China’s Workers

I was initially skeptical of Leslie Chang’s presentation because of her journalistic background — not because I believed her to be unqualified (she is extremely qualified, as a former correspondent for the Wall Street Journal), but because I distrusted anything the media had to offer beyond anecdotal evidence. But as she explained the story behind her Coach wallet and the stories of the factory girls she met, I slowly realized that I have been stuck in academia for too long. Sometimes, anecdotal evidence can be the best reflection of the reality of the situations of ordinary people.
What struck me the most about her talk is not only that the Coach bags and iPhones come from somewhere, but also that the production of these gadgets for our developed market isn’t necessarily a detriment to the people in developing countries. For them, Chang says, factory labor has changed the way Chinese people think, the way they live, and the way they interact. This last point was most resounding for me. It affirms to me the power of businesses, that technology and production has the capacity to change not merely the food on the table, but also societal norms, values, and attitudes.
Some inspirational food for thought.

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