This one already has 319 comments online and has been reblogged 8 bajillion times (estimate), despite the fact that the print version is just now being tossed onto doorsteps on the East Coast. Nonetheless, a must-link-to. Three cheers for old-school investigative journalism (and for Page A1, to boot, not even the Magazine)!
Time for a quiz! The pictures above are:
a) a full-blown construction zone,
b) my apartment complex, or
c) both of the above
If you guessed (c), congratulations! — you are:
a) correct and
b) good at guessing answers to obvious multiple-choice questions.
My home has been an all-out construction site for three weeks now. 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, we are serenaded with the sounds of sanding, hammering, jackhammering, and half a dozen more variations of big, heavy things banging against other big, heavy things.
This isn’t the first time. My first two weeks in the apartment, just six months ago, my upstairs neighbors were redoing a bathroom; my alarm clock each morning was a jackhammer boring into the floor above me, and thus into my brain as well. (How a bathroom renovation could require two weeks of jackhammering is, like many things here, beyond me.) That makes five weeks of construction out of my first 30 in this apartment. When I’ve recounted my banal tales of exasperation to fellow ex-pats, I’ve earned solidarity but no sympathy — they’ve all been through it themselves.
If at times it seems as though the entire city is under construction, that’s because it is. As the Times wrote last week, ”One of the remarkable things about living in Shanghai is being able to witness this city’s race to complete a century’s worth of building in a mere decade or two.” It’s remarkable, all right. I have other words for it.
Still, you have to admire the must-do spirit. There is no way my old neighbors in Park Slope or Silicon Valley or the Research Triangle would put up with the inconveniences and annoyances of (re)construction. Just getting small projects off the ground back home would require slicing through a Great Wall’s length of red tape. And if it were able to do that, progress would be slow — 44 hours/week slower, to be exact. And look at America now. We’ve devolved into a veritable poster child for first-world complacency leading to a dangerously weakened infrastructure. China, meanwhile… Say what you will about the government — and I have, and will, say plenty — but shit gets done here.
That’s little consolation, of course, for me and other short-termers. As I type this — at 7 p.m. on a rainy Monday — the dudes outside my window are running some sort of buzz saw or industrial-size sander or something. I’ve had a headache for a few hours now, and despite the aspirin I just popped, I doubt it’s going to get better.
Spot-on analysis below. As a side note, I could tell within my first week here, from anecdotal evidence alone, that Steve Jobs was by far the most admired Westerner in China, with Bill Gates running a distant second. Funny to see an expert corroborate that…
Interesting post over at the New Yorker about China’s obsession with creating its own Steve Jobs, and the national debate over why it hasn’t happened yet.
I think, as writer Jiayang Fan seems to hint, the fact China hasn’t bred its own Jobs yet has more to do with the education system than the intelligence of its populace. (And there are some pretty damn brilliant people in China). Having taught at a public school in China (granted, for only 9 months), I saw firsthand how much emphasis is put on perfect test scores and rote memorization as opposed to individual free thought. Writes Fan:
Innovators prefer a more liberal climate than China’s, and no wonder—they are usually the product of one. They need the freedom to explore, without being yoked to the responsibility of nation-promoting and world-transforming.
In a country where achieving perfect test scores is ingrained into students as early as primary school, someone like Jobs — who was rather rebellious in his school years — probably wouldn’t be considered successful.
In fact, both Jobs and Bill Gates, China’s other idol, dropped out of college. When you take into account how much emphasis is placed on the national college entrance exam here — desperate students will actually study for it while using IV drips — the idea of a Chinese homegrown Steve Jobs seems almost impossible.
And besides, the whole premise of becoming a genius isn’t to model what you do exactly according to things that have been known to work in the past, but rather, create a whole new blueprint for success. By all means, take a leaf out of Jobs’ book. But become your own version of him? China, you’re doing it wrong.
In a country infamous for its polluted air and water, the protests were only the latest in a series of large, sometimes violent demonstrations that appear to be having some success in pushing China to impose more stringent safeguards on new manufacturing and mining projects.
The “plum rain” that envelops Shanghai every summer — a confusing mix of drizzle, fog and smog — is a handy metaphor for the murkiness that currently enshrouds China’s economy
A drumbeat of negative views about China’s economic prospects dominates the country’s image. …
But on balance, the people I met were firmly optimistic that the fundamental “urge to surge” remained. If anything, the intervening decline in the Chinese stock market had made them more enthusiastic about investing.
As evidence has mounted that the Chinese economy is slowing, Beijing has kept the world on tenterhooks, delivering none of the big, headline-grabbing economic stimulus measures many analysts have predicted.
Two months have passed since the last interest rate cut, and it looks increasingly as if the Chinese government is biding its time, avoiding measures that could reignite another investment binge of the sort that sent prices for property and other assets soaring in 2009 and 2010.
Undercover Chinese Reporter Works in iPhone 5 Factory, Exhausts Himself
A reporter for the Shanghai Evening Post recently went undercover to a Foxconn factory, got a white coat, a room in the dorms, and a job placing oil marks on the back-plates of the new iPhone 5, which should be announced today. His conclusion: abysmal. Not the iPhone 5, but the conditions.
Foxconn has had controversies in the past — there was a suicide protest early this year, a factory explosion in 2011, and several suicides in years past, all related to the working conditions, poor food and dirty living quarters workers are often pushed into.
This story highlights the low quality of everything at Foxconn, except for perhaps the products they’re making.
via a translation by micgadget:
An iPhone 5 back-plate run through in front of me almost every 3 seconds. I have to pickup the back-plate and marked 4 position points using the oil-based paint pen and put it back on the running belt swiftly within 3 seconds with no errors. After such repeat action for several hours, I have terrible neckache and muscle pain on my arm. A new worker who sat opposite of me gone exhausted and laid down for a short while. The supervisor has noticed him and punished him by asking him to stand at one corner for 10 minutes like the old school days. We worked non-stop from midnight to the next morning 6 a.m but were still asked to keep on working as the production line is based on running belt and no one is allowed to stop. I’m so starving and fully exhausted.
The article notes that it cannot verify the honesty of its reporter, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
H/T: The Atlantic Wire
The biggest thing preventing modern China from becoming an innovation society, which is imperative if it hopes to keep raising incomes, is that it remains a very low-trust society….
There are two trends to watch: One, argued Ming Zeng, Alibaba’s chief strategist, is that Alibaba — which now serves more than 100 million consumers daily, through 6.5 million retail shops connected to 20 million manufacturers — is, in effect, creating “a virtual combination industrial park and online marketplace,” where anyone in China or abroad can come to invent, collaborate or buy and sell goods or services….
The other trend is that the Chinese will be big players on this grid. The creation of global trusted business frameworks like Alibaba is starting to enable a new generation of Chinese innovators — who are low cost, but high skilled — to extend their reach. We’ve seen cheap labor out of China; now we’re going to see more cheap genius.
Zhu Xinyue, author of 101 Money Earning Secrets From Jews’ Notebooks and Learn to Make Money With the Jews.
(Source: The New York Times)
Via the New York Times:
As the Chinese cyberpolice stiffened controls on information before the Communist Party leadership transition taking place this week, some companies in Beijing and nearby cities received orders to aid the cause.
Starting earlier this year, Web police units directed the companies, which included joint ventures involving American corporations, to buy and install hardware to log the traffic of hundreds or thousands of computers, block selected Web sites, and connect with local police servers, according to industry executives and official directives obtained by The New York Times. Companies faced the threat of fines and suspended Internet service if they did not comply by prescribed deadlines.
The initiative was one in a range of shadowy tactics authorities deployed in the months leading up to the 18th Party Congress, which is scheduled to end on Wednesday, in an escalating campaign against information deemed threatening to party rule. The effort, while spottily executed, was alarming enough to spur one foreign industry association to lodge a complaint with the government. Several foreign companies quietly resisted the orders, which posed risks to communications and trade secrets that they take pains to secure.
The Times article notes one local company was told it would be fined approximately $2,400 and lose Internet access for six months if it did not install the required hardware and software.