HAND Made in China?

Standard Leather Bag: $100. HANDMADE Leather Bag: $400. The joy of owning a product that is handmade: Priceless

People who describe their goods as being handmade, usually do so in an apparent manner in order to make sure that you realize it wasn’t some kind of robotic machine that knitted the wool scarf or assembled the leather bag that they are selling. It ensures the buyer that there is a real person, a genuine face behind the product, who put in valuable hours and effort into the making of it. This “handmade” label, gives the product a personality, and justifies the higher price requested for it. When we go on a trip to another country, we seek for the word “handmade” when we are shopping, because we associate the word with being authentic and more real than others.

When a product is handmade, it becomes more “valuable”… At least this was what I thought, until Mr. Daisey mentioned how the majority of the electronic products we use are also go into the “handmade” category. He describes the factory floors he has visited as being dead silent. This silent is partially caused by the fact that the workers are not allowed to speak, but he mentions that there is a deeper silence, which is caused by the fact that there are no machines. Daisey says, “Everything that can be made by hand, is made by hand”. After hearing this sentence, my perception of the word handmade changed; because in the technology industry, I would think that electronic devices are being assembled by robots or machines. That would make more sense now, wouldn’t it? I associate the word “handmade” more with fashion and decorative items, but before listening to Mike Daisey I never even thought about the fact that my i-Phone is also “handmade”. Maybe this was due to the fact that, unlike most of the “handmade” fashion or decorative items, the “handmade” label on electronics, is not advertised quite openly.

As I mentioned above, if labeling the a product as “handmade” adds much more value to the product, then why do these technology companies not mention this? This is a tricky question, since if they started mentioning how their products are handmade by people and not machines in order to cut down costs, how labor forces are being exploited in Chinese sweatshops in order to squeeze out profits in every possible way, how the workers in these sweatshops sometimes loose their hands, while “hand” making products, would the “handmade” label still add more value to the product? Would people be willing to pay more for “handmade” electronics, if they knew that the money will never go back to the workers themselves who put in their valuable time and effort into the production process? These technology companies should use technology in their production process wherever they can, so that these workers are not used like robots or machines.

If, i-Phone: $649, i-Pad: $299, then what’s the price of “Loosing the ability to function your hand while assembling these “handmade” products”?


Sweatshops are bad. But we should feel alright about them.

After listening to This American Life, I am still trying to wrap my mind around the type of people who are running these manufacturing companies. I would to understand what is going through their minds when they monitor these workers. Listening to the podcast, I am sure many of us already knew about the harsh working conditions regarding the sweatshops, but how do we as consumers look using these products and turning a blind eye. It is saddening to see how Foxconn and other sweatshop companies have the ability to just let money cloud their judgment. I always thought what if it was their 12-14 year old daughter working in these factories would the sweatshop owners or the American companies owners still continue doing business with them? Where has the morality of these companies gone? From changing the production line with older workers when auditors come to the harsh working and living conditions workers have to go through is just disappointing to see.

One thing that really caught my attention was when they talked about how some people see the benefit in sweatshops as an effective way to fight poverty. Yes, I can agree to an extend that they are being taken out of their state of poverty, but they also have to realize that the workers are still technically in the same situation as before because they are still living in poverty from the rich benefiting on their behalf. Some of the production workers are saying that the being in poverty with manufacturing jobs are preferred over agriculture, but with these production line jobs their mental and physical health is actually suffering more. For instance, these companies do not care about providing you with medical support if you hurt yourself because the workers are seem as disposable goods that can be easily replaced. This takes me back to my first blog entry about individual sustainability, where our society has helped promote a world of self-interest and success. This type of mentality can contribute to the focus on profit maximization, which can hinder one’s judgment. Why is there this mind-set of selling the cheapest product when we in the US have fought for labor rights for 100 years? Do we want to just keep our achievements to ourselves because it seems that way when we outsourced our production jobs without the protections of workers?

Personally, for me, I never actually realized where these products came from, but it was always in the back of my mind. I own many of these products that are produced in these manufacturing companies in ShenZhen and when I first heard the name of this city is shocked me because this is where my family is from. The last time I was back in that area I was about six years old, so I never got a chance to actually see the city the way it was described by Mike. Even now I do not hear about these factories my family from that area speak and I think it stems from the normality of getting work in these manufacturing companies to make a living. On the other side of the world, people are so blinded by all the social benefits these products bring like a sense of status and belonging in our culture. Our societies are so fixed on having the best and providing people an image of your success because nobody enjoys the feeling of being ostracized. I believe the our own individual intentions along with the society we have socially constructed with material goods has these conditions acceptable.

“I think, what I thought, is they were made by robots”

“I think, what I thought, is they were made by robots.” Mike Daisey’s subconscious notion of the manufacturing process of Apple products was perfectly aligned with what I had imagined. Apple products are so futuristic and streamlined that it is only logical to assume all parts of the Apple supply chain would have the same characteristics. Considering I envisioned that high-tech machinery in a white, sleek factory pieced together each device, this podcast was truly fascinating and eye-opening for me. Continue reading “I think, what I thought, is they were made by robots”