We, the beneficiaries of globalization, seem to exploitthese victims with every purchase we make,and the injusticefeels embedded in the products themselves.After all, what's wrong with a world in which a workeron an iPhone assembly line can't even afford to buy one?It's taken for granted that Chinese factories are oppressive,and that it's our desire for cheap goodsthat makes them so.
So, this simple narrative equating Western demandand Chinese suffering is appealing,especially at a time when many of us already feel guiltyabout our impact on the world,but it's also inaccurate and disrespectful.We must be peculiarly self-obsessed to imagine that wehave the power to drive tens of millions of peopleon the other side of the world to migrate and sufferin such terrible ways.In fact, China makes goods for markets all over the world,including its own, thanks to a combination of factors: its low costs, its large and educated workforce,and a flexible manufacturing systemthat responds quickly to market demands.By focusing so much on ourselves and our gadgets,we have rendered the individuals on the other endinto invisibility, as tiny and interchangeableas the parts of a mobile phone. Chinese workers are not forced into factoriesbecause of our insatiable desire for iPods.They choose to leave their homes in order to earn money,to learn new skills, and to see the world.In the ongoing debate about globalization, what'sbeen missing is the voices of the workers themselves. This is how journalist Leslie T. Chang begins her enlightening TED talk (based on her book Factory Girls) on Chinese factory workers. The talk as a whole looks at how these workers construct meaning in their employment. See the whole talk below.