Mr Daisey and the Apple Factory

I’m in the process of publishing posts to this blog that I’d just sent to a group of friends. I’m setting the publishing date to when I originally sent the email.

I read today (2012-03-17) on the BBC site that many aspects of the story broadcast on This American Life were fabricated. There’s also now disclaimer on the site below, and they’ve removed the audio from the site.

I recently listed to a podcast of This American Life called Mr Daisey and the Apple Factory

I thought it was interesting storytelling, but could have done a few simple things to make the reporting more (forgive me) fair and balanced:

  • Spend time on the origins of Foxconn, highlighting that it is a Taiwanese-based company
  • Mention the factories that Foxconn has in Europe, India, Mexico, and Brazil
  • Give some statistics regarding the suicide rate of workers in and out of the Foxconn facility (that is, to the Chinese population in general)
  • Provide statistics on worker injuries between Foxconn employees and others in China
  • Provide the same statistics for the various countries in which Foxconn has factories

Perhaps they could’ve also mentioned that China is now Apple’s second-largest market, second only to the USA. I’m thinking that talking about how Chinese could have so much disposable income that they could buy so many Apple products probably wouldn’t have meshed well with the storyline of this extremely complex country only being a place with low-paid laborers.

One of the things I found laughable is Mr. Daisey’s statement that the iPad at the time of his piece wasn’t available for sale in mainland China. There’s quite a difference between officially available and available. Which brings us to ACT THREE: ZHONGGUANCUN

It took three months for the iPhone 4S to be officially available in China. You might’ve read about the fun that occurred on the first day it went on sale at the Beijing’s Apple Store. If you had wanted to get the 4S before it was officially available, one place you’d venture is here:

This is the first basement of Top Electronics City in the Zhong Guan Cun area, and it is primarily devoted to mobile devices and accessories. Although perhaps not on display during the before announce period, it is here that you could find the devices rerouted from Shenzhen (where they are manufactured, as highlighted by Mr Daisey) or smuggled into the mainland from places where it was already officially available. (And, yes, that is the Colonel pictured in the red banner. Besides having a food court serving more traditional Chinese food, Top Electronics CIty, has a KFC, McDonald’s and Starbucks.)

Okay, enough writing for today. Wait… since the story came from a piece on Mr Daisey did on Steve Jobs, it might’ve been interesting to hear about how Mr Jobs was perceived in China. Although these two shots don’t tell the whole story, I thought they were interesting.



btw, when I bought my iPhone 4 on a two-year contract from China Unicom, it came carrier unlocked. That is, I could just pop-out the SIM card and put one in from AT&T and it’d work in the US. More freedom in China… go figure.