Apple, and by extension the American consumer electronic industry, is the subject of a couple of in-depth reports on their manufacturing processes, specifically in using companies like Foxconn in Shenzhen and others of China’s Special Economic Zones.
The first is an episode of This American Life entitled Mr Daisey and the Apple Factory in which Mike Daisey, a proper Apple fanboy, decides to visit the place where his favourite electronic devices are made and talk to the people who make them. I was expecting a bit of an outraged hatchet job, which would have been righteous but not particularly useful, but the result is a calm, thoughtful and realistic report that doesn’t pull emotional punches in painting an uncomfortable picture.
The second is a long-ish article in the New York Times looking at some of the economic realities that are kicking it now so much of our stuff is made in China. It’s a US bias, naturally, but I suspect a lot applies to the UK to. Essentially, it’s not just about cost. The West just doesn’t have the skills, infrastructure or ability to scale. The article avoids the moral questions preferring to push the economic reality, but it doesn’t make the point that if we can’t make this stuff without treating people this way then maybe we should find another way to make it. Maybe an iPad should cost more than £400. Maybe an Xbox Kinect shouldn’t be selling for under £250.
Hell, I dunno. But these two pieces of journalism helped me grapple with it a bit.