China's problem is not cheap labor or slave labor as the anti-communits here like to put it. This type of criticism does not have good intention for the Chinese people. Instead it is self- centered.
China's problem lack of innovation. It is a result of talented people could not apply it easily. They are simply wasting time and energy.
a few minor points: I first went to China 2008 (had an old image of the cold war stuck in my head (disgusting commie place) and didn't want to) and ended up living in Beijing for more than 5 years.
You could then get a visa in a day (only good for 1 year though), and the Chinese consulate visa process is dramatically more user friendly than the US one.
Indeed the gov has some oppressive rules, and my wife says that the police are like robbers (criminals), but it didn't affect our day to day life except for blocked internet sites. Nor that of most Chinese citizens. There is unfortunately sort of a culture of dishonesty that Cultural? Revolution had a large part in creating.
Beijing is expanding its subway system dramatically, 2 lines a year or more, each of many miles. While it is true that the gov owns the land, I saw basically no houses or businesses displaced. Of course I am sure there were a few, but they dig a big hole every mile or so, and work from there. Some are probably closer together. The hole area (fenced) is maybe 30 feet by 100 feet.
It is not true that the new stations have no artistic taste. There are huge beautiful murals among other things. The older stations are of course more similar to the pits one sees in older Boston or NY stations, BUT they are CLEAN--don't think I ever took the subway and didn't see a least one person cleaning, and that is in spite of the huge flow of people. They scrape crap, wash, dust, etc.
RE cost per mile: Beijing is NOT an undeveloped area where it is simple to dig, nor Shenzhen. A related thought re gov ownerships of land: yes, but there are protests too and some of them work. There is a huge city street in Beijing, maybe 8 lanes?, that splits (or is it swerves-forget) to go around a building where the people refused to move when the land was wanted for the road. One the other hand, when the local govs want a new shopping mall/financial center cuz that is how they get the money to run the city (and for bribes of course), many buildings are leveled. It is a bit like urban renewal in the US, or identical?
The people get paid for the buildings and can negotiate for more. One sidelight of this is that the payment for the building is based on sq ft of useable area. When the news is out that the gov wants the land, MANY people add additional rooms or a second floor cuz they get paid a lot more when they have to leave. A friends family literally got rich doing this. They had 3? houses, and they certainly weren't elegant, but $/sq ft
and Hutongs? not mentioned here, but a hot topic with Westerns who like to protest: they are frequently pest holes: no water, no plumbing, no heat: and to suggest that someone live there is not kind. Yes, some should be preserved as 'national monuments?) and some are upgraded. However you can imagine the cost to put in water/sewers in area, blocks and blocks, where the "streets" are usually about a small car wide: some narrower, some a bit wider. The typical Chinese person doesn't have money to flush like Westerns do, nor the desire upgrade something primitive.
and my finger tips are getting tired so the last thought is that while the US I think is better, I miss living in Beijing. Maybe not here, but anyplace else, someone will be bound to say: "Well tben, GO BACK" )
Forgot mention the factories like Foxconn: yes, the people are paid a lot less than in the US, but the cost of living is maybe 5x less, and wages have been going up 20% per year or so. I think that the factory workers now earn more than the typical college grad ($800-1000 per month for the grad). Plus everything like food and housing is free. (no not great housing by US standards, but fine by Chinese standards). (Dorms or shared housing for workers are common, even for college grad school teachers.)
And the much bit..ch'd. and moaned about suicide rate in the news a few years ago? It rate at the electronics factories complained about was LOWER than in the Chinese population as a whole (yes that is high).
and overtime? people in the US hold two jobs, or even 3 sometimes to get ahead, plus I would guess that they typical factory worker feels blessed to have the job. Is it perfect? NO. Does it have problems? YES, BUT it is much BETTER than the lives that they had before they left their home cities to make a better life for their families.
I've been to Guilin and other small cities nearby. If you like traditional art, there are so many talent people found these regions. The craftsmenship are well beyond anything I've seen in the west. The attention to details are better than modern printers. Plus, they can make you one on the spot.
I visited GuangZhou which is a big city and the young generations like Gen-X and millenias embrass the western pop culture a lot. Hip-hop, break-dance and so on. You have to find those places and you'll see a very colourful sight and very cool people to hang out.
So why the article didn't show anything colourful or fancy? I think that's the Business district where things are serious and formal.
i disagree. china does not lack of innovation, but it does need to be patient for great return on investment on innovation. what i meant is that it is very easy to make money by pure labor work, such as low cost manufacturing. in such an environment, if a guy proposes an innovation idea, it would harder for anyone to pour huge amount of money to him unless the idea is sure thing and can generate the return in a short time fashion. now with the labor cost going up and the margin on labor work at a cutthroat thinner, china sooner or later would realize that they have to move beyond its current mentality and seek another of way of investment for return. it is not rocket science but a pure physics of industrialization.
agreed. they should have done the similar thing as belgium did. even worse, chinese typography is not applied neatly across their stations or generally across their buildings and stuff. hopefully their future generations would start to pay more attention on these.
This was a great read, and while I agree that the MUNI kind of sucks, that diatribe was superfluous to the article. If you want to write a thinkpiece about the perils of SF's public transportation, then by all means do so. However, that information really has no place in an article about Apple's presence in China.
The context is there to show how rapidly China is now building out infrastructure, comparable to the USA in the 1960s. SF has lots of money, but very little investment is being put into public infrastructure, and what little is happening is being spent poorly on political projects, not real transportation to move people effectively. The fact that Shenzhen has more than caught up to the Bay Area in size and sophistication, and has realistic plans to grow even faster (while the U.S. does not, and can not, and lacks any political will to) should make you think.
When companies like Google take American innovations, copy them & provide them for free to Chinese companies to use and convert into state spyware, which Americans are being told to gobble up by CNET because its cheaper, that could be a problem if they develop the tech and craft to surpass Apple.
Rather than take offense at the embarrassment of America's lack of investment in the future, we should be taking heed.
Yay, you got us right! I've been living in Shenzhen for more than 6 years. People have ridiculous ideas about this city, but yours was the most fair and accurate I've read. Thanks!
This is a very good article about Shenzhen, thank you! I am an American, and have lived in Shenzhen for 8 years. This is an exciting city, and good life.
A few notes:
While the official telecom stores may require ID to get a SIM card these days, many convenience stores and small shops will sell you a pre-paid SIM card, with no ID or contract required. I have never been asked for ID to get a SIM card. Good luck getting a pre-paid phone in the USA without an ID.
I am an engineering manager in a factory, and in the past worked at the Foxconn factory. I get so frustrated by ignorant comments about China, especially biased articles from western journalists with an agenda. I am pleased your article is more objective.
Foxconn is far from a dirty hell-hole. It is a clean and modern factory campus, and the workers are quite well paid (relative to their age, education, and in comparison to alternatives like farm work or waitress). Yes, factory work is tedious, but that is the nature of the beast. The Foxconn factory has nice facilities for the workers, including restaurants, book store, swimming pools, internet cafes, and movie theaters. The minimum wage at Foxconn has increased significantly over the past few years, to the point where other factories are struggling to compete with the pay, and pushing some factories to move from Shenzhen to smaller Chinese cities with lower wages. I have many friends that work at Foxconn, and they are mostly unhappy that the overtime has been cut (less pay!!), due to meddling interference from "do-gooder" Westerners.... Even the "suicide epidemic" from 2010 was overblown by the media. Statistically, Foxconn had fewer suicides than the Chinese population at large, and less than the US population for that matter. In any population of 280,000 people you will have some suicides. Many of the workers are young, and far away from home , so it is not unexpected some will be lonely. Some of the suicides appeared to be motivated by to the payment Foxconn would make to their families upon death.
The air in Shenzhen is relatively clean, partly because of the ocean air, but also because most factories in this area have moved to the outskirts of the city (e.g. BaoAn, DongGuan, PingShan, and HuiZhou), and are relatively clean industries (e.g. electronics). Pollution problems are more severe in the North, due to heavy industry and burning of coal during the winter.
Life in China has some downsides, but no place is perfect. Overall Shenzhen is very safe (I can walk anywhere any time of day or night with no fear, except for crazy car drivers!) The food is good, the people are friendly, and cost of living is reasonable (albeit increasing faster than wages). There are beautiful mountains, and even some beaches that are clean and quiet if you are willing to drive a bit outside the city (e.g. XiChong and HuiDong) and avoid the crowded ones near the city (e.g. DaMeiSha).
Thanks again for the fair and interesting article.