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NYT reposts Foxconn story in China, to different reaction

updated 11:00 pm EST, Fri January 27, 2012

Chinese posts say NYT singling Apple out unfairly

An AppleInsider report by Daniel Dilger provides some illuminating insight on the recent New York Times article criticizing Apple and Foxconn and the labor practices they and the rest of the electronics industry pursue to keep innovation high and prices low. The newspaper recently reprinted its report in China, soliciting comments for use in the US. What it got -- and subsequently buried -- was charges of its own bias from Chinese workers and management.

The paper did translate and publish the comments it got from the Chinese-language business magazine Caixin, which reprinted the original article, and from the popular Chinese social site, but stuck them in its "The Lede" blog, a relatively obscure section of the site and a blog devoted to covering the news industry generally, aimed more at fellow media professionals than at the public. The entry was buried compared to the prominent placement of the original scathing article, entitled "In China, Human Costs are Built Into an iPad," on its website and newspaper editions. The reaction from the Chinese workers and management was nearly unanimous: if you think life is tough for Foxconn workers, you haven't seen much of Chinese life.

"It is biased to blame Apple for everything," wrote a poster by the handle ChouzhuDaddy. "The government should supervise the companies and their conduct, not the other way around. It is natural for enterprises to pursue economic profits, but corporate social responsibility needs to be backed up and monitored by regulations and laws."

Another poster added "if people saw what kind of life workers lived before they found a job at Foxconn, they would come to an opposite conclusion of this story: that Apple is such a philanthropist," wrote "Zhengchu1982." Another named Zhou Zhimei echoed the sentiment by writing "by the way, construction workers and farmers are also living a harsh life in China. Shall we also boycott housing and grains?"

The comments overwhelmingly point to two truths seen to have been overlooked in the New York Times story: lack of government regulation or oversight, and pointing out that conditions in non-Apple factories are allegedly much worse. Though some commenters agreed that Apple and the rest of the electronics industry could do more, the root of the problem is seen by the workers themselves as a lack of enforcement by authorities. Working at plants such as Foxconn, regardless of how difficult it sounds to westerners, was generally said to be far better than the life being led by China's large rural population, from whence Foxconn and its contemporaries get most of their workers.

Even attempting to raise Chinese working standards, some readers said, would create problems: if labor protection standards and an 8-5, five-day-a-week working protocol were "strictly executed," said a poster going by "YeyeGem," workers' wages would "plunge," many of the rural and undereducated candidates would be turned back to the "hopeless" villages, and "manufacturing costs in China will increase in other ways and therefore harm its competitive advantage."

"If the story is simply blaming Apple and Foxconn," wrote a user on the Chinese social site, "then it is simplifying the problem. Other companies including HTC, Lenovo, HP and Sony and their OEM [subsidiaries] ... share the same situation," adding that OEM factory workers are often "working in even harsher environments and having more overtime" than Foxconn workers. The user also pointed out that labor organizations are scarce, and that the government tends to shield the companies due to their high profits.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also reacted strongly to the NYT report, calling the accusations reported in the article that Apple doesn't care about workers or working conditions in the factories "patently false and offensive to us." Cook suggested that Apple has taken all possible steps to improve conditions at its supplier facilities with as much speed as it is able to, and intimated that the NYT report omitted context (such as the lack of any regulatory environment) that distorted some of the facts it reported.

"No one has been more up front about the challenges we face. We are attacking problems aggressively with the help of the world's foremost authorities on safety, the environment, and fair labor. It would be easy to look for problems in fewer places and report prettier results, but those would not be the actions of a leader," Cook wrote in an unusually long letter to Apple employees. "Earlier this month we opened our supply chain for independent evaluations by the Fair Labor Association. Apple was in a unique position to lead the industry by taking this step, and we did it without hesitation. This will lead to more frequent and more transparent reporting on our supply chain, which we welcome. These are the kinds of actions our customers expect from Apple, and we will take more of them in the future."

"We will continue to dig deeper, and we will undoubtedly find more issues. What we will not do -- and never have done -- is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain," Cook added near the end of the memo. "On this you have my word."

One user who posted a comment on Caixin was particularly scathing in his attack on the article's seeming focus on just Apple when in fact much of the rest of the tech industry also relies on Foxconn and factories like it to provide a never-ending parade of cheap consumer goods: "if not to buy Apple, what's the substitute -- Samsung?" he wrote in a translated post. "Samsung workers' income and benefits are even worse than those at Foxconn! ... Have you ever been to OEM factories for Lenovo and ASUS? ... Do you know that Aigo's Shenzhen factory will not pay their workers until the 19th of the second month? If [a worker quits before then], I'm sorry your salary will be withdrawn."

"Foxconn never dares to do such things," he continued. "First, [its] profit margin is higher than [its] peers since they manufacture for Apple. Second, at least those foreign devils will regularly audit factories ... domestic brands will never care if workers live or die ... I am just speaking as an insider of this industry, and telling you some disturbing truth," he concluded. [via AppleInsider]

by MacNN Staff





    Comment buried. Show
  1. facebook_Joshua

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jan 2012


    Who writes for macnn?

    Because I am an Apple nut, I've subjected myself to Macnn for a long time. This is my first comment after years of coming here. But I can't take it anymore.

    I'm not taking sides about anything in this Macnn post. Others can debate that.

    But what will say is this: Who writes these articles? I simply cannot endure the complete lack of organization or coherency by Macnn's writing staff. Have you guys ever heard of a topic sentence? Or perhaps considered creating an intelligible lede? The next time you guys sit down to write an article could you start with an outline, perhaps just a simple list of key facts you want to convey to your audience? Then, formulate some topic sentences for each of your paragraphs that create some kind of discernible focus and purpose to an article? And please consider using simple sentences with a clear subject and predicate, instead of an endless stream of subordinate clauses.

    I simply can't stand it anymore. There are Mac blogs out there written by people who don't even call English their first language that are less maddening to read than Macnn.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. MXBrando

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Amateur reporting

    First of all, the Chinese comments on the Times piece were not "buried." They were prominently featured. Secondly, regarding "the comments overwhelmingly point to two truths seen to have been overlooked in the New York Times story..." thing overlooked in *your* story is that Chinese comments on Western posts are always loaded with replies by government functionaries, sometimes to the exclusion of all others.

    Seriously. You guys don't have the chops to do serious reporting. You taking on the Times is like Bambi taking on Godzilla. You don't even do "aggregating all that well. I've always liked that you are a good repository for announcements about Mac hardware and software. You should stick to that.

  1. Bobfozz

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I'll stick up for MacNN this time

    To the guy who can't take it anymore...leave.

    To the second poster who act like the NYT can do no wrong he knows nothing about the NYT. For years people thought (and still do) that the Times Best Seller list represents "best-sellers," but it doesn't. If your book is self-published or not from an "established" publisher, fat chance you will get on their list even if you sold a million copies.
    Sometimes the Times gets it wrong because they have been KNOWN to hire bad reporters!! (A fact.) What was said in THIS article is that the NYT "hid" these responses from China on a Blog that is not well known, not that it was hidden in the Chinese news.
    Apple reacted the same way as these Chinese workers... and you are going to believe the NYT over Apple. Time to get real. The NYT has never been very good at being called out.

  1. chas_m



    Um ...

    MacNN wrote a prior article summarizing the original piece, including all of its criticisms of Apple. Then they ran a response from Tim Cook, It has now written a piece with yet an alternative viewpoint from Chinese sources.

    Seems to me that running articles that cover various sides of an issue is the CRUX of good journalism. Of course, it's incumbent on the reader to be aware that other views have already been covered. Maybe some of MacNN's readers aren't up to the task of using the search. Ah well.

    As I read the original article from the NYT, I kept thinking to myself "isn't this the government's job?" so apparently I too am a bureaucratic flunky from the government of China. Funny, I didn't think I was ...

    Comment buried. Show
  1. byzantium

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I used to expect factual and unbiased news from macnn, but now every 2nd news story is like a propaganda piece against android and for apple. Blatantly taking sides doesnt change the truth. Macnn might as well be True news sites report without bias.

  1. Grendelmon

    Joined: Dec 1969


    To all you fucktards

    Who even think that this website represents any form of "journalism", I have news for you: this isn't the place. Period. End of story. This place is all about ad clicks.

  1. tightzeit

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Wake up

    to all of you princely US whiners. Your minimum wage in the richest country in the world is around $7.20/hr. Business lobbyists constantly push to have it lowered and in some states, depending on circumstances, it's as low as $2.30/hr. Given the standard of living in the US do you seriously think that those on $2.30/hr (with tips) are any better off than someone in a Foxconn factory?

    At $7.20/hr a 40hr week amounts to $288 ex taxes. Can you pay rent, feed, clothe and transport yourself for that money? Probably not,and then you need to send money to your family.

    Slave wages already exist in the US but everyone believes the poor deserve it (in their own backyard), whereas in China, they don't.

    I believe in a dollar earnt for a dollar worked but seriously, the system doesn't work. Keeping people poor to make your business profitable has, at every crossroads in history, resulted in civil disobedience at best, downright revolution at worst.

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