(photo by Sheng Lu)
This is the road where the apparel factory mentioned in the book was located. Shanghai used to be one of the three leading areas in China that produce textiles. In the early 1990s, the municipal government launched a major reform of its economy and majority of the textile mills in Shanghai were closed so as to leave space and resources to develop other industries deemed more strategically important to the city. Capitals moved to the innner land of China, however, laid-off workers were having a difficult time finding a new job.
Why the “Hukou system”(Household Registration) raises debate? How to reform the system in a balanced way?
128 thoughts on “Part II Made in China”
Comment from student in spring 2012
I especially enjoyed the section called The China Wall. At first I was thinking, how is Rivoli going to tie The Great Wall of China into this cotton discussion.. Once I started to read, I found the conversation was not about an ancient world wonder, but about the communist tendencies of even modern day China. The China Wall refers to the barrier between how much the Chinese are willing to tell the outside world. Even today there is limitations to freedom of speech, press, and expression. I was both shocked and not-so shocked to read this. In some avenues, I feel like China is an open book since we trade with them so much it is natural that we know many of their inner workings. Yet, on the other hand, they only show us so much that we think we are seeing the entire story because we trade so much with them. The writer addresses the responses that she received after the first edition of this book was published. Apparently, in the first book she revealed how easy it was for her to get access granted into many Chinese factories on the basis that she was a Professor and also a “Nobody”. I thought it was very interesting to see that after the first edition was translated into Chinese, and she wanted to continue her research about cotton, Chinese factories, and the trade sector, her access that came so easily before, was so quickly denied. Rivoli makes the statement that she thinks she was denied entrance into these factories (some of the same ones she had previously been to) because now she wasn’t just a Professor and a no-name-nobody. She was a writer. A writer who could publish influential and informational books about the inner workings of their factories. She could be a threat to them and possibly exploit them if she felt that what she discovered behind the doors of the cotton factories was bad news.
Comment from student in spring 2012
I found Rivoli’s description of global economy as “a race to the bottom” to bring a great image to mind. Once a government/economy get a taste of the “success” industry brings they want more at any cost. Whole cities are built around it, complimentary businesses grow around it, social businesses grow, new housing and soon an entire new lifestyle. Change is important in life, we as a race always feel the need to be innovative, to do things better. But we also have a need to belong, to feel and remember. Is the traditional lifestyle that is being replaced by the fast paces, competitive industrialized life-style taking this away? Is this new life-style wrong? bad? Should we be doing more to preserve traditions? I don’t think anyone has that answer. Once the industrial cities are built, growth of industry is easier and faster. A country is now an integral part of the global economy and they want to compete and “win”. Often times this means cutting costs on proper toxic waste disposal. Is “winning” economically worth the sacrifices in the end if the land is no longer liveable and the traditions are left behind? I think that economic progress is addictive and the “race to the bottom” can indeed ultimately turn into a race to the bottom of existence.
The flip side of industrialization is shown in chapter 7. I found it interesting that young girls would rather work in dusty, noisy factories than at home on the farm. I think that America idolizes the “simple” rural life so much because we have been industrialized for so long. We like to image farm life as being self-fulfilling, “green”, and just over-all simple. It is also easy to forget the gender dynamic that America has grown from. We no longer think about the men in a family domineering the women, because we fought for and won women’s rights so long ago. To have to work and then never see any of the money would be crushing. In the cities many women are able to take night classes and better their future, they can decide what to do with the small amounts of money the save for themselves. I believe if I had to make the choice I would choose factory life as well. Because although it is monotonous, it gives you small freedoms, which can be small glimpses of hope into a better life. It would make the low wages and poor living conditions worth it.
I think we forget a lot about where our country, America, has been. We too had terrible work conditions in the beginning of our industrial revolution. Many people were killed on the job or from long-term health hazards on the job. The wages were weak; the desperate were targeted and taken advantage of. We grew from this though. The industrial road runs in the same circle of extreme growth, then some decline and variation of business etc. no matter what country it is taking place in. The economy rights itself time and time again. And in this way, I think that the Chinese can follow in our footsteps like we followed in England’s. Our exports may not be large but we are still a world power, high functioning with a great standard of living.
On the other hand, American and England was not contending with some of the government systems that China is. The Huoku is an incredible system that I had never heard of before reading this book. I cannot imagine a government-keeping people down like that. I cant imagine an entire system being created to protect the rich in the cities from being overcrowded, to make sure that the rich had the food supply they needed, funding for education, and health care. It is like the rural populations are slaves to the urbanites of China. A whole population is sacrificed, left by the government to care for itself, for the sake of progress. It is truly heart breaking. Their lives are simply used by the government it this growing economy for their work capabilities their durable bodies and desperate hope and want for more. To lessen the rights of a whole population, keep them from the rights of a full citizen, is just insane in my mind. It is like the old-medieval class system, and it is simply baffling that this is still going on today, in a country that is widely viewed as communist. Perhaps, like many other countries in the West experienced with such a wide class gap, there will be a revolution to right these class laws?
After reading chapters one through four of The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy there are a few points I found most interesting. Some information I found shocking was in order to achieve a successful large-scale cotton production, farmers did not solely rely on wage labor or slavery workers. “The most important factors are effective systems of control, monitoring, incentives, (weather and climate) change all effect the progress of cotton production” (11).
The reasons Nelson and Ruth Reinsch from Lubbock, Texas have been able to continue being one of the most successful cotton growers in the United States amazes me. Over time cotton farming turned from labor to machinery. I can’t believe “in 1791 the American South cotton productivity was about 2 million pounds. In ten years it jumped 25 times, and during the start of the Civil War, the South production was a billion pounds per year (about two-thirds of the total world production)”(11).
Countries outside of the United States are unable to compare to how much cotton is exported from the United States every year. Before the technology advancement it was difficult for growers to predict the labor needed without knowing the weather forecast; the timing and intensity relied on weather” (12). Today weather is sometimes predictable, but remains difficult. Thankfully machines can now pick cotton which is more efficient.
For every one day it rains cotton is required to dry four days following it. Machines make it easier to pick cotton quicker when dark clouds start to be in sight. Many developing countries outside of the United States have stuck with traditional ways to pick and produce cotton, man-labor. Since the United States gains technology we now produce cotton as an export to China, and pay for clothing and apparel import from China with the same cotton we started with. Since technology advanced the United States is now producing what is the most beneficial for them; and China is producing cotton is the least ineffective for them. If the United States was to produce clothing and China to produce cotton our life as we know it would not be the same.
After reading part two of made in china it was also another interesting section. Learning how Ravoli had access to the factories in china is so cool to read about. When she talks about how the people were welcoming and forth coming is really interesting because I would think the opposite. Once the book was published in Chinese I was not surprised the relationship would change. The Chinese do not want to compromise there business by having someone right about what goes on in there factor.
As I was reading about Ravolis trips to china when she went to shanghai brightness they produced clothing for U.S major league baseball teams and for Walt Disney companies. This just made me think about how all these products for such big companies should be produced in America. When she went on later to talk about the women that were forced to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day earning 12-18 cents per hour I was in shock. How can they possibly pay and treat their workers so poorly. Also something I was in shock about was out of 20 cites in the world with the highest level of air pollution 16 of them are in china. This is horrible for their environment they live in. For example the book says half there water is contaminated and they are unable to drink from one of their largest river systems.
The book continues to talk about when factors needed help they preferred women who were docile and desperate. Children and women were recruited to early mill owners. The women were preferred more then the men because the women were paid cheaper then the men were. This to me is terrible men and women should have been paid the same for the work they did. Women who had children at home supporting them were more attentive, dolcile and are more compelled to use their ultimate exertion to procure the necessities of life. These women were the once providing and taking care of there children and had to always work the hardest to provide for them. Women who worked in companies in japan were considered “birds in a cage” they worked at the age of 7 where there could be 4 generations of the family working there. They has two days off a month and were trapped all day long in this cotton mill.
Throughout chapter 7 it is interesting to learn about how girls who grew up on a farm would prefer to work in a mill then stay home and work on the farm. You would think they would want to be outside then stuck in a factory all day. Another things that shocked me in chapter seven was in Manchester, new Hampshire the mills that once dominated are now condos, offices, restaurant and even a college campus and no cotton cloth is produced any more. Also I had no idea the worlds largest textile mill was in new England in Massachusetts. Being only and hour from Massachusetts I would want to go visit before I graduate.
Another interesting fact was Massachusetts was the birthplace of American cotton textile industry and was the first state to limit the hours children could work. Until 1916 when child labor laws were introduced. I never though about how many accidents that had occurred during the early years, in the mill. After finishing this section my mind has been opened up to the unhappy side and hard work and dedication people gave in to working in textile mills a lot of years ago. It wasn’t a pleasant place at all to work and I give all those women and men who had worked. America has come a long way with there laws and rules that were passed to protect peoples right. Especially when it came to being paid for the work they did.
This chapter was a lot of interesting information and I am looking forward to reading the next section
I enjoy reading all your comments!! I would encourage you to bring some of your puzzles to Dr. Gu tomorrow~
As we discussed in class, textile and apparel industry is not just an economic issue. Because of the special role played by this sector in creating jobs and stimulating economic growth, especially for many developing countries, textile and apparel also touch many social and political issues. Look forward to more discussion~
I found section 2 to be very interesting. As a continuation of part 1’s story, chapter 5 takes you from Texas to China, and describes the differences between the two locations. As stated by the Nelson’s son Lamar, he “never thought about the Reinsch cotton actually going to China.” Like Lamar, I feel like most Americans are unaware of not only the extent of the production of cotton in the United States, but also the various places that the cotton goes before becoming the T-shirt being sold in various stores across the United States.
Throughout section 2, it is made clear that the working conditions for those manufacturing apparel in factories is less than acceptable to an American standard. Yet again, however, it seems that many Americans are either unaware of these conditions, or are naive to how bad they are. Americans are aware that the cost of labor overseas is much less than here. However, not many are aware of the fact that not only are companies able to save money on labor in developing countries, but factories are able to hire more workers that have the skill sets to manufacture the apparel at low wages.
As we discussed in class, wages have not been standardized across the world. While strides have been taken to better working conditions in factories, some factories still overwork their employees for very little pay. Conditions like that would not be accepted by American workers, but for those workers in third world countries, they are so in need of the work, they do not know any different. The story of Jiang Lan explains this very mindset. While a 48-hour work week is not an extreme situation of overworking, the conditions under which she works would not be acceptable by American standards. Yet, she likes her job. The way that Jiang Lan and many other Chinese workers live their lives are very different than how many Americans, including myself, live our lives. The money needed to survive by American standards is a much higher cost of living as opposed to China’s. While the lavish lifestyle of the rich Chinese was described in chapter 5, not all of the Chinese population is able to enjoy such luxuries. It’s very interesting to read about the Chinese workers in comparison to not only Americans, but also other Chinese people.
This section was information and captivating, and I am intrigued to read on.
great comments! I personally have lots to say about this chapter and I like the objective way that the author described what’s happening in China. The essence I feel is a development issue. Sometimes I hope the outside world could give China (and many other developing countries) more patience and time. At least things are gradually improving although still many improvements can be made.
After reading the first section I was so eager to read on, section two was just as interesting to me. Ravoli continued the story from part one by transitioning from Texas to China. I liked how the differences between the two locations were described in detail and gave examples of the working conditions. I really enjoyed how Ravoli created an image for the readers about the factories and their specific working conditions, especially for women. One thing I found to be interesting is that I never took the time to think about the process of how a tshirt was made. Though cotton is primarily made in America, most of the other production is done elsewhere. The working conditions for manufacturing apparel in China was very interesting to me. In class we discussed the low wages and conditions that factory workers are experiencing but until reading this section I never realized the reality. I feel as though I am not the only American that has been blind to this situation. This section explicitly emphasizes on the harsh reality of these working conditions. As an American reader, this section shocks me. We as Americans are much more privileged in the work place. China being a developing country has a ways to go until it can get to where we are. I specifically enjoyed reading the story of Jiang because it proved the reality of the situation and brought the text to life. Most American’s live day to day, paid well and with good working conditions and hate their job. Yet Jiang is working 48+ hours a week in poor working conditions and putting in more time than an American worker and still likes her job. This was surprising to me. When thinking about the section I realized that most Chinese workers do not mind the conditions and wages because living costs are not as high as in America. Also I enjoyed how the book discussed the lifestyles of the more wealthy Chinese. Learning about working conditions I thought that most Chinese workers were in this brutal working environment. I am not saying that this is okay , but this gives perspective on how China as a developing country has classes such as our country.
This section was very interesting and gave me an accurate perspective on China and their role in the apparel industry.
Great thoughts~ and you can rethink about the topic of corporate social responsibility we discussed in class, including those efforts that can be taken by individual consumer, importers/retailers, government and industry associations to improve the situation. Our efforts can make a difference~
Part II, Made In China, really intrigued me. I enjoyed reading about the travels of cotton from Texas to China and also the lifestyle differences between the USA and China as well as other countries. Rivoli was able to illustrate the situations through words which was very helpful and gave me the ability to invision everything going on.
The way chapter 5 began, with talking about Lamar Reinsch’s thoughts on his family’s cotton ending up in China, was enlightening. I think that many American’s, similar to Lamar, don’t realize that we have a large impact on the industry by growing cotton domestically. Most people just think of everything with a “Made In China” tag as a Chinese product, when really that isn’t the case entirely. The cotton grown in America, tends to end up back in America as mentioned on page 77.
People don’t realize how bad the conditions in sweatshops are and the way that Rivoli described the many she saw, hopefully opened many people’s eyes. I’ve learned about sweatshops and seen pictures and I can’t imagine working in those kinds of conditions. These people work there everyday, 12 hours a day and make close to nothing. What’s interesting to me about this is that yes it’s poor conditions and I don’t find anything about this okay, however, for some people this is the best it will get and they are lucky to even have a job. That’s where the lifestyle differences are so large between China and the US. This kind of labor and working conditions would never be acceptable here, but it’s everywhere in China. Hopefully more and more people recognize this and that more companies will change the way they have their employees working.
I enjoyed reading about the mill in Lowell, Massachusetts because I live by here and many of my family members long ago worked here. I didn’t know, however, that Massachusetts was the first state to limit the hours that children could work. After they did so, gradually others did. It’s amazing the impact a group of people can have on others to make changes.
This section really opened my eyes and I’m looking forward to reading section III.
In part two I liked how the author compared the culture of Texas to that of China. I thought the comment on how he could buy a leather ostrich cowboy boots but not a cappuccino in Texas but you could in China, was really interesting. Like globalization is offering something more to the world then jobs, and inexpensive products.
When the author started talking about the environment of the factories I felt somewhat anxious. I don’t know how anyone would be able to function with such a “sensory assault” as the author puts it. However, the workers worked as if their minds were in some distant land. However, the author talks about the sweet, comforting smell of cotton. Maybe something about this smell relaxed the workers and made their jobs a little more soothing.
I felt like it was somewhat reassuring to see the historical patterns of manufacturing. I think a lot of people, including me, get nervous about China being a big player in the textile and apparel industry as well as other industries. The shear size of China is overwhelming and knowing that they are such a big part of production of most of the worlds products bring a lot of “what ifs” to the imagination. But seeing that in the textile and apparel industries (which is mimicked by other industries) booms in and fades out makes me feel reassured that China will most likely will follow the same path of America, Hong Kong, Great Britain, and will allow some other developing country to develop.
What I most enjoyed about the second part of this book is seeing stories of the mill girls, from England, America, and Asia. I liked seeing that they all had things in common. Even though the day was long, and the work was hard, they still took pride in their work. I like seeing some of the positive things that the mill industry offered these women and many other woman. These job offered them some independence and a little more dignified work then just working on the family farm. The stories of the woman in part two made me feel like I had a little more hope for the industry and the the textile and apparel industry, in China especially, is offering their workers a little more than pennies an hour and tight living quarters.
What I least like about part 2, mostly because these things angered me, was reading about the Hukou system and the environment impacts and incidents. I felt the treatment of the rural immigrants was extremely harsh; how if caught with out proper papers they would detain you at your expense, appealing it was costly and the treatment was rough. I just feel like these people deserved better treatment. I also feel like the environmental mishaps, like the hidden drain dumping 22,000 tons of dye water per day in the river, was just ridiculous. I just could not imagine being the person to decide to do something like that. There are enough regulations, although they are not all perfect and some should be enforced more, to consciously stop you from doing something so plainly wrong.
Overall I enjoyed part 2 and I can not wait to finish reading part 3.
Upon completion of the second part of “Travels of a T-Shirt” it has become more apparent that we as Americans do not know how important our exportation of cotton really is to the economy on a global scale. Production of cotton around the world does not seem to compare to what is produced here in the US. Especially with the increase in technology we are lucky to be able pick cotton more efficiently and have it cleaned and shipped at a faster rate which is unattainable in some underdeveloped countries. Some countries still simply rely on picking and cleaning the cotton by hand which can not only be time consuming but undependable. The weather forecast plays a crucial role in the production of cotton, for every one day it rains there are four or more days needed to dry the wet cotton.
I also found it interesting to read about the factories in China and how their citizens were treated. Because unlike the United States, China does not often refer to their labor laws. It bothered me to hear that women were forced to work 12 hour work days, 7 days a week for a only 12-18 cents per hour in terrible conditions, China is home of over 16 cities known for the most harmful air pollution in the world. Having women and children exposed to this reflects poorly on them. Which makes me understand why once the book was translated into Chinese, many people were upset because they soon began to realize the truth about their milling factories.
Once we knew about the conditions of the mills it was then explained how they recruited their workers. It has become apparent over the years that places often hire more men than women because they do not have to pay them as much and that was the same case here. Women and children were recruited early on and they were to fit a specific criteria. They were to be considered meek and desperate for work, they worked every day, all day long and only received two days off per month. It was also often a family tradition to be working in these cotton mills. After reading about mill life in China, it has opened my eyes to the way people are treated outside the United States and how labor laws need to be mandatory to prevent harmful things from happening to their employees.
I enjoyed reading part 2 of travels of a t-shirts much more than part one. It was interesting to read about the lives and working conditions of factory workers. It was interesting to learn that cotton farmers in the US knew years before that China would eventually take over the industry. I also found it interesting that China was so welcoming to the authors entering their factories until they were able to read the Chinese translation of the book.
I think that as American’s, it is sometimes easy for us to take things for granted such as our work situations. In the second part of the book, we learn that the working environment in China is extremely different from what we are used to her in the US. Factory workers in China work long hours, earn as little as cents per hour in terrible conditions with no benefits. I was surprised to learn that most of the factory workers are women. It is terrible to realize that these women are more than happy to work in these conditions just to get out of the much worse conditions they previously faced on the farms. Women are preferred for this type of work because they are more docile and desperate to support their families, and also because they can be paid less than the men. I think that Americans are aware that working wages are much less in China, but I don’t think many would imagine the working environment to be this bad. Jiang’s personal story really brings the true reality into light.
Being from the area, it was interesting to read that New England is the birth place of the American textile industry. I also was not aware that Massachusetts was the first to put limits on child labor hours. It is great to see that factory monitoring and codes of conduct have become standard business practices in the industry. I think part two of this book was really interesting and I enjoyed reading it.
When reading part 2 of The Travels of a T-Shirt book, what stood out most to me was the poor labor conditions of textile mill workers. Pietra Rivoli explains how “…leadership in the industry was based on low labor costs and poor working conditions…” (page 102). She describes how females and children were often put to work in the mills “because of their abundance and low price, but also because owners found them temperamentally well-suited to the mind-numbing drudgery of early textile work” (page 95). People would work for hours at a time and be forced to live in unpleasant conditions such as small rooms that had to be shared with many people. They were fed gruel and barely paid for all of their labor. In class, you asked us if consumers should be blamed for poor working conditions and the formation of sweatshops. My initial answer as no, because as consumers we will buy t-shirts when we need t-shirts and most of us don’t even know where their from. I would have instead blamed the design company who chose to have their product manufactured overseas in a factory with poor working conditions. However, after reading this section and thinking a lot about it, if we as consumers didn’t constantly want something new right away all of the time, there may not be a need for hours and hours of textile production overseas. Because we want new things all of the time, workers have to work all of the time just to supply us with our demand. Everything moves too fast and no one has a chance to stop and relax.
I also wanted to comment on the end of this section of the book. The author states that apparel manufacturing firms are starting to leave China for less expensive areas. “…higher market wages, as well as the cost of complying with greater environmental and worker protections, have pushed light manufacturing costs up by 20 to 40 percent,,” (Page138). This makes me wonder about the question I asked Dr. Gu. Could China become a capital-intensive country? What will happen to the textile industry if this happens? What will happen in terms of trade? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…
Part 2 of the book mentioned a lot about children and women labor, as well as history of the largest exporters of cotton. I read that children and women were actually chosen over men because they complained less which in turn led to more efficient production in the mills. This was good for the company and maybe even good for the workers. I know that most people that are living in poverty will not complain for having to work in such brutal conditions. What they are most worried about is having food, shelter and clothing. Recruiting children and women also helped mill owners because they came with a low cost to hire.
Britain was the lead cotton exporter in the 1800s and by the mid-1930s, Japan had 40% of the world’s exports of cotton goods. Of course, one of the first cotton mill workers were young women. Aside from textiles, in the mid 1970s, Hong Kong was actually the world’s largest exporter of clothing. Mill workers either were forced to work or had no choice to but escape their lives of poverty. There was, though, a young woman named Jiang Lan who actually liked her job. Working under extremely poor conditions while making very little money, Jiang did not mind her tedious position. She is just an example of China’s comparative advantage. There are surprisingly workers who do not mind repetitive and cheap labor.
Chapter 8 was my personal favorite chapter thus far. I discovered a lot about history, labor, the process of cotton, advantages and disadvantages of exporting and importing in previous chapters. The reason why this particular chapter caught my eye is because there is a lot more information on today’s issues. Protestors argue how conditions so deplorable a hundred or more years ago in the West now are acceptable in the East? The book mentions that global capitalism and labor activism are cooperators, not enemies. I agree with this statement because it takes workers to make money in the world. What really caught my eye is how the production of t-shirts can be toxic to the planet. I am very involved in making the planet a safer and cleaner place to live, so I was shocked to read that firms dump toxins into rivers and burn cheaper fossil fuel for energy. They do this to reduce their own costs, but they raise costs for society as a whole. There was a study that found that by switching from using a dryer machine to hanging clothes out on a line to dry and lowering the temperature of washing water saved 60% of a t-shirt’s energy use. I found that firms are not the only factor in saving our planet as a whole, but the consumer is just as responsible.
Just as I enjoyed part I of “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy”, enjoyed part II as well. While reading part II, I was shocked to learn that many women and girls would choose to work at the sweatshop mills rather than the farm. On pages 109-110 it says, “workers in China have low pay, long hours, and poor working conditions. Living quarters are cramped, work is boring, the air is dusty, the noise is brain numbing, the food is bad, the fences are high, and the curfews inviolate. As generations of mill girls and seamstresses are bound together by the common sweatshop experience, controlled, exploited, overworked, and underpaid, they are bound together too by one absolute certainty: this beats the hell out of life on the farm.” I was completely shocked to learn this because although the farm life is hard work and are required to wake up at 4 am to cut through the bark before day break, I’d say that beats the hell out of working in a sweatshop. I feel working and living in a sweatshop totally gives up a persons identity. Once you agree to work there, you are no longer a human but just another number producing countless textiles and clothing while being treated worse than an animal. I realize it is easy for me to say I would rather pick life on a farm than a mill because I’ve never been in the situation and don’t have experience in either and don’t really truly know how they are but I am completely against sweatshop mill work. After reading part II of this book, I’m excited to read more, I’m learning many things where I would have thought the total opposite.
I found part II to be very interesting, if not more interesting than part I. Chapter 5 brings the story of cotton from Texas to China. The Reinsch’s cotton is transported to Shanghai, where it is “spun into yarn, knitted into cloth, cut into pieces, and finally sewn into a T-shirt” (page 77). It is amazing to think that while the cotton is grown in the U.S., the final product of clothing is made in a different country, such as China. I thought it was really interesting that children are so informed about the prices of cotton. Cotton is such a common topic in conversation, that it is just like talking about the weather. I also found the “Help Wanted: Docile and Desperate Perferred,” in chapter 6 to be interesting. Cotton mills would hire women and children because they were more attentive then men. Cotton mill owners could pay women less than men. I would have always thought that mills would hire men because they would be more hardworking, however, it seems to be the other way around. And I really liked that we were able to get an inside glimpse on what it is like for these women to work in the factory. I would never be able to sit in a hard, metal chair while guiding yarn through a machine and hoping it didn’t break for eight hours a day, six days a week. It would be too tedious, especially with the background noise of the machines. However, Jiang Lan, along with many of other Chinese women, actually enjoy their job. I did not like reading that these women would work that hard and only receive 12-18 cents per hour. I also couldn’t believe that factories would seek out married women with families because they knew the women would work harder to earn for their families.
After reading part two, “Made in China,” it occurred to me the major differences within production from country to country. The book went on to continue part one’s description of production of cotton in Texas, but now with the basis of its production being in China. In other words, the author, Rivoli, went into detail about the process of creating a t-shirt.
Reading section two really opened my eyes as to how well privileged Americans workers are. Rivoli went on to explain how Chinese women work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Not only are they overworked, but they are under paid as well, earning anywhere from 12-18 cents per hour. Also, Rivioli went on to show that women from China are forced to work more because the country is allowed to pay women less than men for work. This system really upset me because the workers were already being paid such a low wage, and the fact that over working women, especially women who were desperate for a job, because they can be paid less, is just really unfair.
As I continued to read, it became aware to me that girls throughout the generations preferred to work within a sweatshop and mills to working within the farms. Though working conditions are poor within mills, women still agree to lend over their lives in order to work outrageous number of hours for low wages. This system of working really makes me realize the difference of working conditions in other countries compared to the United States. Overall, I enjoyed reading the second part of the book and am eager to see what else Rivoli has to offer about the cotton industry and the manufacturing of a t-shirt.
After reading part 1, I learned a lot about cotton I did not know before. I like how part 2 relates cotton being made in Texas to cotton being made in China. I never really took the time to think of how cotton was made in a factory or what the working conditions were. The factories are very loud and noisy, to the point where you can barely hear yourself think because unlike America, China uses real machines as opposed to electric ones. You can hear the metal moving from the machines. Rivoli describes it as a “metal blanket.” There are cotton flurries floating around everywhere that land all over everyone and the machines. It is is difficult to breathe because the air is so dusty which is produced by the machines. The machines are set up like an assembly line, one machine attaching to another. These working conditions seem horrible. Personally, I am very claustrophobic, so I think I would find it hard to breathe with all the dust and cotton flurries floating around. The loud noises from the machines seem like they would irritate me. I cannot believe Chinese factory workers work in these conditions for so cheap. If you really think about it, they must be very dedicated, determined workers. Moving over to Japan, the conditions were just as poor. The first cotton mill workers were women. They were trying to escape working on farms because they were not making enough money. They worked 12 hour days and got two days off a month. They lived in provided housing by the company. The women were required to work for the mills for 3-5 years. The women had to share beds and even pajamas. They were only allowed within the wired fences. The living was very dirty and the food was low quality. Diseases spread very easily. These conditions seem worse then the ones in China because they have to live in the factory housing. The pay was low and the women lived in a very unhealthy environment, just like the factories in China. Finally, in the mid-1990s there was something done about poor labor conditions. People noticed the labor abuse in the Nike Corporation factories. They hired underaged workers, forced workers to work overtime, had safety violations, and had poor factory conditions. Eventually, it became unusual for brand-name companies, like Nike, to own factories. Later, laws were passed to make sure working conditions were bearable.
Part 2 of The Travels of a T-shirt was more interesting than part 1. It still amazes me that America can be one of the largest cotton exporters, but the T-shirt still says “Made In China” at the end. This section gives us a better understanding of Chinese working conditions. Wages across the globe are still not standardized which allows the Chinese factory owners to pay very little to their workers. This is also why men make more money than women and children. These jobs are not ideal. The book paints a picture of how these conditions are set up in the factories. There is rows of workers preforming the same task all day. In the end of all of these stages a T-shirt is produced.
Reading the stories from the children was interesting. Children that grew up on farms would rather go work in factories, despite all the hours and horrible pay. These stories give us a sense of the hours and hardship that these workers go through. One girl said she worked from 4am to 7am and had to cut through the bark of 400 rubber trees without light. There are so many things wrong with that. Many workers left government owned factories to go work for private companies. They were treated better with less physical and emotional abuse.
Americans take for granted everything we have. When we work, no matter what age, there is a minimum wage we will be paid, no matter what gender we are. There are government agencies that make sure working conditions are safe and a healthy environment for workers. Chinese workers, starting as children, are forced to work. Factories are the majority of the jobs. It does not matter about the risks or the pay, these workers will preform the jobs. Gender roles are more separated in China because men are viewed as harder workers, even though women tend to listen more and get paid less. It is interesting to have a clearer picture of what a factory in China would look like. I still do not agree with the factory conditions, but I enjoy learning more about it.
Upon reading the second section of this book, I became much more aware of the cotton and textile industry that was was unaware of before. For example, when products state that they are “made in china”, I always thought that every aspect of that product came from china. However, like stated in the book, the cotton was grown in the U.S. then shipped to China, which is where the final stage occurred. I liked how the author described the history if the textile industry with the revolution, Mao Zedong and the communists. It was interesting to find out that the loom was brought to the U.S. from England by Francis Cabot Lowell who had memorized and stole the idea from England, thus starting the Industrial Revolution.
Although I was already aware of the harsh labor conditions of working in the factories back then, I did not realize that such conditions are still present today in China. For example, a factory in China producing Nike merchandise was participating in such conditions. It was also terrible to read how some children died while working in the factories by the machinery and people catching lung diseases from the cotton in the air. Although I have heard about it before, it was sad to hear the details of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. The author described Rose Rosenfeld’s experience in the factory and the terrifying scene of her friends and coworkers falling from the burning building. Such a lack of factory accommodations like sprinklers, escapes and alarms made the fire such a huge disaster.
After learning of the work conditions and intensive labor that was put upon workers in factories, it was surprising to hear that people like Liang Ying would still choose this life over working on a farm. This makes you wonder of the hard work that is involved on a farm, like cutting through hundreds of trees to collect rubber juice. I believe that the second part of “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy” has opened my eyes about the cotton and textile industry such as the history and process.
Part two of this book really grabbed my attention. Chapter 4 really put in perspective the amount of cotton that goes into making shirts. Just an acre of farmland can produce 1,200 t-shirts each year. That is a huge amount especially just for an acre. It was interesting to learn that China consumes nearly one-third of the world cotton production. The reason why China consume so much cotton is because they produce and export such a large volume of clothing. Even though I have learned about the poor conditions that textile and apparel factory workers work in countless times, it still shocks me every time I read or hear about it. Young women being forced to work such long hours every single day of the week for almost no pay. They do not even earn a dollar an hour and under terrible conditions. Most people in the United States and around the world do not want to work for the minimum wage of 7-10 dollars an hour. We could not even fathom this type of work. Yes, China is the leading provider of textiles and apparel but under the conditions that they have earned this title it is very sad. Most consumers in the U.S. do not even contemplate whether their T-shirts that they wear were made under these types of conditions. Many people just like and condone the fact that we can get T-shirts for cheap because the work in China is so cheap. Something I really found interesting was, with all the technology that has been developed and all the machines that have replaced the need for people, the making of clothing still mandates the use of people. Clothing and fabrics could not be put together solely by machines, a human is needed in this process at one point or another.
I found part II of this book to be more of an eye opener into the life of a factory worker in China and other developing regions. As mentioned in previous lectures these developing nations have a comparative advantage in producing apparel because it is so labor intensive. Pietra Rivoli even comments in part II about how little the garment stage of production has changed in comparison to that of the textile industry which has become so technologically dependent. From these chapters though, I further learned that its not just the “surplus” of labor available in China which ultimately puts downward pressure on wages and working conditions, but also the way Chinese citizens live which enhances their advantage in manufacturing.
I was very surprised to read about the Hukou system in place in China, and how it has affected the apparel manufacturing sector there. I could not imagine being told where to live and where I can and cannot go. I thought it was very interesting that the system was described as a “broad experiment in controlling a population” and how it is a “competitive strength” to the industry there. It was also interesting to learn about the roles each of the regions rural, suburban, and urban play within the various industries there and how there is a quota on how many “floating people” can be hired to work in a factory. After reading about the limit in place and how much cheaper the labor cost of a migrant worker was, I was not shocked to learn that they make up 70-80% of the textile/apparel industry workforce there. These migrant workers are desperate to leave the farms and willing to do painstaking work for a low cost. In the apparel manufacturing industry they are an employers dream.
After reading about the Hukou system and how much of the population in China is desperate for work, I felt I was able to further understand how China has remained the world’s largest exporter of apparel since 1993. The Hukou system is a large cause for the income inequality in China, and doesn’t allow for much mobility. Also, if you don’t have the “3 not haves” once you reach an urban area, then you are detained or sent back home. The permits cost half a monthly wage, and by the time one is able to obtain it, they may have to apply for a new one. These things don’t make it easy for a migrant worker to gain a better life and they then will continue to work in poor conditions for low pay. In my opinion is seems to be a vicious cycle. It was also mentioned in the reading that Shanghai Brightness competes with 11,00 t-shirt manufacturers in China alone. Consumers constantly demand quality products at cheaper costs, as made apparent by the cost difference of Rivoli’s T-shirt (from $6 to 4 for $10) which I feel will continue to make matters worse. This has led me to believe that the consumers are also somewhat to blame for this “race to the bottom”.
The so called “race to the bottom” is a topic which I am really intrigued by and as mentioned in the reading I am very interested in seeing if it has a bottom, and how things will pan out in the future, especially for China. This pattern of industrialization which was jump-started by textile manufacturing has thrived on low labor and poor conditions. Countries such as the U.S, and Japan have since cycled through becoming developed and ultimately disregarding the T&A industry in exchange for others, like the Southern Mill Cotton Kingdom in Charlotte now housing a Bank of America Headquarters. These countries have begun a “race to the top”. It seems China has yet to move away from T&A manufacturing like other countries have. I can’t help but begin to wonder with the surplus of labor in China and Hukou system in place if this will ever happen.
I enjoyed reading Part Two: Made in China a lot more then the previous section. The information focused on the conditions of the factories and how much women and children were used and relied on in the apparel making industry because of the pace they moved at and their obedience. I thought it was really smart and incisive how the author compared the working conditions of both China and Texas. One thing I learned in this section that was shocking, was how many women preferred to work in textile mills and factories over farms, especially because there are so many limitations and more risks health wise working in a factory. Girls starting as young as the age of 7 were working in factories for 12 hour days in the early 1900s. This bit of information really hit me because I could not imagine myself as a seven year old girl waking up every morning and going to work for 12 hours at a factory for very little pay. But that was the lifestyle back then.
This book has made me really appreciate the oppritunities we have here in the US when it comes to working. I think many of us do not appreciate the benefits and pay we receive. Women and children who work in factories in China that are pretty much sweatshops work very tiring hours and shifts for pay that they can barely live off of.
Finally, there was one quote in chapter 5 that made me think as well about the whole apparel industry and it’s history, ” The production of textiles and apparel is almost as old as agriculture, and, since the beginning, agriculture and textiles have been linked”. I never really thought about how much of an impact textiles and the production of them have affected other industries like agriculture and always have affected them in the past. It’s an endless cycle of production and growth
After reading part II, I learned a lot about the reasons for “Made in China”. It was interesting to learn about how when Rivoli went to the factories that they were actually welcoming of her, but it did not surprise me that after she published her book they were not as willing to let her into their factories again. As she was describing the inside of the factories I thought it was very interesting to know how exactly the cotton is taken from the boxes of Texas to China and back. I enjoyed reading about how textile factories started and where they are going. Learning about how they moved from England, to the USA, then over to Hong-Kong, Korea and Taiwan. Knowing that it is all about the right price and how to get cheap and quick fashion. I was surprised to lean about how New England was a leader in the textile factories at one point. I feel as though now we only hear about how it is over seas where all of this happens, but knowing that at one point it was in the USA was something I enjoyed learning about.
I think the part that made the most impact on me was the parts about the different girls. They are so young and working 8 hours a day for 15-18 cents a day was so surprising to read about. They have to live in small, cramped dorms provided by the factories and eat poor food. I have known about most of these things, but what I was most surprised about was how these girls like this as a job. They are thankful that they can leave their family farms and be able to earn their own many. It gives them a sense of independence. They get to leave the lives that their parents have planned for them, for something that they can plan themselves. Although, I still do not agree in the way that they are treated, if they feel it is right for them then there is nothing more that they can asked for. I really enjoyed reading this section of the book, it has opened my eyes to a lot of different things and have learned a lot that I did not know before. I am excited to read part III of this book.
Like most people, I enjoyed reading part two more than part one. Reading about cotton and textiles in China was interesting to me because China is so dominant in apparel production today. Chapter 5 was really engaging for me to read because Rivoli talked about the factories from first hand experience. To me, that made it much more believable and overall easier to read. I liked his descriptions of the Chinese factories compared to Texas, but I really felt bad for the workers overseas when he mentions the awful environmental conditions. It may be cheaper and easier to produce there, but sometimes the conditions aren’t always ideal. Luckily, labor activists work to end “sweatshops” overseas. It’s still sad to think that goes on, and makes me wonder if the people producing my clothing suffered in those conditions (I hope not). Reading about women and children workers in chapter 6 was kind of eye opening. I learned a lot that I hadn’t previously known about labor conditions in cotton mills. For example, I did not know that women’s labor was cheaper and that they worked in the mills. I thought that maybe they would stay at home back in those days. The rest of chapter 6 was interesting because it discussed “the race to the bottom”, between different countries. I liked reading about the labor conditions in each, and who the laborers were. Jiang Lan’s story in chapter 7 was definitely cool to read, although I can’t imagine doing her job every day. I had never heard of the hukou system until reading this chapter. Lee’s social experiment was very interesting, especially hearing the reasons the women chose to work in the factories, which were definitely unexpected. Reading about the injuries and deaths in the industry in chapter 8 was pretty depressing and thankfully conditions are better and much safer today.
After reading part two, Made in China, there were many new facts that I learned. Just like in the beginning, when one thinks “made in china”, one never thinks that the cotton was grown in America then brought over to china to create the yarn and fabric that is now a shirt. Thinking made in China means each step was done in china. Which is in fact not true at all. “China was one of the things grownups talked about, one of the topics that would make his parents shake sigh and shake their heads” (77) America was and still is losing their jobs and being sent over to china and other developing countries. It is not a very new topic but still one many are not thrilled about.
I was very shocked to hear about Shanghai being related to an adult version of Disney land, and it was more for the tourist. Their works only had two days off per year. Which I see as absurd, but for them it was natural. Then china finally had their revolution, but so far it did no compare to the revolution here in America.
Then I found the topic called “The Chinese Wall” very interesting. While Riloli wrote the first book, it was easy to talk to the people in the factory. Everyone was welcoming and open hearted, but to write the second edition many factories in China turned down the interviews. Then it was compared to Texas. They are welcoming to anyone no matter why they are down in the cotton fields. Just the Texans said, if someone is willing to come down to this barren land all they can be is welcoming and kind.
In the next chapter it talked about “The Long Road to the Bottom” this talked about throughout the years where the cheapest labor has been found, and used. Starting off with Britain, while China was cut off from the western countries. Then an American went over to Britain grabbed the information from the cotton mill and brought it to America. This created the American revolution ( and a truly made in America product) Just this revolution finished and a new industrial revolution occurred in Japan. This had the cheapest labor and the most efficient. “By the mid-1970, Hong Kong was the world’s largest exporter if goods” (103)
Just overall in every chapter there is a main key point. Labor, mainly children and women working in mills for a cheap price. They are all overworked in each country and paid less than if a man was working the same job. which still happens today in America. Just you can see history repeat itself within different countries and that each country develops at a different pace. Its unusual to think about but something I find interesting. As well as the rest of the section and the vivid description about the different places Rivoli visited. This section was very interesting and I cannot wait to read the next section.
Part 2 of “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy” fascinated me and kept me even more intrigued than part 1 did. I really enjoyed the way Rivoli switched the topics from Texas to China. Great, vivid details were used and it really helped me better understand and imagine the things Rivoli talked about, such as the working conditions for the women in sweatshops. They went through such intensive, hard labor and received no benefits and little pay. But, as terrible and harsh as the conditions they would go through were some of the women took pride in their work and that was inspiring to me. They had no choice because they were desperate for a job. This is inspiring because people today, especially in the U.S., take pride in what they do but most likely would not choose to go through hard labor conditions with basically no pay. Jiang’s story was especially touching to me because she certainly took a lot of pride in her work even though there was nothing special about it.
Something I was unaware of and a little taken back by was the fact that children in China also had to work in the factories and were put through hard labor too. Also, that some children had died because of certain machinery. This was all just hard to read because it is so inhumane and sad. The lifestyles between the U.S. and China are just so different that it is pretty hard to believe.
When reading more about how a t-shirt is actually made, I learned some things that I never knew or realized before. When I see a “Made in China” tag I usually assume that product was made in China, but that really is not completely true. The cotton that is grown in America usually ends up back in America or the production is done somewhere else instead of in China. I found this to be an interesting fact.
After reading Part 2, I do appreciate my life in the U.S. a little more because it has certainly opened my eyes to many things I had not known before. It makes me feel grateful for all the opportunities and the lifestyles we have as American citizens because the things that go on in so many areas of the world are just really horrible. I look forward to continue reading and learning more in the next part of this book.
Although I felt part I of Travels of a T-shirt was packed with eye-opening information, part II contained even more surprising material. The differences between the work environment in the United States and the work environment in China become very apparent to me after reading part II.
Rivoli described the working conditions in China to be substandard. It is hard to imagine how difficult it would be to work in a mill for 12 hours a day and get paid so little. Rivoli described the story of Jiang, who works in a mill almost 50 hours a week. She does not mind her job, as most Chinese workers would prefer to work in a mill than on a farm. Because the air quality, the working conditions, the pay, and the hours are so horrible, I would assume that the farm would be a more appealing job! I was shocked to read that most people would rather be in a mill, however, it seems this is one of the few ways that Chinese women can make money for their families. I hope that as China becomes a more developed country, they raise the standards of their working conditions for their people.
Reading about New England’s contribution to the textile industry, I felt proud to be from a historic place. However, it is such a shame that so many of the textile mills around here have been converted into condos, campuses, etc., as the companies have outsourced their manufacturing. It was interesting to read about how Texas still has a lively cotton industry, while New England seems to have shut their doors on the textile world. I am looking forward to part III of Travels of a T-shirt, where Rivoli discusses trouble at the border.
Don’t feel sad. textile mills are gone, but new industry & jobs are created~
While reading part two of “Travels of a T-shirt”, there were a few parts that stuck out to me specifically and heavily impacted my reading. The part that had the largest impact on me was the discussion of the working conditions of young women within the sweatshops. One incident specifically cites that young women are “forced to work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, earning as little as 12-18 cents a day”. These words completely blew me away. We have talked about the poor working conditions of Chinese workers throughout the semester, but reading about it in depth and hearing specific incidents really opened my eyes about how radically different their lives are from lives within the United States. As our country continues to fight through a recession, we don’t realize even at our weakest economic point, we are still so lucky compared to many others throughout the world. And it is because of our recession that companies fight to provide the cheapest price for clothing for the American consumer, which in turn continues to provide Chinese workers with low wages and devastating work conditions. Another part I found interesting is when the author explained the similarities and differences between Lubbock, Texas and Shanghai. It’s interesting to read how the cotton and textile industry can have an effect on a country’s whole culture. It made me laugh to think that the cotton industry could have such a big impact on a country that you could find a Texas style barbeque restaurant within Shanghai. Although the two places are on other ends of the globe, they find ways to impact each other every day through globalization, and how globalization has gone so far to impact the culture of one’s city.
“To a child, the China conversations were like the weather conversations, or the cotton price conversations. China, cotton prices, weather: the wild cards in the life of a Texas cotton farmer. Lamar remembers only that China mattered.”
That last part on the opening page of chapter four really caught my attention, because I can absolutely relate to that feeling. Growing up, I didn’t know much about China, but I knew it mattered. Its importance, I was unsure of, but I always remember the presence of the “Made in China” label. It’s funny how Texas and Shanghai, two extremely different cultural cities, can turn out to be such a perfect match in the textile industry.
Although I remember you mentioning this in class, I think it’s interesting that the gaping divided between the poor sweatshop workers of the East and the rich consumers of the West is relatively recent phenomenon. And I’m not entirely unsure I understand how this happens. I love that the Industrial Revolution happened in New England though, I think it’s neat that we are studying the subject matter that took place here. Despite China’s bitter feelings toward the United State’s cheating their way into an Industrial Revolution, wouldn’t it have eventually been brought to another country anyway. One could argue that China should have been more proactive in getting this technology.
Learning abut the conditions of the sweatshop and farm, and then applying them to actual people felt more tangible as a student who often hears about this situations. I thought it was cool that the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution took place in Manchester, England because I’ve been there before, but it’s really too bad that there’s little cotton cloth production and has become something of the past. Just like you’ve mentioned in class several times, the textile and apparel industry is just one sector, so perhaps it’s in the economies best interest. I have visited Slater Mill in Pawtucket before, and although it’s not used any more, it was really neat to learn about the first successful factory producing cotton thread. But it stills leaves you wondering if factory jobs will ever be a big deal again the U.S., and what will happen when they’re not anymore in China?
Good comment and excellent questions! To your last question, my personal view: 1) you probably will have to add at least one zero to the price tag of your clothing; 2) many Chinese people will die from hunger because of lack of job opportunity. 3) US economy will decline as well because no one wants US cotton… That’s why personally I still believe that globalization improves our life although in an unbalanced way.
As I started reading Part II, I found myself more interested in the material in this particular part of the book. The first fact that immediately stood out to me was that in 2007, China shipping nearly 365 million cotton knit shirts to the U.S. I found that to be unbelievable that it really does justify that China is the leading exporter in the world. The text also explained that China does dominate the global textile and apparel industry while the U.S. dominates the world cotton markets. Although China is producing apparel for the United States for a cheaper price for our country, is China not benefiting as much as we think they are? I am interested to see what the Chinese really think about the pitiful wages they receive after producing the cheapest shirts. Described in another article in this part, I was very interested in the “sweatshop” stories that were explained.
One of the story’s explained in the text is how young women are forced to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day, and earning as little as 12 to 18 cents an hour with no benefits. Not only are their wages completely unacceptable but the conditions they must work in are dirty rooms and cramped up spaces. This example really made me second guess how the costs of globalization possibly may outweigh the rewards. Yes, we may be saving a large amount of money to have China produce our apparel but the respect is obviously not the number one priority to realize for the workers who are working hard with no benefits from themselves. I think our country needs to recognize how willingly the Chinese workers in these factories even though it isn’t fair.
Another part of the book I was shocked to read about was how “Female cotton workers in prewar Japan were referred to as “birds in a cage,” given their grueling schedules–12 hour days and two days off per month–and captive lives in the company boardinghouses.” To make sure they didn’t leave the premise, there were fences topped with bamboo spears and barbed wire. I couldn’t believe I read that and how female labor was allowed to be that way. What I got from this article is that they were looked down upon and always had to do exactly what they were asked to do without any other choice. Rivoli really made some great points about the severity of the demand of doing such hard work with no benefits. This really opened my eyes to such serious issues of the harsh treatment of workers in China and Japan. I enjoyed Part II more than Part I because it grabs the reader in a different way. He gives examples that make the reader think about the conditions they lived through and living in currently.
It’s great that you recognize the controversy of globalization!
Part 2 did a really good job continuing from Part 1. I really liked how America and China were compared side by side, showing the similarities and differences between the two locations in terms of economy and labor. It was interesting to see that since most cotton fibers are produced in the United States, the shirt is still mostly assembled overseas. It was shocking to read about the working conditions in detail; this shows how far our country has come along in industrialization. Even so, most Americans hate their jobs when they are paid adequately and with good working conditions, while Chinese workers are happy being employed making a tiny portion of what American workers make. This shows how dramatically different the lifestyles are in the two different countries.
Before reading this part of the book, I did not realize how important our exporting of cotton is. Our production is higher than the rest of the world. The climate, in combination with abundance of capital and technology, we can produce more cotton, faster, and have it exported quicker than other countries. This gives us an advantage in the cotton market.
In the second section of this book it was interesting to be able to piece the different sectors together. The cities of Lubbock and Shanghai have been linked together by cotton fiber for nearly a century where revolution in Lubbock has taken place alongside revolution in Shanghai. When the Texas cotton arrives in Shanghai, it enters not just a new country but also a new global industry. In the first section of this book we learned that it takes a little over a third of a pound of cotton lint to produce a T-shirt, maybe 15 cents’ worth, so we know that the labor components is what raises the overall costs. It was interesting to hear about Rivoli’s personal experience in the factories. I could understand why Ravoli being a publisher, the factories abroad could be hesitant to speak with him again. Hearing the conditions of the Chinese factories could leave a negative impression and sympathy for the workers.
I enjoyed Ravoli’s insight into the different factory sectors in Shanghai as he took us through all the steps to create a finished product. I was able to understand the terms that were mentioned through this process thanks to my previous enrollment in 301, Textile Lab with Dr. Bide. The first factory described was the Cotton Yarn Factory where the cotton bales are hacked open, and the contents are sucked into a French- made vacuum cleaner. In the next factory, the Reinsch cotton is again transformed, this time from yarn into clothing. This is where China becomes more labor intensive than any other sector. This is where fabric is cut into pieces: sleeves, fronts, back, and collars, all done manually.
There has been many technological advances when it comes to producing better, faster, and cheaper cotton fiber, yarn and fabric over the years, while garment stage of production hasn’t changed much at all. This reading made me recognize the severity of working conditions in China and I thought to myself, how would I really know as a consumer the working conditions behind closed doors. The China Price, Alexandra Harney argues that relentless pressure on coasts has led to widespread cheating and deception in China’s garment industry. The sweatshops, Harney contends, are skillfully and creatively hidden. I agree that a quest to produce the cheapest shirts puts a downward pressure on wages and working conditions and directly affects the workers of China. As a nation are we doing everything we can to change these conditions or are we just looking for the lowest wages? As these sweatshop stories surface our globalized nation will have to make a decision on what happens next? Will there be a potential new location where wages are fairer and if so how will this affect the workers of China?
your questions are just excellent!
As I was reading part II of “The Travels of a T-shirt” in the global economy, what really caught my attention was the part about the “sweatshops” in China. It’s crazy to think that in China they have machines to do every stage of production of a t-shirt except for the sewing. It’s the sewing that brings out the immorality of a “sweatshop.” While reading about the “sweatshops”, it upset me thinking about young women being forced to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day, with no benefits, cramped in housing, stripped of their legal rights and earning as little as 12 to 18 cents an hour.
In the next chapter they talked about the early cotton mill workers in the United States. The workers that were recruited for the cotton mill required little skill. Manufactures found that men were more difficult to work with so hiring women and children would be the best decision. They even mentioned that married women with young children at home would make great workers. What caught my attention was the part where working conditions were compared to a jail. In a jail, working hours were shorter and the lunch breaks were longer. It’s pretty extreme to think that that’s how some things used to be in the United States, yet it’s still like that in parts of China with the sweatshops.
Reading part II of this book has opened my eyes. It breaks my heart learning about the sweatshops in China and how children at such a young age are forced to grow up so fast and leave their families just to get 18 cents an hour.
great thoughts!! I totally understand your points. I hope the conditions can improve as well. But on the other hand, it is also a question where these kids could go if they are not working in factories? this is the dilemma faced by many developing countries today
Before reading part 2 of “Travels of a T-Shirt” I was unfamiliar with the significance of the hukou system in China and how it has given China its competitiveness by ensuring a large labor supply through the use of migrant workers, which represent 70 to 80 percent of apparel, textile, and construction workers in China. I think it’s ironic that although they make up a large percent of the work force and contribute to China’s competitive advantage, they are treated like second class citizens under the hukou system. I guess if they were treated fairly, the migrant workers would demand better pay, thus diminishing China’s competitive advantage.
I think it is interesting how China was a major market for the Southern mills in the late 1800’s, with many mills selling virtually all of their products to China. This just shows how much trade patterns have changed, with the United States as China’s market today.
I enjoy how the author tells both sides of the story by explaining both the good and bad of textile and apparel factories. She explains that countries that have lost the “race to the bottom” now have some of the most advanced economies in the world. Although they began with the evils of the sweatshops to compete, they end up with an advanced economy that no longer has the cheap rural poor in search of work, but educated high-income workers. You have to start off with the bad to get the good end result. The author also explains the evils that occur in the factories, including overcrowding, health related issues, and overtime work, yet she also explains the benefits these factories provide, such as choices, freedom, and education. I am related to Barilla Taylor, who moved from rural Maine to Lowell, Mass. to work in a factory. Virginia Taylor, whom I am also related to, wrote a book about Barilla’s experiences in the Lowell factory. She explained how Barilla would enjoy the freedoms of being able to spend her money on clothes and have access to the library. Barilla also experienced the evils of factory work, such as a co-workers being scalped by machines and Barilla dying at a young age from lung disease. Although these health related issues are less common today, the author of “Travels of a T-shirt” explains the costs and benefits factories provide workers today, explaining both sides of the story.
although it sounds hard to accept, it is true that the debate about hukou system is very similar to the debate about immigrants here in the US. There is such a huge development gap in China between the urban and the rural areas. Government worries that if hukou system is removed, migrants will flood into the cities. How many people live in Shanghai now? almost 20 million, despite the implementation of the hukou system.
I found myself a lot more interested in part two of the book then in part one. This part really held my interest the whole way through because of all of the interesting information it was telling me. I found it really interesting the way that the book compared the US and China in terms of labor and economy. It shed light on the multiple similarities and differences the two countries have. One really interseting fact that I read was that most cotton is made in the US and most assembly is done overseas. It was really interesting to read how the US dominates the cotton industry and how China dominates the apparel industry. I never knew the US was dominating the the cotton industry I just thought that we grew cotton here it was a really interesting fact.
Another part of this section that I found to be so interesting and that really held my interest was the part that talked about the sweatshops and showed the differences in the working enviorment in china and in the US. Reading about the working details about the working conditions people work in in those sweat shops was shocking. I know that I have heard things about how terrible the conditions are but I think reading about it in detail in this section it really hit me. The differences are so extreme it is shocking tk read. Children working in those sweatshops is really surprising but what was even more shocking was that some children have died because of some machines.
The last thing I read about that I found was interesting is something we have discussed in class. If something says “made in China” that doesn’t mean the whole product is made in China. The cotton is grown and made in the US and then the product ends In China and is shipped back to the United States after the product is finished.
I really end enjoyed learning about all of these things and look forward to learning more and reading further over the semester.
many great thoughts!
I found the section titled The Chinese Wall, to be most interesting in chapter 5. Like other readers, I too was wondering if it was reality or a show behind the walls of the Chinese factories. It is interesting how it was easy for Rivoli to access the factories and workers and mangers were welcoming and forthcoming. After the first edition of the book was translated to Chinese in 2006, everything changed. “In retrospect, I see that my initial easy access to factories, workers, and mangers was the result of the fact that I was both a Professor and a Nobody. China has great respect for education, so the fact that he was a Professor is what got him to where he wanted to be. When he went back as a writer, he was denied access to the factories. This surprised me because writing is still a part of education because it is teaching others.
I was surprised to read that children could begin working at the factories as young as age five! Because little skill was required for most of the jobs in the factories, many children qualified for the jobs and most came from poorhouses. I think it is terrible to have such young children working in the factories. There should be an age requirement for work in every country just like there is an age law for labor in the United States. “Children and rural women were recruited by early mill owners not only because of their abundance and low price, but also because owners found them temperamentally well-suited to the mind-numbing drudgery of early textile work. Although I understand that factories and companies want to hire people that are willing to work for low wages, children should be an exception because they still need to learn a lot throughout their childhood and they should not be penalized for their age and vulnerability.
Although the working and living conditions of mill girls are a disgrace, the story of young girls working on farms is even more unfathomable. A nine-year-old girl should not have to wake up extremely early in the morning to do difficult labor all day. From driving bullocks to field and fetching them again, to feeding the animals, milking the animals, and field leading horses or bullocks to plough, it is all a shock to me.
I learned a lot from this part of The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy. I was intrigued to read about working conditions, cotton in China, and the personal experiences of Rivoli. I am looking forward to reading the next part!
While reading part 2 of “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy” a major factor, which caught my attention was the authenticity of what the author was witnessing while visiting the manufacturing factories in China. “When I did visit a factory, readers wondered, how did I know weather I was seeing reality or seeing a show? Would not the real conditions in the factories be kept hidden from visitors”. This sparked my interest because I know personally I have watched documentaries of people in attempt to expose the harsh conditions which occur in Chinese factories and they are usually very restricted as to what they are able to film and share with the public. I found it interesting that the two Chinese factories, which the author dealt with in his first book, refused to have him visit again after the book was published. The reading addressed that, while sewing is the only factor of the production process which is not mechanized, it is also the leading cause of sweatshops. It is almost as if factory owners are using their employees as machines rather then people. They expect them to be able to produce at the speed and capacity of which a machine could. This would explain the high quotas and long work hours which are forced upon Chinese manufacturer workers.
The text explains that sweatshops are not only unethical, but also extremely hazardous to the employees health and well-being. I believe that the low cost of “T-shirts” in America is not worth the consequences which employees are facing in China. Today, with China’s textile and apparel complex leading the global industry, it is unlikely that these working conditions are going to change unless the United States is active in the fight to remove sweatshops and unfair working conditions.
Part II of “The Travels of a T-Shirt” was interesting to read and provided me with significant information about the Chinese manufacturing industry that I was previously unaware of. Beginning with Chapter 5, the author explains that the growth of the cotton farm in Lubbock, Texas and the growth of apparel manufacturing factories in Shanghai, China occurred simultaneously. However, since Lubbock’s initial growth it has stayed the same for quite some years, where as China is constantly changing and growing. The author points out the poor conditions that still exist in factories and how the unfair time demands have weakened the family structure of China. Chinese agriculture is also suffering due to the increasing pressure on manufacturers to lower costs, leading them to incorrectly dump toxins into surrounding air and water.
Chapter 6 elaborates on the history of early mill conditions beginning in the 1700’s. British factory owners often sought out rural women and children to work for them, as did the New England factories years later. “In both cases, the growth of the cotton textile industry was dependent on a multitude of poor people with few alternatives, and in both cases the ‘ideal’ laborer was hardy, docile, and uncomplaining” (Rivoli 99). The chapter then goes on to state that the “golden age” of New England manufacturing was much shorter than Great Britain’s; manufacturing moved to the south where slavery was utilized.
Chapter 7 explains that the comparative advantage of Chinese manufacturing not only lies within the abundant labor and low wages, but within the individuals who comprise the labor force. The word “docility” is a word often used to explain the composure of an efficient factory worker. The book states that Chinese government has created laws in a way that leaves many citizens with a lack of alternatives. Being faced with minimal opportunity, subliminally forces Chinese citizens to appreciate any severely labor-intensive job that they are able to obtain. For these reasons, advanced economies with high paying standards, have had their apparel manufacturing industries virtually disappear.
Even though it appears that factory workers in Asian countries are not left with any other options, chapter 8 states that there are many activists who believe that these workers should not be persuaded into accepting these work conditions. Many trade agreements have been created in efforts to protect these workers who are taken advantage of but they are not always respected. “Many activists argue that the conditions for workers in Asian apparel factories are comparable to, or worse than, those found centuries ago in Europe and America” (Rivoli 120). Trade and globalization skeptics continue to argue that the greed of importers and exporters have exploited the “poor and powerless.”
I really enjoyed reading part two of this book. I liked how the author emphasized how different Lubbock and Shanghai are but how they are bound together by both of their needs for cotton. Since Americans demand cheap clothing from China, China must demand cotton from America. I thought it was interesting that when the author was a “nobody” she could visit any textile factory but once she was a writer, it was hard for her to return. It is obvious that she was no longer as welcome as before because these factories did not want their working conditions to be publicized. When she described the factories I found the conditions that people were forced to work under to be very disturbing. I think that many people are blind to the conditions that people work under because most people are not educated about this. It is easy to just buy a t-shirt without thinking twice about where it came from or under what circumstances the people in the factories were working under. I liked how Rivoli really goes into the process of how a t-shirt is made, from where it is harvested in Texas, to the production in China, and then back to us. She paints a clear picture of what the factories in China are like and how much goes into not only a shirt, but a “sliver” of cotton. It is really sad to read about the long, tedious hours and terrible conditions that many young people work in to make a t-shirt both as cheap and as fast as possible because of how demanding we are as consumers. Not only that, but we are also destroying our environment because of it.
Chapter 6 continues to discuss that mill owners hired women and children because they were cheaper, more obedient and married women with families to feed would work harder. Many women and children would be forced to work under these conditions because they had no other alternative, so the mill owners could get away will subjecting them to such terrible conditions such as working 12 hour days for 12 to 18 cents. I also thought it was interesting that some women actually enjoyed their jobs such us cutting thread which they would do for hours on end. However, I was pleased to learn in chapter 8 that there are organizations trying to improve working conditions and labor laws.
I liked that While I was reading part two of this book I could relate it to class. I found it interesting that the book mentioned that it is impossible to get more than one or two minutes into a conversation about cotton anywhere in the world before someone mentions China. This is true for our textile markets class as well. We talked about China’s production in class and the book reassured that China was projected to produce more than 40 percent of the world’s cotton textiles. That is a huge percentage of the whole world to put into perspective. I also learned interesting facts throughout the book. One fact being that it takes a little over a third of a pound of cotton lint to produce a t-shirt 15 cents worth.
I enjoyed how Rivoli shared that she was treated differently in China once she was perceived as a writer rather than a professor. The fact that writers are feared in China and courted in places such as Washington made me think about the different cultures. It also made me wonder how they felt about her book once it was available in Chinese and if they were offended. The way Rivoli described the factories was another fascinating aspect of the book. She was completely right when she said that when most people think about factories they think about a linear assembly. When she described that the actual process is a transformation rather than an assembly I was able to picture the process in my head. I was also able to relate some of the things she was describing to what I learned in TMD 303.
Throughout part 2 of the book I found interest in the way that she told the history of the textile factories in each of the different countries/areas. Reading that by the late 1800’s the world’s largest textile mills were in New England is something that I never knew. Since I am from Massachusetts, I found the information from Lowell to be of interest as well.
Lastly, although it was a long time ago I remember the uproar of the Nike being charged for underage workers, forced overtime and safety violations. Rivoli brought up the same question that we discussed in class, “is Nike responsible for the conditions in their suppliers’ factories?” I liked how to book explained that Nike is motivated to prove that you can’t make good products in bad factories. I am excited to keep reading this book and find out more information.
The second part of “Travels of a T-Shirt” embarks on the industrial production of the cotton plant that was first introduced in Texas. The cotton plant has now been transported to China. From a reader and consumer point of view, I was taken aback by the many steps workers would have to do in order to come up with a product.
The author described many of the workers lives, many who were women and children. As workers, they are subjected to horrible conditions and pitiful wages. As I was reading this, it reminded me of a mill near my home called the Lowell Mills located in Massachusetts. Growing up near the area we learned about how poorly treated the workers were handled. In the 1800’s, this was one of the first mills that weaved and spinned textiles all in one place. Many of the workers were small children and young women, just like the same workers featured in China even in this day in age.
China , as a whole ignores the proper “labor laws” when it comes to factory work. The country is forced to lose some of safety concerns due to the demand of many products. The United States recognized it’s mistakes in the past when it came to the improper handling of workers within the industrialization, not only in the textile and apparel industry. As a country today, we wouldn’t condone this type of mistreatment of workers. These chapters in the books give an inside to some of the factories in China, the owners are able to thrive off of the lack of enforcement from the country. The country will continue to be one of the highest producers of textiles and apparel until the labor laws are taken more into account.
As consumers we are aware of what is going on in China, but at the same time we still demand the products we want , often not thinking about the toll it takes on others. These chapters serve as an extreme contrast compared to the production industry within the United States.
Despite the horrid working conditions for low wage factory workers in China; Chinese workers still prefer to work for factories instead of on their family farms in their home villages. The wages are more and the hours are better, taking into consideration some workers in factories work 12 hours a day. The comparative advantage China has over the U.S. is excess in labor and unskilled workers. Factory work is an upgrade for lower-class farm workers. In part two of The Travels of A T-shirt in the Global Economy the working conditions of Chinese low-class workers are described.
In many of the videos I have watched about Chinese sweatshops in past classes, before textile markets, I received the impression that factory owners were not providing the reporters much information about wages, and conditions of workers. Hours, wages, and breaks of workers were told but factory owners would not admit forcing overtime on its workers by waking up workers in the middle of the night to complete work given last minute, despite several interviews with workers saying otherwise. The author of the T-shirt book describes to the reader the same conflict between workers versus factory owners on different ideas of working hours.
What I found most intriguing about part two of the book was that factory owners of Shanghai Number 36 Cotton Yarn Factory and the Shanghai Brightness Number 3 Garment Factory were willing to have Pietra Rivoli, the author of The Travels of A T-shirt in the Global Economy tour the factories for the first edition of the book, in 2005, but not the second, in 2009. The reason for this was because factory owners were now aware of Rivoli’s intentions. The author talks about how different areas around the world treated him differently while he was writing the first edition of this book versus the second edition, which I am currently reading. The question I had in mind was like many readers of the first edition how did Rivoli know “whether I was seeing reality or seeing a show?”(81) When factory workers gave him tours of the factories.
Before the first book was published I feel Rivoli had a great disguise. Being a professor from America was overlooked by the Chinese factory workers and perhaps the Communist Party of China. “Access to factories was easy, and the managers and workers were welcoming, and forthcoming” (81). Once the first edition was translated to Chinese opposite traits were expresses when hoping to access the factories again. Now Rivoli was no longer thought of as just a professor but a writer and someone as equal value to American Press. Factory owners do not want to reveal their workers conditions and wages to people whom may appear to be using it against the Chinese. “Rivoli was no longer a nobody” (81).
In Texas, especially Lubbock the way Rivoli was treated was the same in the process of writing edition one and two. “Generous whether he was a professor, writer, somebody, or nobody” (82). In Washington, D.C. Rivoli was now thought of as ‘somebody’ and was given the opposite invitation from China before and after the first edition. II have noticed that culture and location of where ever someone may be could have a huge impact on your reputation with that specific city, state, or country.
Rivoli was thankfully able to continue research about factories through privately owned textile and apparel factories in China. Through research of the two previous big time factories the condition I found most uncomforting was; “The noise blanket smothers not only the conversation but thinking as well” (83). To me factory work based on this quote would not be more entertaining and better for me than farm work. On top of deafening noise workers are housed in dormitories; this way they are available for overtime. There are strict rules of curfews and on top of all that you are not with your family. An example of what Chinese children do not like about farm work is that it is difficult work. “Every morning, from four a.m. to seven a.m. you have to cut through the bark of 400 rubber trees in total darkness. It has to be done before daybreak; otherwise the sunshine will evaporate the rubber juice” (111). Often children abandon their parents to work in factories and leave a note of where they have gone. It is hard for me to understand why a child or young adult around my age would do that, but there are many cultural differences between the Chinese and myself.
Finally the last astonishing condition I discovered about factories in China was “For breathing, there is not air, but dusty steam, as the factory is kept moist to reduce the incidence of broken yarns” (83). To me it is not work risking my health to live in the city and “have the ability to spend money in shopping malls” (113) around them along with “not wanting to follow in their farming parents’ footsteps” (113). Although this statement may not be fair since I have not ever lived being deprived of city life, shopping, and having the freedom to choose a career different than my parents. American culture, economy, and government is much different than those of China. I am only trying to imagine my reactions to the same scenarios of Chinese young adults, around my age. I feel even if Chinese factory workers knew of the damaging health effects to lungs and other organs in the body due to the fumes and poor air quality, they would still continue working. That is the comparative advantage that China has over America. American government puts regulations on working conditions and wages, China is not as concerned with these issues since there are more citizens willing to work regardless.
Ever since taking this class, I have wondered why Chinese products are cheaper, and the thought of sweatshops had crossed my mind. I know that China has a lower standard of labor than the United States, but I was not sure if they had sweatshops or not. Although I enjoy lower prices on my clothing that is made in China, I would not feel right about it if they were made in sweatshops. Living in a country where fair labor is strictly enforced, hearing about workers working long hours for little money makes me angry. Reading later on that many of the mills have improved working conditions eased my thoughts, though. The fact that China is moving to poorer countries to produce clothing in order to be able to pay their employees less and not worry as much about pollution and such bothers me, though.
Before even reading this chapter, I was extremely interested in learning about China, since the majority of our products come from that country and China is the largest buyer of American cotton.
I agree with almost every comment posted here that the most interesting part of this section of the book was learning about the conditions of the factory. Of course after writing this book about the labor in China, Rivoli would not be allowed back. But, I am happy that she was allowed in the factories enough to write about the conditions. I liked how the author wrote about each factory and the process of creating a t-shirt. I like how she explained the conditions in Number 36 Factory and the process of creating yarn, and then how she explained The Shanghai Brightness Number 3 Garment Factory and how the fabric is cut into sleeves, fronts, backs, and collars to make a t-shirt. I also liked the comparison of the women workers in the factory to middle school children in a catholic school. It helped create a visual of what the conditions are like in the factories. The sign on the wall of the factory “Quality has 3 Enemies: Broken Thread, Dirt, and Needle Pins” (p.86), also helped me in understanding the demanding process of factories in Asia. I found it really sad how “young women are forced to work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, earning as little as 12 to 18 cents an hour” (p.89). It is sad how people in China are being forced to work in such horrible conditions to create products that aren’t even being sold in their own country.
In the second chapter of part two, The Long Race to the Bottom, I found it this quote disturbing, “Children and rural women were recruited by early mill owners not only because of their abundance and low price… women and children were just as productive (as men) and a lot less trouble… Not only was women’s labor cheaper than men’s, women were more easily induced to undergo severe bodily fatigue. Married women with hungry children were best of all” (p.95). This is made me put myself in the their shoes, I could not imagine working as many hours as these women do and being put in such horrible conditions to make such little money with no benefits. I also found the history of cotton being produced in the 1800s. The story of Sadie helped me understand how it this labor was common right here in America. Just around 100 years ago in a New York sweatshop, Sadie would work 12-hour days for $7 a week with frequent injuries and “brutal” bosses (p.114). These conditions and pay are extremely similar to the sweatshops in China and it is sad that this is still going on in today’s world because of money. I don’t think it should matter whether or not the price is cheaper to produce a garment because the conditions these people are being put in are immoral.
After reading the chapter, The Unwitting Conspiracy, I remember reading about the issues with Nike and how they were using extreme sweatshops to produce their goods. I like how Nike changed their mission and now, “publishes annually a comprehensive report related to labor and environmental issue in its supplier factories” (p.126). Even though Nike may have done wrong in the past, I think that this is a good step forward in creating a bond with Nike customers that are interested in helping to stop sweatshops. Overall, I think that this chapter was extremely eye opening and I learned a lot of interesting, yet sad, information about production of garments abroad. I think that if the majority of companies take an approach such as Nike, they will be extremely successful with creating customer satisfaction.
Part two “Made in China” described the cotton production in Texas from part one in more detail. Part two discussed how the basis of the cotton production is now in China. Rivoli compared the working conditions of Texas to China. I found it interesting that women and children were considered more efficient for working in factories. Since many of these workers faced such extreme poverty they worked under horrible conditions without any complaints. I enjoyed reading this part of the book because of the historical knowledge I learned about the cotton industry. It was eyeopening to read that work conditions that were acceptable in the US many years ago are still acceptable in China today. I was shocked to read that workers prefer working in sweatshops compared to on the farm. Since factory conditions are so poor I thought it was just the opposite. As much as I have learned in class so far, I am looking forward to continuing to read about the process of exporting and importing goods between the US and China.
Part four of the book, I felt, was a good way to end the book. We experienced the life of a t-shirt through production, trade, sales, and the second hand reselling of it – the end of the t-shirts life. From TMD 224 I was familiar with the second hand trade between the US and Africa. Rivoli points out some critics thoughts, for example, the mitumba is hindering development in Africa because they are depending on this trade to cloth them. I somewhat agree with that. I feel like if they were more independent and followed the stages of development, it would be more beneficial to Africa and its people. However, like Rivoli also points out, the mitumba is still providing jobs to the people, which may otherwise not be available. He also points out, this trade is safe from China, for now at least, something that is a little more reassuring to this particular area of trade.
What I found interesting in this part was the case of vintage clothing and the “jewels” seen by Geoffrey in Africa. I think the comparison says a lot about America. As Americans, we shop and shop and we toss. When we tosh, they essential take the most intact trash and call it vintage. Africans take all other cast-offs, and see the clothing as what it really is, a jewel. I think of this thought of Africans just being grateful for being able to buy clothes at pennies per bale. In a way Americas overspending and overconsumption, in ways, is benefiting other outside of America.
Over all I really enjoyed this book. It has taken the lessons we learned in class and really tie into this book nicely. It was interesting to see the true “life” cycle of clothing. By people able to hear real life experiences of people through out the history of the United States textile and apparel industries, and trade industries, it all just made the trade world and globalization more clear. I feel like I have been exposed to both side of all the arguments and I am able to make a bit more educated argument for which side I decide to be on.
I read chapter two, less than thrilled to return to what I found to be a dreary read. I still having decided if the book is non-fiction or realistic fiction. We finally started to focus on the fascinating part. The factories in China where everything happens. I find it so fascinating because I seem to flip flop on my stance a lot. On one side, I feel like businesses have the right to do what they need to succeed and it would suck for those people to lose their jobs just as much as it sucks for us. On the other end I want to be a little selfish for the nation and I also pity these people and the conditions that they are forced under.
I don’t understand out it was so simple for Rivoli to enter the factories and be so welcomed, when he’s exposing negative aspects. I feel like this books proves that there is kind of mixed emotions on the importance of work vs. Education. But it seems that education is really advancing beyond that. Which may help bring some of those factory jobs back to us.
I feel like the book, once again was a lot of repeating of knowledge that I already know. Like the children, and why they were so handy to have around. It was all the same things as the Industrial Revolution years back in the United States. Women and children are “weak-minded” and “listen to orders”.
Part II of Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy proved to be eye-opening, yet heartbreaking. One thing which stood out to me the most in this section was the hukou system of China, developed in the 1950s “to support the economic development plans of the new Communist China” (page 106). Designed to minimize the movement of people from rural to urban areas, it leaves China with two disparate levels of citizenship. The system ensures a stable food supply for people of the cities while limiting the population of the urban areas. The system also forces the citizens of the rural areas to fend for themselves. People of the rural are clearly marked as second class citizens because the hukou system acts as a leash. Citizens with a rural hukou cannot move about the country freely, and also cannot work unless they have the proper paperwork. China’s economy benefits from the system because it ensures there will be inexpensive labor with a plethora of citizens willing to work for whatever money they can earn, but I just don’t understand how these citizens have been putting up with the system since the 1950s. It’s astonishing to see how different China and the United States are, even today. I can see that there is no incentive for the government to change the system since they’re making such a large profit off of labor-intensive exports, but I’m shock that this system is still remains in place. Going back to the factor proportion theory, I understand why China would want to have such an abundance of labor to maximize profits in labor intensive exports, but how can China force these people to live as second class citizens without ever giving them a chance to progress? In terms of the structural theory, wouldn’t China want people to become educated and progress in society? With this, China could possibly become a capital-intensive exporter in the future and generate more revenue from exports. I believe China is putting not only their own citizens in a disadvantaged position, but the country as a whole as well.
Overall, Rivoli opened my eyes yet again to the vast differences between the United States and China.
Very thoughtful comment! Things are little different today in China compared with the time when the book was written. Because of the “one-child policy”, labor force in China is shrinking quickly. Childern of the first-generation of migrants are also much less willing to undertake the heavy labor-intensive and low-paid jobs as their parents (remember the reading material in assignment 1?). These two factors mainly drive up the labor cost in China which is expected to keep rising by 20%–30% annually in the next few years. At the same time, China is becoming a more aged society, which as the case in the US, adding growing fiscal pressures on the PRC government (especially at the local level). The changing demographics pushes the PRC government to rethink about its hukou system. However, Hukou is not just a piece of paper. It decides whether a person is eligible to enjoy the local public resources, such as public education, healthcare and pension. Because of the economic development gap in China, i.e., the eastern regions are much more economically prosperous than the middle & western regions, the local governments in the eastern regions are very worried that the elimination of the hukou system will result in more migrations pouring into the already over-crowded cities (Shanghai already has a total population of over 20 milllion). Therefore, the reform of Hukou system is linked with many other economic & political reform undergoing in China, such as creating a more balanced economy, shortening regional economic gap.
In the second part of ‘Travels of a T-Shirt,’ I was much more interested in the content than in the first part. This part was much more eye opening and held my interest for the entirety of the reading. I was very interested to read that in 2007 China exported 365 million cotton T-Shirts. It’s unbelievable. It was a great number to read following Part 1 of the book which was about cotton.
The stories included about the sweatshops were very sad. It put the whole production aspect into perspective. Labor laws in China are ignored due to production demands. In the United States, this would never happen. Our government, and workers, have established clear working conditions and a no-tolerance policy for this type of treatment. Chinese factory owners thrive off of lack of government enforcement. I feel that until labor laws in China are enforced, they will continue to be primary producers and exporters.
What really makes me sad is that Chinese employees are okay with the pennies that they make hourly. Making 12-18 cents an hour is outrageous. It just shows how different their lifestyles are in comparison to ours and peoples in other countries, such as Germany. They will take any paying work to support themselves and their families.
After taking TMD 303 with Dr. Bide, a lot of the terminology mentioned was very understandable. I definitely understand why it is a perquisite for this course.
All in all, this book thus far is very eye opening. It is so hard to understand the lifestyle that the Chinese factory workers live.
i think you raised a very interesting/meaningful question: how ethical is clothing made in USA? Is CSR a problem in the developing countries only? Months ago when preparing the course material, I found an interesting article and I am sure you will enjoy reading too: http://www.laweekly.com/2012-07-26/news/sweatshops-los-angeles-fashion-industry/
Truly, I feel we are dealing with a global issue
Chapter five continued with the manufacturing of the cotton and the next step, which was transportation, which is usually done by truck or by train to the coast where is it then moved to a ship and sent to China. From there, it is brought to the yarn factory where it is prepared into yarn and spun into large bobbins and shipped to the garment factory. The process does not stop there as it continues into long strips of fabric to be made into pieces of clothing. This is a long and tedious process and with the prices of T-shirts made in China being so low and continuing to drop, people are questioning the humanity of these shops and if the work that is being done is legal in regards to the working conditions and treatment of the workers.
With China being the leader in cotton production till the mid 18th century, other countries jumped on board to this booming market such as Britain who trumped China as the leader around 1750 followed by the Americans who by 1820 won the title of world leader in cotton production. Into the 20th century, Japan became another large competitor and held that title, even with a slight slope during WWI, until 1970. Hong Kong held the title for a short period of time before China came back to the top after coming out of the Cultural Revolution, and now had much lower wages which allowed them to sell their clothing for less too, and holds that title still today. This competition to make cheaper and cheaper clothing started in America and spread across all other countries, which lead to the more and more sweatshops being created so that underdeveloped countries could compete.
In the 1950’s, the Chinese had a system for classifying people according to where they live. When textile mills began coming up along the coast the government realized that they needed cheap labor to make cloth and clothes that they could sell for lower prices than their competitors. They allowed rural hukou women who would usually be only allowed to work in farmlands to come and work in these factories. Though there were still many restrictions, they ate the food provided to them, had a curfew, and slept in dormitories. The factories didn’t provide less work or more pay, but they did allow rural hukous to live near and go to the cities, which provides a lot more than a countryside for these workers.
Through much effort throughout these past fifty plus years, the conditions of these factories have improved greatly but still have a long way to go. The government has made codes that factories have to follow, and how much they have to pay their employees and how to get rid of waste and also are checked regularly by inspectors sent from America to make sure that they’re following all the guidelines. Many factories in China are moving to poorer countries so that they’ll be able to pay their employees less and charge the same. Also. Poorer countries tend to have looser rules on pollution, quality, and working conditions. Though many countries have their own requirements for factories that they use overseas, which makes most t-shirts being made by a fairly paid employee in a good working condition,
The impact on the environment has also been a hot topic because of the amount of population that the textile industry has on the earth. Although a study showed that most of the impact comes from the consumers after buying the t-shirts after washing and drying them.
next time I am intersted in more of your comment on what you read–just like after watching a movie, you may like something, dislike something, want to say something in the movie
In part 2 of The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy, I was really interested in what the author wrote. He wrote about the difference between Texas, where the cotton grows and then to China, where the cotton is made into fabric and into apparel. Many people in the United States do not realize the production process of cotton is in the Unites States. People are also unaware of the different places that cotton goes especially in China. Before the cotton is created into a t-shirt it first needs to be made into fabric and then it is finally made into a t-shirt then coming back to the United States where it is sold in stores all over the country.
In order to produce the number of garments that companies in the United States set their goals they look to China where they are more labor intensive. Many American companies go to developing countries to have their apparel produced because they are able to save money but factories are also able to hire more workers that can accomplish the production cycle at very low wages. China can produce more apparel than people in the United States and there are more factories. Yes, China is more labor intensive but it seems that Americans are unaware or putting a blind eye to the working conditions in the factories in China. Still factories overwork their employees making them work everyday all day long for little pay. Those people in the third world countries do not know any different and they just need the money to survive. In the United States, we would never allow this to happen to our employees. We are not use to situations like that because our standards are higher.
I am looking forward to read more and learn more about the lifestyles of the farmers in Texas and the factory workers in China.
In part two of the book there were a few parts that I found interesting and that really grabbed my attention. The first sections that jumped out at me and not in a positive way was the section called “Help Wanted: Docile and Desperate Preferred”. This section was all about how factory owners preferred their workers to be women and children. They preferred women and children over men because they believed that they were more vulnerable and were “more easily induced to undergo severe bodily fatigue.” Also they were abundant and would work for a low price. Personally, I find all of this to be incredibly insulting. As a woman, I see no reason why the men could not do this job or why women should have been treated any less than men.
Another part I found interesting was China’s C&R regulations, which stands for Custody and Repatriation. These laws are extremely strict regarding migrants visitation. Under these rules, a rural visitor who does not have papers, a job or address can be forcibly dealt with or forced to go home. And it is even difficult for migrants who have jobs because the rules regarding their visitation to the city are equally as strict: “Depending on the city, a visitor might need an identity card, a temporary residence card, an employment registration card, a housing permit, and a family planning permit, each obtained from a different agency at significant cost.” All of these rules and regulations just to visit a city seem extremely unfair to me. It even said that by the time someone finally gets their last document of identification, their first one will be expired, making it nearly impossible.
Another section that I thought was captivating was called “Sure Beats the Farm”. This section was rather shocking to me because it is about how millions of Chinese young girls and women would gladly chose to work in a factory over a farm. I find this interesting because as horrible as factory work seems to be with the horrible conditions and overworking and underpaying, these women would still prefer it over farm work. That makes me wonder how bad the farm work actually must be for them to prefer it over something that seems so horrible as factory work. One little girl says “It is really hard work. Every morning, from 4am to 7am you have to cut through the bark of 400 rubber trees in total darkness. It has to be done before daybreak, otherwise the sunshine will evaporate the rubber juice. If you were me, what would you prefer, the factory or the farm?” The way she describes that with such grueling detail it makes me think I would prefer the factor as well. This definitely opened up my eyes to how hard these poor young women have it and makes me appreciate my job that I thought was difficult.
enjoy reading your comment very much. I understand why “factory owners preferred their workers to be women and children” as mentioned in the book is a grave concern to you. I am with you. On the other hand, in many developing countries, it is a tradition of hundreds/thousands of years that female shall stay at home, give birth and take care of her family. Financially, female has to rely on the supply of her hustand. Economic independence is the foundation for gender eqality. At least these factories for the first time, provide an oppertunity for these females to change their destiny. Truly, as we discussed in class, the T&A industry touches so many critical social, economic and political issues.
Part II gave me more perspective about what happens after the cotton leaves California and is transported to China. I have always heard that the factory conditions in China were what we would consider below standard, but I had never realized how bad they actually were. Factory workers usually work a minimum of twelve hours a day seven days a week and usually only get two holidays off a year, and barely make anything. The Number 36 Cotton Yarn Factory he described sounded like a miserable place to work because of the noise, the dampness, the lighting, and the overall conditions. It was surprising to me that most Chinese workers would rather work in these factory conditions than work on their family farms. It seems crazy how different things are in China and the United States when comparing working conditions. China seemed to pick up the textile sweatshop industry after the United States made laws to protect workers from the sweatshop conditions. I wonder if things will ever change, if someday the government changes and Chinese workers no longer want to work in these conditions. What will the government do? This could greatly affect the economy, although I do not think this will happen or if not for a long time. China’s government benefits so much from the textile and apparel industry and makes a large profit off of it that the government should want to improve conditions to possibly gain more business.
I know that some factory conditions have improved a little since this book was published, but I still think that more companies that buy cotton from these factories should invest money into the factories where their clothes are being produced, or own their own factories. That way the factory owner would have more incentive to improve things. Levi Strauss created a code of conduct for their suppliers to abide by in order for their business relationships to continue. “Companies began to require that their suppliers commit to a variety of fair labor practices as a condition of their business relationships, and organizations emerged to help companies monitor conditions in their suppliers factories.” (Page 126) The people that are literally slaving over sewing machines in sweatshops barely making any money, and they are the ones basically making most of our clothing, while the big companies and their employees are making a considerable amount. The people in China have basically fallen into two groups; people living below the poverty line that cannot even travel freely throughout the country easily, and the wealthy. It makes me feel guilty buying clothing that was made in China. There needs to be a way for factory workers to make more money, and hopefully over the next few years something can be done. At least there are no longer as many children are working in factories. The children are the ones that are trying to change the way things are and become more successful, so they do not have to work in sweatshops and barely make anything. I am looking forward to reading more of this book and also reading more about factories improving conditions and what else is being done for these workers.
The next four chapters of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” did not seem as interesting to me as the previous ones. But, something I did find interesting is how much I can relate the ideas introduced in the book to what we are learning in class. The book said that no one could talk about cotton for more than one or two minutes without China being introduced in the conversation. I thought that was really interesting because I feel the same way about our classroom. Regardless of what topic in the global markets we are discussing, China is always brought up in a matter of minutes. That really proves how big of a deal outsourcing is to our economy. It also proves how much China influences our lives here in America, even though we all don’t always realize it.
These couple chapters focused on more of the industrial production part of the cotton plant. This cotton plant was first introduced in Texas. But, as no surprise to a TMD major, the plant has been moved to China. But, I did learn a lot about the step process to produce the cotton and the rigorous work it takes. I also learned a lot more about the workers who work to create cotton. To me, it does not seem that these conditions are safe or ethical. This subject can also be related to the fire assignment we just participated in last week. Most of these workers in both scenarios are children and women who are very uneducated. It is really awful that in this day of age people still work in these kinds of conditions, and it definitely impacts our global market and the cotton industry.
Chapter 6 also continues to discuss that many mill owners admitted to hiring women and children because they were cheaper. But, also because they know that married women need this job to make money and to feed their families. This allowed the mill owners to abuse their power and force these women who had no other chance to make money, to work under these horrible, unsafe conditions. Later in the chapters it did say that there are organizations trying to make labor laws down there, but it is still a horrifying situation.
I was fascinated to learn more about factory life in China. I always knew that standards for what was acceptable and what was not were different for different countries, but one line in this reading section really struck me. “Su remembers how surprised he was when he first heard a customer complain about needle pieces” (p. 87). When reading this, I thought to myself, “How bizarre!” How peculiar that pieces of broken needles in clothing were no big deal in China, at least under Mao Zedong’s rule. I think that most Americans would agree that finding needle pieces in their own garments would be an unacceptable safety hazard.
In the chapter, “The Long Race to the Bottom”, the author discusses how women and children were preferred for factory labor as opposed to men because they were just as productive but provided factory owners and managers with much less trouble. I wonder how this has changed over the years. With the emergent rights of women in the United States, were more men offered work in factories? Of course, child labor laws have prevented small children from being exploited. But how are these issues treated in foreign countries without as many government protections in place? Are women and children still the preferred labor force of factories?
The second part of the book gives an inside look at the textile industry in China. When describing Shanghai number 36 cotton and yarn factory the author does a great job of making the reader feel as if they are there in the factory. Although I had an Idea of what a factory of this type would be like it was not as detailed and descriptive as the author describes it which I really enjoyed. I found it interesting that the author notes that there has been little change in the process of making a t-shirt over an eight year period. “The garment stage of production has changed very little over the years, and the sewing factories that I visited in 2008 used manufacturing processes that looked pretty much like those I had seen in 2000″(p.106). Just as we talked about in class many countries that produce textiles do not have the capital or technology to change how they manufacture clothing. Because the author has documented two different visits to China over a period of time we are able to see the few changes that have occurred in this industry.
In the U.S the government is very strict about making sure workers have safe working conditions while Chinese workers suffer greatly to make such a low wage which is very sad. It is stated in many different places throughout part two that workers earn low wages and must follow strict guidelines. Their working conditions are very poor and they work extremely long and hard hours. Although not directly, Americans encourage this poor treatment of Chinese workers by demanding low prices on products. I do not see a way to fix this but hopefully in the future things will change and the government in China will be able to enforce fair wages and safe working conditions for its factory workers. “Today’s trade skeptics identify the multinationals’ pursuit of profit and free trade as the enemy of the poor and powerless, a greedy force to be stopped and never trusted”(p.141). It is comforting to know that there are activists and leaders that are trying to make changes to this industry in order to improve working conditions in textile factories over seas.
good thinking. The thing is textile manufacturing has achieved much progress in capitalization and automation, apparel manufacturing hasn’t. That’s why to reduce production cost, there is no choice but to move production to countries where wage is lower.
An astounding 5,300 pounds out of 22,000 pounds that leave the Nelson’s farm, will be the only part that has a surprising ability to turn into t-shirts. The other 16,700 used to be considered garbage but has now been turned into another source of revenue. The 9,000 pounds of trash can be stirred with molasses and made into cattle feed, it also can be turned into fuel, building materials, fertilizer, and ethanol.
Another interesting part is the oil that is left is sold to buyers which I found it surprising to hear the outcomes such as Ragu spaghetti sauce, peter pan peanut butter, girl scout cookies, and even Crisco shortening. So it is not so cookie- cutter as I always envisioned this industry to be. It shows the endless resources that cotton and all of its contents bring to the playing field. Nothing is to be thrown out.
I found it astonishing to find that the cotton mill manufacturers specifically went after children and rural women to work in the mill but not men. They think men are too difficult and it is stated “find that child or woman was a more obedient servant to himself and an equally efficient slave to his machinery was to displace the male adult labor”. It goes on to say that basically, woman will project themselves in more vigorous work and married women with children was the best because they have so much more relying on them to bring home money to the family that they will work and do anything. It is sad to see women work close to nothing and give everything in order to make a few cents and to be seen so cheap that they are the desired work. It is so different from the mentality here in the United States were women are working much closer with men than ever and are making their way to the top and to even getting equal pay.
I thought it was very interesting to read about the history of factories in the U.S. Our generation is so use to globalization and “Made in China” labels that is weird to ever think that there were hundreds of prosperous garment factories in the U.S. Not to mention we were the leading producer of garments and our factories consisted of awful conditions. They talked about how U.S. exported most of its textiles to Japan and China which is completely the opposite now. Human rights has come a long way and awful factory conditions we hear about in the news were once normal conditions in the U.S.
What I found most interesting was the concept of the long race to the bottom. For centuries, this race has been going on and is still going on today. There is always going to be competition for cheaper prices and a desire for cheaper labor and overhead costs. They compared the working conditions to conditions in jail and they talked so casually about children working in these factories. Now, that would never be acceptable in the U.S. It was also interesting how literally millions of young women chose to work in the factories rather than on the farms. This just shows how poor China is and the unfavorable jobs their fate holds.
The chapter “The Unwritten Conspiracy” talked about governments and labor unions, religious leaders and international organizations, student activists, and the workers themselves and how over time, laws and regulations have changed because of these people’s actions. Theis goes along with what we talked about in class with the lady finding a note in her K Mart decorations. This shows that one person can make a difference and if more people were aware of catastrophes like the Bangladesh Fire, than changed could be made. For example, the book talks about the news exposing child labor in GAP’s factories and the backlash and decrease in sales they experienced.
Part II, Made in China, made me really take a second look at my cotton t-shirt. Although I have learned about the conditions of sweatshops in the past, Rivoli’s description was disturbing. It’s really strange to think about how people’s lives differ so drastically from mine. “Sweatshops spawned by global capitalism exploit the poor and powerless, forcing people without alternatives to work in prison like conditions for subsistence pay.” (Pg. 89.) I can’t imagine having to work in the factories under those conditions and it makes me sad that people have to in order to survive. It shocked me that people would rather work in these factories with these awful conditions rather than a farm at home. By reading this, it really makes me appreciate what I have. I was especially shocked by this quote “Rural women were recruited by early mill owners not only because of their abundance and low price, but also because owners found them temperamentally well-suited to the mind-numbing drudgery of early textile work. Women and children were just as productive as men and a lot less trouble.” (Pg. 95.) It disturbs me that women and children are thought of in this way.
As if the sweatshop conditions and the sex discrimination isn’t bad enough, the textile industry in China is severely harming the environment as well. “As labor activists denounce the race to the bottom in wages and working conditions, environmental activists argue that the race is simultaneously destroying the environment.” (Pg. 89) The urge to cut costs causes manufacturers to dump toxins in the air and water rather than using clean technology. This is a huge issue because we are ruining our resources and ruining our planet. Our appetites are larger than our portions and we’re ultimately eating away our futures.
On a more positive note, I thought it was really interesting that Massachusetts was the first state to limit the hours that children could work because that is so close to us at URI. I have a lot of friends that are from Massachusetts and none of them knew that their state was the first to create this law. It’s a fun fact to know!
I am glad to hear our class discussion and the reading make a difference on your understanding of the world we are living.
As discussed in class as well as the book the differences between the working environment and conditions are extreme. There was an image created by the author, which made it much easier to understand and fully comprehend the book. The manufacturing process is something I have never actually thought about when going to buy clothing. The fact that there are such horrible conditions in other countries when it comes to the working environment is something that none of us as American’s really think of. Even recently the news has showed an entire factory burning down because of to many machines in one area. China has been developing over the years and has surpassed other countries including ours as the leader in manufacturing. The reality of the situation needs to be realized by everyone so that we can help make it better all over the world. The story about Jiang and the unbelievable hours that were worked makes Americans seem like ungrateful people for having time off and being able to go on vacations and have weekends off.
I found the second part of The Travels of a T-shirt to be very interesting for many reasons. This part of the book discusses the process that the harvested cotton goes through after it has left the farm in the United States. In this case, it is being shipped to China and being made into t-shirts.
The first thing that I found interesting about this section of the book was the fact that some cotton farmers do not think about where their cotton is going once it is harvested and leaves their farm. For example, in the beginning of Chapter 5, the author introduces the readers to Lamar, the son of Nelson and Ruth who own a cotton farm. Lamar, who is a professor at a business school, said he never thought about what happened to the cotton on his parents farm once it was harvested. He never thought about where it was going, how it got there, or what was going to happen to it once it got there. I found this very interesting because the cotton farmers seem to care so much for their cotton when it is growing on their farm; they make sure it is properly watered, cared for and pest free, but they don’t seem to care what happens to it once it is no longer in their possession. I also found this interesting because I wondered if it worked the same way for the people in China working with the harvested cotton; did they ever think about where it came from? Once the harvested cotton leaves the farm, it also leaves the U.S. on a ship bound for Shanghai. Once there, it goes through the many steps that it takes to turn it into a t-shirt; spinning it into yarn, knitting it onto cloth, and then finally cutting and sewing it into a t-shirt that will ultimately have a “Made in China” tag sewn into it. The second thing that I found interesting about this part of the book was the fact that after the American cotton is shipped to China to be made into a t-shirt, that same cotton is then shipped back to the United States to be sold in American stores. I found it interesting that the start and end points of the cotton were the same, however it’s the middle section that gets so much attention and controversy. When it comes to China, so many people ask “Why?”. Why are natural resources being shipped from the U.S. and made into products for the U.S. in China? Why can’t we manufacture these products in our own country? Why are we sending things overseas to be manufactured when people in our own country are looking for jobs? These questions are both controversial and complicated, but I look forward to finding some of the answers in the rest of this book.
good thinking! Are you with the mercantilism view that everything shall be produced domestically or do you agree with the comparative advantage theory arguing that a country should specialize in producing what it enjoys comparative advantage?
I found the way the author was able to point out the astronomical differences between Lubbock, Texas and Shanghai, China yet was still able to link them together through cotton to be a clever way to begin this section of the book. I was astounded to learn that “China is not only the largest buyer of American cotton, it is also projected to soon produce more than 40 percent of the world’s cotton textiles.” To think that nearly half of all cotton textiles in the world come from China is both an amazing and extremely chilling realization. Think of how different the U.S.’s economy would be if we were in those shoes. Also, I had realized just how dependent the textile and apparel industry, which can seem glamorous, is on the agriculture industry to run and flourish. That shows just how important cotton is, not only to the U.S., but to the entire world.
To know that the world’s leading country to produce cotton bounces around every couple decades or so is a frightening thing. This is a result of cheap, abundant labor, which, in turn, creates cheaper cotton textiles to be imported by other countries. The author discussed how the demand for cheap textiles created a demand for more workers, thus creating the problem of sweatshops. She wrote about the hukou classifications of China that date back to the 1950s. I was saddened to learn that the women who were classified as “rural hukou” women, were not allowed outside of the countryside, even to buy food in the city, because they needed to be classified as “urban hukou” to do so. Although these women were eventually given the opportunity to move to and work in textile mills in the city when the rural hukou population began to grow tremendously, they were forced into harsh conditions and cruel restrictions, having to sleep together in dormitories, abide by a curfew, and had long work days with little pay. All seemed well at first when these women were able to stray away from their farm lives but they were not able to progress in the urban hukou society, thus resulting in the beginning of the long-living chain of sweatshops.
The author had written about how, when she wrote the first edition of her book, she was able to visit Chinese factories with no problem whatsoever because she was only an American professor, considered a “nobody.” When she had become an established author, on the other hand, those same factories “politely denied” her access to a second visit. This stood out to me, because the readers got to see first hand just how political and money hungry these factories can be. At the end of this section, I was happy to know that, while sweatshops still exist in China today although they are illegal, the conditions of textile mills have improved since the hukou period in the 1950s, and China’s government, along with the U.S. government, are taking action to improve these conditions even more, including contracts with apparel manufacturers overseas to ensure that the garments being made are constructed properly by workers who experience good working conditions and are being paid a fair amount.
After reading part II chapters 5-8, I continue to gain knowledge I had no clue about the process of creating a single product and outsourcing. Parts from chapter 5 and 6 really stuck out in my mind. For one China seems to treat their works unfairly and have very low wages. They choose their workers based on how hard they believe they will work. It stated that they chose married women with children because they are more dependable because they have mouths to feed and take care of (95). They also said how these women “more easily induced to undergo severe bodily fatigue.” The whole idea they are willing to push their labor, people to their limits to make money is almost sickening. I feel that in the United States, working a management position my priority is making sales but making sure my workers are in proper shape and health working in the store. In china they seem to be more concerned about the quantity of products being made over the well being of their employees.
As mentioned in chapter five is the reoccurring theme of capital and labor intensive differences between countries. We learned in class discussion, United States is more capital intense and has the money/technology to produce things such as airplanes while countries like China do better with items like garments. In chapter five there were comparisons of United States and Shanghai. For example the process of T shirt pieces in an American factory versus Shanghai is the technology. Lasers, machinery and software fill the space in America while Shanghai uses what they have more of, people. They have them physically cutting the garments to shape with different saws and scissors. I didn’t realize how far behind in technology for production that China was in comparison to US. As said in the book, “when women at Shanghai Brightness look up, they see a sign on the wall: Quality Has 3 Enemies: Broken Thread, Dirt, Needle Pieces” (86). This one line stuck in mind throughout the reading. The idea that those are the worst things to happen in the factory is crazy. In America it could be machinery problems or numerous other larger issues than simple fixes like broken needles and thread.
When reading the second part of “ Travels of a T-Shirt”, it has become more evident that the cotton industry does not only effect the United States economy but the global economy and production scale as well. The United States has utilized the use of effective technology when when producing cotton. We are now able to pick and ship the cotton at a faster rate compared to those in less developed countries. Who are still relying on picking cotton by hand, this is not only a rather slow process but it is also very undependable due to the fact that the whether is ever changing. The whether is very important to the production of cotton, noted in the book “for every one day of rain, it is needed that there are four days of dry whether to dry the crop.” Terrible whether conditions can severely influence the production and shipping of cotton to other countries and result in failed trade.
Throughout the second part of the book, we also learned about factory life in China. Unlike the United States, China does not adhere to labor laws, which results in the citizens of China being subjected to long hours, little pay, and terrible working conditions. Women in China are forced to work 12 hour days, 7 days a week, for as little as 12-18 cents per hour. It was noted that more often than none women are hired as opposed to men to work in the factories because they do not have to pay them as much. Women were also considered because they are in more desperate need of work and appear to be more meek.
Factory life in China is a family tradition and has been for a number of centuries but with the increased air pollution and horrible working conditions it has become evident to me that we as the United States need to try and reflect our labor laws to China to help them in the long run.
I have always known that there were horrible working conditions in China; but I never understood why so many people would be clamoring for these horrible jobs until I read this book. Before reading this I had never heard of the hukou system and was unaware that citizens in China were not allowed to travel from one part of the country to another or to find work without paperwork to do so. I have always heard that the Chinese government is restrictive to its people, but I never knew more than generalizations of this. While the hukou system does its job in making sure there is a supply of food for the rest of the country and keeping a majority of the farmers out of the city; it also keeps many of these people in poverty and does not allow them any social mobility or chance for growth. Before I had read this book, I had wondered why people would choose factory work over farm work. Though they are both jobs that I would not enjoy having, I could not see factory work being a better choice than the farm work. After reading the descriptions in the book however of the intensity of the farm work, it is easy to see why people clamor for such awful jobs as factory work. Despite the rising cost of labor in China, it is easy to see why the Chinese government has kept the system. While it disadvantages many of the people in China, it has only helped their country’s economy to grow.
good thinking. just as mentioned in the video “the people’s republic of capitalism” we watched in the class, poor people living in the rural areas (especially female) almost can earn nothing by farming. This is very different from the case in the US where farmers (such as cotton growers) can receive billions of dollars of subsidy from government annually. Working conditions in the factory is far from ideal, but at least it provided the migrants an opperunity to make a change of their destiny.
I also was unaware of exactly why people in China looking for work would rather work in a factory than on a farm. This book made it clearer to me why individuals would make that choice. In class we spoke many times about the Chinese work force and how it differs from America. This part of the book helped us understand in more depth. Once again personal stories within this section made more of an impact on me.
After reading Part II of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” by Pietra Rivoli, I found out a lot of things I did not know about China, Britain, and the U.S.
In chapter 5, I learned about China’s acceptance of visitors in their garment factories. I had assumed China would discourage people from visiting the factories and that anyone who attempted to go there would be denied because they were afraid of anything negative about a factory getting out. That’s why I was surprised to read that Rivoli was easily able to arrange visits from 2000-2006 and that the managers and workers were welcoming. Then I was even more surprised to read that it wasn’t until after her first book came out in Chinese, that the reception changed. You would think that China would either always be hospitable, or always be unwelcoming because you don’t have to be a somebody to write about something.
In chapter 6, I learned about Britain’s huge innovations in the cotton industry in the late 1700’s. I had no idea how much of an impact Britain had on the industry. I knew it was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, but I didn’t know that cotton was a big part of that. I thought it was interesting that the British government would sponsor competitions and give out prizes to anyone who could come up with a solution to the spinning bottlenecks. I also thought it was interesting that the spinning jenny, invented by James Hargreaves, was created because of these competitions. This machine was a huge innovation in producing cotton garments and I had no idea it was a British invention.
In chapter 7, I learned what happens to most of the textile factories and mills when they close. I had thought that once a factory closes, it is abandoned and their employees are left without jobs. I was surprised to read that they end up being occupied by new companies or become factories for other goods and the people end up being employed at these new places. For example a building that used to be the Kayser-Roth Hosiery Factory in Pittsboro, North Carolina, is now the home of Biolex Therapeutics and many of their lower-paid technicians are former mill workers. Another example is in Campbellsville, Kentucky where an old Fruit of the Loom plant was reopened and is now occupied by Amazon.com.
Finally in chapter 8, I learned just how hard some Chinese apparel factories try to cut costs. I know that many factories don’t treat their workers fairly and they are paid very low wages, but I had no idea the length they would go just to evade the code-of-conduct requirements of some of their customers. Places would actually hire engineers just to help them deceive social auditors, and some would create software that could put out fake payroll, overtime and benefits data in under 30 minutes. Some companies would even go as far as having model factories open to social auditors to observe, while using shadow factories the local authorities didn’t know about to produce most of the goods. As I was reading all of this, I actually found it quite sad what these people would do just to avoid expenses.
isn’t it intersting that the author couldn’t easily get into the factory after the publishing of the second book? this is both an issue of culture and the political system. From my personal understanding, the Chinese government is quite sensitive toward the western media. Somehow it is because of distrust–if you read the NY times, washington posts, almost all news coverage about China is on negative topics.
After reading chapters 5-8, I realized how little I knew about cotton and its involvement with China. There were many interesting topics that Rivoli discusses; these are the few that caught my eye:
This part of the book discusses the process and the uses that the harvested cotton goes through after it has left the farm in the United States. For example 5,300 pounds out of 22,000 pounds of cotton has the ability to turn into shirts. The others can be useful for sources of revenue, such as fuel, fertilizers and ethanol. There is so much one can do with cotton that it is never really thrown out.
The book mentioned a lot about Women and Child labor. Children and women were wanted more than men because they were less of a hassle and more productive, not to mention cheaper too. Many mill workers were forced to work and were in horrible working conditions with low wages. What surprised and shocked me the most was a young women name Jiang Lan who actually likes her job. She worked 8 hours per day, 6 days per week in a factory in Shanghai. Her job is to fix broken yarn. As the book states “Jiang Lan, of course, is China’s comparative advantage.”
Chapter 8 focuses more on today’s issues. The book states, “global capitalism and labor activism are not enemies but are instead cooperators.” I never really thought of it this way. It makes sense because in order to achieve success, power and money one must do the work/labor.
What I didn’t really know was that the production of t-shirts can be harmful to the planet. In order to reduce cost firms dump toxins into rivers and burn cheaper fossil fuel for energy. Because of this half their water is contaminated and therefore undrinkable.
In part two of the book, there was definitely more interesting information to read about rather than part one. A couple of things that caught my attention were China’s working regulations, and the “ideal job for a working female. The fact that men and women will never be looked at in the same way or as equals in the work environment is still such a big issue today.
One of the interesting parts for me to read about was China’s custody and repatriation regulations. What this procedure consisted of was allowing the detain of people if they did not have a residence permit or temporary living permit. Basically what these laws did was eliminated the situation of people in the city who had no place to live or go. However, even when you did have all your documents, there were laws, depending on the city, that allowed or prevented you from entering a specific city. it just seems like a ridiculous process to go through if your just trying to go to another city. I couldnt imagine having to get all these permits just to go out with a friend in another town.
Then it came to factory owners “preferring” women and children as their employees. The owners said that women and children are more vulnerable and would do more of what was asked. Also, there were so many women and children that could work, that resulted in paying them lower prices for their working time. However, then i start reading about how women would prefer to work in the factory over working on the farms. There was a lot more manual labor and early hours needed to be done working on the farm. Women found it easier to sit inside a factory all day, rather than working outside in the heat and sun running around the fields. Regardless of whose doing the work, female or male, its a lot a labor and hours these young people put into their days, opening your eyes to everyday life around the world besides the little bubble we live in.
As I read the second part of the book there is more information I found interesting to understand about the cotton industry. In class we discussed the working conditions of factories and the case study helped us brainstorm what outcomes need to be taken in order for conditions to become better. The book only adds to our debate about how workers are treated. “Women are forced to work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, earning as little as 12-18 cents a day”. I know we have only really talked about just the conditions in the factories but, the actual work itself is not worth what these people are getting paid. Although we hear about this going on, many people choose to do nothing about it because if we did we would have to pay higher prices for items that we pay low prices for now. There is no way Walmart isn’t selling items at such a low price without paying people nearly nothing for making it. It’s just how it works in the economy. I wonder how much China is actually benefiting from having people paid so little. If the companies choose to slowly raise their hourly wage for their employees, their employees would probably do a better job and would actually want to go to work. It would raise the bar for standards of working conditions. However, the downfall is back to the price of the product and the money that the companies are making. Those people are too selfish and are only out there to make the money. They’re happy because they aren’t physically making the product, they’re watching someone else make it for them.
Learning about the factories an them applying them to actual people felt more substantial in understanding the situations. I know we read the the Industrial Revolution started in Manchester, England, however if you watched the Summer Olympic games this year you should know from the opening ceremonies that the Industrial Revolution changed England forever. They were the first place to have these factory conditions that we almost still see today in China. We still see the slums and the mess they have created and because there are so many people in China looking for jobs this poor factory mentality still exists. In the United States, we still see Texas as a large contributor to the cotton industry. It’s easier in Texas than where it originally started, New England, because the conditions for growing cotton are better. Although its say to see that New England is starting to shut it’s doors to textile factories, its easier and cheaper to work where the cotton is being grown.
Chapters 5-8 were more interesting than the first part. This section: Made In China was mostly about how each country is looking out for themselves and seeking the largest amount of profit for their own economy. It seems that the author Pietra Rivoli’s believes the best possible way to generate the most profit is to get products produced at the lowest cost in order to keep cost low, which will encourage consumers to buy more. This makes the leading manufacturing companies compete for big contracts like Walmart. In order for these manufacturers to obtain a competitive advantage over the other they must not only keep production cost low but also have a technological advancement over the other.
Chapter 5 in this section was one that has really stuck out to me so far in this book. I thought it was crazy how it only cost 15 cents worth of cotton to produce a t-shirt and the labor is what gives it more than half of its value. The labor is the hardest part in my opinion of the t-shirt process. These poor factory workers work long hours in an unhealthy atmosphere. An example of this is the factory he mentions that did not allow him to return after the first book was published in fear that they will be exposed of their conditions. This factory has hardly any air and dusty steam fills the room. The author also points out that the cheaper the t-shirt from China is the better for US consumers and corporations’ profit however this is really bad for the factory workers income and the planet.
Chapter 7 also has some explanation of what the factory workers go through. Although the pay is little and the conditions are unhealthy, these workers want to be employed in a factory. Majority of the factory workers are escaping from the occupation that was destined from them, farming. They feel there is more opportunity for them working a factory then in their family farm. They are able to spend their disposable income as they please and get to be part of the city life. Taking these jobs away from them would devastate them and the future they have ahead of themselves.
I never would have thought that working in a Chinese factory would be better than working on a farm. We put so much focus on the terrible hours and pay the workers receive and never look at how it benefits them. The workers are not given many options for work. With the wages so low, the government is benefiting while keeping the people in poverty.
There are so many factors that affect the farming of cotton. If it rains, it takes days to dry and the cotton is not able to be picked. Chinese workers would rather work in factories and deal with the terrible conditions than work on a farm. I think this shows how awful the working conditions are. The fact that the Chinese workers want to deal with the bad atmosphere and accept the low wages shows that they have no other options. The factories seek to hire mostly women and children because they feel as though they’ll do more of what they ask. After reading these chapters I feel even more strongly that their working conditions need to change.
As the story continues and moves from Texas to China, it is interesting to learn about the textile industry and production of cotton from a different perspective. Although many people are not aware of the production process prior to a T-shirt arriving in America, it is important to have an understanding of the steps taken throughout cotton’s journey to the United States.
It is interesting to take a look into life on the farm for a typical Chinese family and realize it is far from easy living. The last thing I expected to read was that many people preferred leaving the comfort of their own homes and working at a factory where they are exposed to poor working conditions. Being that America is known for having equal rights for both men and women, we often lose sight of how poorly women are treated elsewhere. I found it shocking that both women and children are preferred employees by mill owners and are often recruited at an early age. However, even though they are seen to be more diligent workers and are hired more often over the men, owners are not willing to pay them the equivalent salary and continue to dish out a small wage of 12-18 cents an hour, which is completely inhumane.
Obviously there is not a standardized wage system across the world and third world countries are going to have a completely different system than the United States, but this does not mean that we should turn a blind eye to this. As we discussed in class, part of the responsibility may be on us as the consumer as well, and if we are buying the product that was produced in these unfair conditions, does that mean we condone them? However, it is also important to keep in mind that although the Chinese may receive less for wages than Americans, their cost of living is also extremely lower than that of America’s.
The story of Jiang Lan also allows us to gain some insight into the apparel industry from a workers point of view. Although the working conditions still don’t live up to our standards, she appears to be content with her job, which is understandable because this is all she knows. It is interesting to gain some perspective on this issue from an outside point of view but also from someone who is experiencing it themselves. By doing this, the author managed to maintain an objective style of writing which I think is important to do when discussing such a prominent issue.
China is still the largest buyer of American cotton and they are projected to soon produce more than 40% of the world’s textiles. In terms of sustainability, it makes no sense for American cotton to travel across the world to be manufactured, to be sent back for retail, and Chinese factory workers see the least amount of the profit in the form of wages. But that isn’t even our fault. Since 1921 when the Chinese Communist Party formed, cotton factories were in full swing in China as well as in the American south. The difference is that here, Americans were lucky to get jobs working on cotton farms even though it is taxing and exhausting work. Abroad in China, workers were forced by the government into cotton factories. According to the book, labor activism in 1920s China was “not for the weak of heart.” It could be compared to Russian Roulette; fight for your rights or get beheaded in front of a crowd of people. The army defeated any rebels who tried to resist. The then-Communist government system had been in place and controls everything in their environment. Using China for their labor force is still an issue of commodity and not morality. I can see both sides of the argument. We could boycot China as a manufacturing workhorse and not take advantage of what their labor practices have to offer, therefore being morally good, but that would not cause a people’s revolution, which is what the root of the issue is anyway. Since no one else can control what the Chinese government subjects its citizens to, then why not take advantage of the cheap labor? Its not American firms’ responsibility to reform the Chinese government in order to make their textile products morally sound.
Chapter 5 opens with the travels of cotton, being transported to Long Beach, California, where it continues its journey across the Pacific Ocean to the Shanghai ports. This chapter introduces China’s complicated revolutionary history, discussing their struggles in the 1920’s, and also their ongoing democracy changes. “ [T]he cotton spindles have clattered on, an unbroken thread through the tumultuous times” (80). This chapter imbeds the history of the 1949 Communist Revolution to portray the dominant evolving future that China has recovered. Rivoli uses “The Chinese Wall” as a metaphor for the barrier that China has between themselves and foreign countries. The author mentions the important factor of secrecy and strict policies that are enforced in the industry. Chapter 5 also discusses the author’s actual sensory experience of being in the factories where they transform the cotton plant into yarn. Pietra Rivoli uses visual representations of graphs and numerical information to examine and question China’s economical dominance of converging cultures.
Chapter 6 begins by discussing the global history of textile production; comparing the 18th century family oriented Chinese production to the concentrated English manufacturing. This chapter also goes into detail on important technology that has been discovered from the 1700’s on, such as the cotton gin and spinning jennies which make mass-manufacturing possible. As cotton production transferred from Britain to New England, everyone was seeking the cheapest production technique. “Between 1880 and 1930, cotton textile production gradually withered in New England and took root in the southern Piedmont region. The main draw to the South was lower wages.” (99). Rivoli stresses the fact that cotton production was (and still is) a brutal lifestyle of being overworked and underpaid all over the globe. “Following the now-familiar historical pattern, Japanese leadership in the industry was based on low labor costs and poor working conditions…” (102). Chapter 6 reminds me of he constant battle or “long race to the bottom”, consists of who can produce the cheapest products in the least amount of time.
Rivoli begins chapter 7 interviewing Jiang Lan, an employee of Number 36 yarn factory. “Yes, she says. She likes her job” (105). Chapter 7 starts by discussing inequality, especially for women in the textile industry. I was interested to learn that “today, literally millions of young Chinese women choose the factory of the farm” (110). Globally, many people are thankful to have a job even if it is at minimum wage. Chapter 7 helped me reflect on my personal work experience, although I may complain at times, I am thankful to be employed with a decent wage and flexible hours.
As the world is building on globalization and technology, countries are creating more and more specific rules about foreign trade. These rules confuse the entire concept of ‘becoming global’. Chapter 8 uses details of machinery accidents to convey the importance of standards. ‘The Unwitting Conspiracy’ explores the different working standards between countries and how they have evolved over the past centuries, although to this day, many people question the enforcement. Physically, mentally, environmentally, and economically standards, codes and policies are essential for a successful company. However, to do this day China still challenges our “codes”. It is interesting to see how so many American companies are firmly against excess labor in hardly functional factories; yet, they still use them due to the economical advantages.
The second part of The Travels of a T-shirt was very interesting and informative for many reasons. The reader gets insight to the next stages in production for cotton after it leaves the farm in the United States and is shipped to China. Many cotton farmers as stated in the book do not know the processes their cotton goes through after it leaves their farm. This directly relates to consumer buying habits in the U.S. Us as consumers rarely take into consideration the details behind where are clothing is made, the conditions it is made in and the negatives of purchasing from companies that have repeated violations in their factories overseas. In my opinion the production process seems extremely vague when it comes to the middle stage. The cotton is originally from U.S. farms and in the end it is sold in the U.S. market but in between the origin and the end use is a production process held in China that violates labor laws, has terrible working conditions and offers extremely low wages. It is becoming more and more apparent when reading these articles that the apparel industry outsourcing does not only have a negative affect on the U.S. economy but on a global scale as well.
All in all learning more about global working conditions will help educate people and hope for a positive change in the future but as stated in chapter 7 of the book these individuals do want to work. Women are mostly sought after for factory jobs because of their vulnerability and although the pay is little and the conditions are unhealthy, these workers want to be employed in a factory rather than working an occupation on their family farm.
After reading section two of the text, I now feel I have a better understanding of why China’s class system is so extreme, where China devotes a lot of their time and resources on the ever-growing Chinese urban population but lacking in their rural communities. Pietra Rivoli explains the term “liudong renkou”, which means “floating people” and shares examples of the unfair treatment they have to deal with every day. Unfortunately, floating people represent 70-80% of China’s textile, apparel, and construction workers (Rivoli 106). The Chinese government relies on the floating people because they have low wages and are able to perform more rigorous tasks like working long hours in negative working environments. China is taking advantage of their own citizens who rely on those poor paying jobs.
It is hard to read how we still live in a world where countries are exploiting their own citizens. Coming from a life, growing up in the east coast of the United States, I grew up learning America’s history and the harsh conditions America put their own citizens through. Students throughout the U.S. look back into our past in order to understand right from wrong to ultimately not repeat history. If only China would look back and see what they are doing is detrimental to their country at large and should begin to develop a new way to treat their rural workers before it is too late. Doesn’t the Chinese government know the way they are treating their citizens is wrong?
Later in this section, Rivoli explains how China does not follow the American and European ethical rules and regulations in their apparel factories. Examples like making a false payroll, contaminating rivers with harsh fabric dyes, and abusing their labor workers. China is a communist country with their own set of rules and regulations controlling the information they want their citizens to know about. Rivoli continues by explaining the wealthier citizens from China are finding ways to make their views public by protests demanding for better pay and working environment. Thousands of protests are being done every year in order to protect their rights. I’m glad to hear workers are speaking up and fighting for their rights for fair pay and working environments but can protests be enough to make a change? I believe action needs to be taken by other countries, including the United States and major European countries, to protect the hard working laborers that manufacture many of the goods being imported into their countries.
While reading the second part of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy,” I was surprised to read in chapter 5 how China is predicted to produce 40% of the world’s cotton textiles. I was aware that China greatly contributed to apparel manufacturing. Almost everything in the United States we wear utilize, let alone wear, is labeled “Made in China.” However, I did not expect it to contribute to the cotton industry to that extent. In fact, I rarely consider cotton being produced in China. I usually picture the cotton being produced in the United States and having it formed into textiles that are utilized in China. Since China and the U.S. have such different landscapes, it makes me question the climate that the cotton will be produced under in China. If the climate varies extremely, then will this have an effect on the quality of cotton produced there? This prediction concerns me because I feel that it will result in unemployment in the United States cotton production industry since it will likely be less expensive to produce in China.
A point in Chapter 6 I found interesting was how most early textile production in China took place at the level of family. This compares to the current cotton productions in the United States. I did not think production in the two places would have anything in common. This is very similar to the way most businesses were in the United States prior to industrialization. Prior to machinery taking over, it was expected of one to carry on the family business. Their work identity was defined by their family’s history. Their future was determined by the industry their family participated in. It makes a lot of sense why families in China would pursue textile production. There are many variations of the textile industry for one to pursue. It allowed quicker completion of the process if the entire production was concluded in-house. They also mention in the text how the production could take place year round.
In chapter 7 I learned about the concept of hukou. Everyone is aware that the labor conditions in China are poor. We know that the cost of labor is cheap and workers are working heavy shifts but I was unaware of hukou. I had no idea that one’s location could affect their working life. I can see how it would limit the population of urban areas as goal. However, the issue of surplus labor was inevitable considering the population of different areas vary greatly. It is disappointing how they could restrict a citizen from entering a certain setting. I find the concept to be deliberating and restrictive. I agree with Shanghai Chief Representative Julie Walton’s concern with mass migration to the cities. One is likely to move where the quality of their work, and in China’s case, life, is best. The constant migration of citizens to the area where it is best economically does not seem beneficial for the region.
When reading this chapter all I could think about was how badly I feel for the workers stuck in these factories. The reason these sweat shops exists is because companies are always trying to get the most for the least. America is the leading producer of cotton so why do we spend so much money on exporting it just to import it again? After the cotton is picked it travels all over then finally ends up in California where it is shipped to China. Once China receives the cotton they make yarn, knit cloth, cut it into pieces, and then finally sew it into a T-shirt. This is all because of Americas high demand for cheap clothing equals China increasing importing of cotton. Since companies want everything for nothing China has opened tons of factories that don’t care about their workers and only care about how fast and efficient a product can be made. America is the enablers of China’s sweatshops because the companies don’t care about how it gets manufactured they just care about the end product and cost. Since China is run by a communist government they do not have rules and regulations on work labor. Tasks that would be performed by machines in America are performed by manual labor in China. The workers in Chinas factories spend all day performing the same task over and over again, once the day is over they walk across the street to the factories dorms, wake up and do it all over again. Because the people are so poor they are forced to be labor slaves and give their life to working in factories and thats no life at all. Even now conditions are the same with China’s factories being the top polluters. So the workers are stuck in a dusty, hot, and polluted factory all day just to please American companies with cheap garments. However it is ensuring to know that activists are fighting to change the ways of factories and fighting for the rights of workers. Levi Strauss was one of the first companies to change due to consumer activists, because there are so many how protest Brands that produce there goods over seas in sweatshops. Social and environmental responsibilities in the industry are now very impotent and trade agreements regarding labor protection have been put in place. I think that our country needs to come up with a way to produce goods here instead of always going to China because not only will we be benefitting jobs it would also help the environment by not needing to export to import to expert. The Cycle of the Textile and Apparel industry is in need of a change.
Part of what I learned in chapters 5-8 I related back to the discussions we had for the case study. I was not surprised to read about the conditions within the factories. I was however surprised to read how easily the Author, Pietra Rivoli, was able to gain entrance into one of the factories. I also find it ironic that her access was limited once her book was published in Chinese. It was no surprise to read the following about conditions in Number 36 Cotton Yarn Factory, “Everyone and everything in the factory wears a light dusting of cotton flurries. For breathing, there is no air, but dusty steam, as the factory is kept moist to reduce the incidence of broken yarn (pg 83).This quote made me think back to the conditions of the Tazreen factory that we discussed in the case study.
In reading this book, I am surprised to learn that many worker prefer to work in the factories, despite the working conditions rather than work in the fields. Although as the book mentions the detrimental affects a day or two of rain can have on workers, I can understand why many would choose to have the consistency of factory work and being able to spend their disposable income as they wish.
The beginning of chapter 8 states that “Labor protection language is now written into U.S. trade agreements, ‘Global Labor Standards’ has emerged as a topic on the agenda of the World Trade Organization, and the International Labor Organization (ILO) has endorsed a set of “Core Labor Standards” designed to served as speed bumps in the race to the bottom.” This also brings my attention back to the case study we recently worked on. It surprised me to read this, as the Tazreen Factory is an example of the inadequacy of these rulings. The book goes on to say, “Yet many activists argue that the conditions for workers in Asian apparel factories are comparable to, or worse than, those found centuries ago in Europe and America (pg.120).” I agree with the ending of this quote. It is obvious to anyone in this class that the conditions in international factories are not appropriate and the safety of workers is not a concern to those factories. I think it is wrong beyond words that factories still run on the terrible working conditions they do, especially if legislations such as the ILO and WTO claim to have put into action standards they’ve written into U.S. trade agreements.
After reading the second part of the T-shirt book, many revelations and questions came to mind. First, the importance of American exportation on a global scale was made extremely evident. Through the increase of technology, efficiency of producing cotton as vastly improved and the rest of the world just cannot compare. Cotton is grown in America, a great portion straight of Texas, however most people tend to overlook what happens next. Once the agricultural portion of production is done in America, where does it go and how does it get there? Today, the agricultural and industrial chapters of a t-shirt occur on different continents. More than ever, China matters. China is the largest buyer of American cotton. Also, it is projected that Cotton will soon produce more than 40% of the world’s textiles.
In order for cotton to become a t-shirt, workers are needed. This is where China enters the picture. The cotton industry has greatly influenced Shenghai and has generate lavish wealth. Although, lavish wealth has been generated there is a large divide between the wealthy and the “working class” who spend 12 hours a day, 7 days a week inside the factories making less than 20 cents a day. Parts of Shenghai are full of ramshacked buildings, dusty air, and unpaved roads. These areas are also home to the factories, where the circular production of cotton occurs. The treatment of the workers inside of these factories is poor, and their environment which they spend most of their time is the opposite of healthy. China does not refer to labor laws, which is why this is able to take place.
It was interesting to read not only about the conditions in China, but also the comparison to the early US factories. Early cotton workers in the US required little skill, similar to the workers of Chinese factories. Women and children were also preferred to hire because men were considered difficult to work with. The conditions of these early factories were considered worse than jail because inmates had shorter work days and received longer lunch breaks. It was startling to read that the factories in China are still ran with these same conditions.
This section of the book really showed how trade patterns have changed. The US and China both greatly influence each other in the textile and apparel industry. With the advancement of economies around the globe, countries have lost the “race to the bottom.”
After reading the first two chapters of the T-shirt book we learn that America grows the cotton used for the T-shirts that are produced in China. I did not know that America exports their cotton to China and Chinese workers produce our apparel goods for cheap prices.
I don’t know why but in my mind I imagined that the cotton used for our t-shirts was grown in China. I thought it made it cheaper and easier than exporting cotton from the US to China then export the finished goods BACK TO THE US. I never knew that was what was going on.
In the last comment I posted you replied with this statement Professor Sheng…
“Why China does not insist “made in China” cotton and restrict cotton imported from the US? Because such measure will raise the cotton price in China and harm the competitiveness of finished apparel products made in China. ”
I’ve never thought about it but it makes sense that it would raise the price of producing garments. Is it because it is more profitable for Chinese to produce garments because there is a higher workforce at hand and less land? This really opened my eyes and stopped me from thinking the shipping back and forth of these goods is pointless.
The author of the book does a very good job describing the sounds, imageries and smells that inhabit a cotton yarn producing factory. It makes the reader feel as though they are standing there and hardly being able to hear the other person because of the horrendous noise the machines make. It makes the reader sympathize with the workers working in these conditions every single day for long hours.
It was very sad to read about the conditions the workers work in especially them being women and children. These poor people would work extremely long hours a day for minimal pay. It also made me sad reading about the poor children that would get killed because of the machinery! These poor workers have almost no rights. It makes us think about how different it is here in the US. And also the fact that women and children were hired more often because they were easier to work with is horrible! These poor children.
Anytime someone’s rights here in the US are being violated or something they automatically retaliate and use the law to protect themselves. But because of the Government these poor workers cannot unionize and do the same. It should show people that rights should not be taken for granted! Especially because some people don’t have any rights at all in some countries.
I like your last comment. You are right, our T&A industry also touches the human right issues. That’s why in the US, the State Department also plays a role in making the T&A trade policy
Part II of ‘The Travels of a T-Shirt’ brings up the subject of working conditions and sweatshops in China. I read that conditions in most of the textile mills across China have improved tremendously in the past few years. China’s government has supposedly made codes that factories have to follow about how much they have to pay their employees and how to dispose of waste from production. The factories in China are also checked regularly by inspectors sent from America to make sure they’re following guidelines.
On multiple occasions, I have read stories about the horrible working conditions in China. I do not fully believe that conditions and guidelines have improved. I often wonder if people say these things to cover up what is actually going on. Cheap Labor and Cheap production means less costs for the retailer and larger profits for the owner. It also means cheaper prices for consumers. In the owners eyes it is a win-win situation, even if workers are being paid $5.00 a month and working 20 hours a day. That is normal to them and that is a problem for me. I understand that it has been happening for a long time but why not finally make conditions better for the people putting the hard work in. I guess I would have to go to a few of the textile mills myself to see and believe what I’m reading/learning about.
Good thinking. So that’s why in the class I said that the fire accident is not just a problem of the factory, but rather relfects some deep problem of the whole system.
As we progress into Section 2, we are now seeing the transfer of the cotton from the farms in Texas to the Chinese economy. Right from the beginning we are starting to see just how global the textile and apparel industry really is. Despite the two nations mentioned being so incredibly different in both culture and economies, they are dependent on each other as they rely on one another to survive. Ravoli mentions “…so the cities, planets apart in every way, are bound together by soft cotton fiber, and each city keeps a constant watch on the other.” While this isn’t a new concept as we have mentioned the global economy in class, it really puts it in perspective having a specific commodity (cotton), from a specific place (a farm in the US), being sent to another place (China) and seeing how there is a connection between all of it, especially in the case of this story as we see all the steps as well as all the people involved in the seemingly simple process of creating a T-shirt.
While seeing the behaviors of the global economy are rather interesting, it is the detailed accounts of the working conditions that are really enlightening. As we have learned in class, the working conditions in these Chinese sweatshops are substandard to what we are used to in the US as well as the rest of the developed world. It isn’t until you read the detailed first-hand accounts that it settles in that these aren’t just exaggerated stories we occasionally see on the news or read about, but are actual events and tragedies that occur in the developing world. I did however find it interesting to read about how some works preferred the factory work to farm work, and how they were happy to even have a source of income. Initially this sounds comforting to myself as a reader but then you begin to remember just how terrible the working conditions are in the factories which ultimately leads me to believe most of these workers have just become so desensitized their environment. In the US we look at a 60+ hour a week job as a well-paying, high-ranking job where as in China, those 60+ hour jobs are for a few messily dollars a week, just enough to survive.
There was a lot to take in throughout this section but it really puts what we have been learning about into a personal perspective. Not only do we see more of the T& A process, we get first-hand accounts of what is happening throughout this journey. We see the connection between national economies but also the cost globalization has. While many of us reap the benefits of cheap, available products, there are just as many, if not more, people being exploited by the whole chain. While it is easy to point the finger at the nation these tragedies occur in, it is hard to figure out who’s responsible for the well-being of all those involved in the textile industry.
It is good that you start thinking about the “cost of globalization”. Remember in the class I showed pictures of people protesting agaist WTO conference? WTO is a symbol of globalization. However, we are not living in a black and white world. Just like we still need to drive despite the car accidents everyday–so it is with globalization.
In the second section of the book “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” I found there to be many interesting facts that I did not know before reading this. “In a circular linkage that ebbs and flows, demand by Americans for cheap clothing from China leads to demand from China for cotton from Americans”(P 78). This quote is extremely important because it shows how countries really depend on one another to get certain things accomplished and how globalization plays a big roll in today’s economy. Cotton and many other fibers are extremely important to textile industries all over the globe. Also, noticing on clothes that I wear a lot of the tags say “made in China” this is nothing I have not heard seen before but when reminded it made me think how intense the process is in making textiles. “But to become a T-Shirt, the cotton requires workers: cutters, spinners, knitters, and stitchers…. Labor still accounts for more than half of the value added in the production of apparel”(P 78).
Most people do not realize how much effort is put into making something that ends up in their drawer or closet. Another quote that stood out to me would be when the author states: “China dominates the global textile and apparel industries as the United States dominates the world cotton markets.”(P 87) This quote further explains how countries work off of one another and export and import certain things that could help the needs and wants of their consumers.
Another point in the first part of the chapter that stood out to me would be the working conditions that workers undergo just to produce the shirt. I found this part to be extremely sad to read about. The environment they are surrounded by is awful and “…the majority of the water in the country’s largest river systems is unsuitable for human contact”(P 89) Not only were the working conditions bad but they mostly recruited women to work in these factories. This was extremely upsetting to read and no matter what gender was working, the working conditions were described has unsafe and not workable. This could make one think back to the case study that we worked on in class. The workers should not have been working in unworkable conditions and should have been told to go home. This made me realize a lot more about the textile industry that I did not realize was so important before.
Lastly, as we discussed in class since we the consumers buy the clothing and know what is going on in the textile factories, does this mean that we support the bad working conditions? Although there is no right or wrong answer people do have and enforce their opinions. I believe that every textile student should be educated on this topic and know what is going on in the world around him or her. They should know where there textiles come from and the process that people go through.
I don’t think the CSR issue can be easily solved. As we discussed in class, it involves so many different factors–economic, social and political. But positive changes are happening, because comsumers are gradually awaring of the issue and pushing retailers to make a change. this is a buyer-driven industry. I agree with you that T&A majors have a key role to play. This is how you guys are different from those graduated from college of business.
Information given in chapters five through eight was no surprise to me. However it was very easy to relate the discussed information in these chapters because of what we have been discussing in class. Chapter five informed readers about the processing of cotton and how a T-shirt is made. The process begins in America and ends in China. As usual China is playing a tremendous role. The cotton is only picked in America and the rest is done in China which includes cleaning, carding, twisting into yarn, spinning and finally making of the garment. You would think since most of the work is done in Chinese factories they would be making the most profit and employees that work in these factories would also be making enough money to support their families.
Also I was not surprise about the factory life of many of these workers. I first learned about the conditions of factory workers in a documentary call “China Blue”. This film was based on a jeans factory call Lifeng Clothes Factory in China. Most of the factory employees are young girls and women from nearby villages. Some of the workers live in the factory dormitories had a small room with four other girls and were charged for everything they used. As mentioned in the book, factory owners preferred female employees then male employees because they more vulnerable and are willing to work for a low income. The gender wage gap does not only exist in China but also in America but I believe China has it worst. How can this gender wage gap be fixed not only in China but worldwide?
It good to know laws are being developed to improve the working conditions in China. I believe it’s going to take a while for these laws to be put in practice by factories owner. It’s going to be hard because women will always be willing to work for a low income because they are tired of the farm life and want to better themselves. They only way to do so is by working in a in a factories in hope of a better life. It is sad to know that a production of a t-shirt can cause an environmental damage. We can have a clean environment if we follow the suggestions that were made in the book.
Part 2 of the book mentioned a lot about children and women labor, as well as history of the largest exporters of cotton. I read that children and women were actually chosen over men because they complained less which in turn led to more efficient production in the mills. This was good for the company and maybe even good for the workers. I know that most people that are living in poverty will not complain for having to work in such brutal conditions. What they are most worried about is having food, shelter and clothing. Recruiting children and women also helped mill owners because they came with a low cost to hire.
In chapter 8, I discovered a lot about history, labor, the process of cotton, advantages and disadvantages of exporting and importing in previous chapters. The reason why this particular chapter caught my eye is because there is a lot more information on today’s issues. Protestors argue how conditions so deplorable a hundred or more years ago in the West now are acceptable in the East? The book mentions that global capitalism and labor activism are cooperators, not enemies. I agree with this statement because it takes workers to make money in the world. What really caught my eye is how the production of t-shirts can be toxic to the planet. I am very involved in making the planet a safer and cleaner place to live, so I was shocked to read that firms dump toxins into rivers and burn cheaper fossil fuel for energy. They do this to reduce their own costs, but they raise costs for society as a whole. There was a study that found that by switching from using a dryer machine to hanging clothes out on a line to dry and lowering the temperature of washing water saved 60% of a t-shirt’s energy use. I found that firms are not the only factor in saving our planet as a whole, but the consumer is just as responsible.
What I personally found interesting was the decision behind the use of children and women in the mills. Children working from the age of 5 is quite disheartening. Normally children that age would have no idea what hard labor is however in the reading many of the children were actually living at the mills where they worked. I can not imagine a life where children would be in the work force alongside their parents. I also thought that the treatment of the workers in China was unfair. They receive low pay, work long hours and work in very poor working conditions. However interestingly enough, they would rather be in mills than in farms.
Also, Rose Rosenfeld’s story brought similarities to the Bangladesh Factory fire. Tragedies such as these fires, affect people for several years after it occurs. In this case, at the age of 106 Rose still felt the memories of the fire. As a result, she dedicated her life to stand for fire safety. The power of one voice can change a lot.
In chapter 8 “Perverse Effects and Unintended Consequences of T-shirt Trade Policy,” I thought it was interesting that with a decrease in employment the production was steady or rising. The workers must really be working diligently to attempt to maintain their current positions. You have to commend those who trying to do all that they can to keep their jobs.
Part II of the “Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” was very enlightening. I think it is very interesting when countries work so closely together they adapt some of each other’s culture to make it more accommodating for the foreign people traveling back and forth. It sounds so funny to me that there is a Texas barbeque in China. Our country is a “melting pot” so it isn’t bizarre to have a bunch of different businesses that are all based off of different cultures. But when I think of China having a barbeque it is so strange but makes complete sense.
I think it is also extremely peculiar that before the first book was published they let the author into the factories with no problem and were very welcoming. Then when she tried to return after the book had been published, some wouldn’t let her in because of the “negative affects it could have on them”. I think this is horrible that the people in charge of the factories clearly know how badly their employees are being treated, yet don’t care enough to change anything. Additionally, I think it is awful that the Chinese government doesn’t do anything about this mistreatment. All everyone cares about is money. If the people of the Unites States were more aware of the conditions in China, the factories might not have any business. Therefore they are hiding what’s actually happening. At the same time, most of the United States companies know how badly the factory workers are being treated but if they can get exceptionally cheap products from China they will. And if the Chinese factory owners can get labor for very cheap and not have to spend extra money on a decent environment for their workers why would they. It is all about money and is a whole unethical cycle between all the people involved.
It is also very sad that most citizens of China don’t have a choice of a job with good working conditions. It is either working on a farm or in a factory, both are horrible. It is almost a norm to the citizens that you will work in awful conditions. I feel as if the residents of China are so sheltered they grow up with these views instilled in them. It makes me appreciate living in the Unites States so much more.
Part two really ties together what we’ve been discussing in class when it comes to poor working conditions in other countries. Pietra Rivoli explains how “…leadership in the industry was based on low labor costs and poor working conditions…” (page 102). She describes how females and children were often put to work in the mills “because of their abundance and low price, but also because owners found them temperamentally well-suited to the mind-numbing drudgery of early textile work” (page 95). Forcing people to live in unpleasant conditions and working for hours and hours at a time seems so unbelievably wrong to me. Although finding a solution to this problem seems to be the million dollar question I can for sure see why a large chunk of the “blame” for this problem should be placed on them.
Reading section two really made me understand and appreciate how lucky we are as Americans and how bad it is in other countries. Reading about how Chinese women work 12 hours a day, seven days a week…its sort of painful knowing this information and makes me think about how silly it is to complain about “hard work” in our country. Not only are they overworked, but they are under paid as well, earning anywhere from 12-18 cents per hour. Also, Rivioli went on to show that women from China are forced to work more because the country is allowed to pay women less than men for work. They also stated that the women and children complained less than the men which made them more desirable to the work place. This information was baffling and is clearly a HUGE issue that is too commonly over looked. This part of the book really opened my eyes to the issue and brought everything we’ve discussed in class full circle.
I found part II of the book to be even more interesting than part I. It took this Texas cotton to the next step, China, and showed how apparel production continued there. As a TMD and Political Science major this is particularly interesting because it is one of the few concepts that overlaps between my two majors, tying in foreign affairs.
The labor laws in China were brought up and how they are sometimes basically disregarded due to the lack of enforcement by the government. These Chinese workers work for what we in America consider basically nothing and could never live off of. Most of these workers are woman because they work for lower wages. This was an interesting section, though it is something I think most of us are aware of because of the subjects I have chosen to study. China really only started with mass amounts of United States production after many laws were created in the U.S. to protect its workers. I really wonder what will happen when eventually something so catastrophic happens with these poor working conditions where the United Nations does have to step it. I wonder who will be blamed and if the United States will be forced to take on some sort of responsibility.
As I read through chapters five through eight, I came across some things that sparked my interest and also caused me to question. Chapter 5 was about the process American cotton goes through when it’s shipped to China, made into yarn, then fabric and then sewn into a t-shirt. The process instantly reminded me of the TMD 303 textile science class that I took when I was a junior. The chapter also discusses the presence of sweat shops in China, which caused me some concern. Since the price of t-shirts continues to decrease, it causes some question over how the t-shirts are made. Since the price has been decreasing, does this mean the quality has as well? Does it also mean that the people who work for the factories are getting paid less and less? Researchers have found that there are some concealed sweatshops in China. It baffles me that there are sweatshops in existence today, despite it being illegal and famous companies such as Nike being caught for manufacturing in sweatshops. I thought that at this point, companies and factories wouldn’t dare engage in any sweatshop activity.
Chapter 6 discusses the history of cotton clothing production. I was surprised to learn that China was the first country to produce a smart system of making cloth until 1750. Then Britain became the leader in cotton cloth production by creating new inventions that would help them. It was interesting to read that the British wanted to keep their technology a secret so they didn’t let their textile operators leave the country. Wow! By 1820, the U.S. became the leader producer after an American man took a trip to Britain and brought their technologies back with him. I guess the British weren’t so secretive after all? China leads in clothing exports today because of the lower wages which allows companies buy the clothing cheap. I thought it was interesting that China was the first leading producer and is now back to being the leading producer. I was surprised to read that the U.S. was the first country to start producing clothing cheaper and cheaper. Who would have known? Today many American’s are angered at companies outsourcing to countries like China to produce clothing dirt cheap, meanwhile, this whole race started in the U.S.
Chapter 7 discusses the role countryside women of China played in clothing production, starting in the 1950s. Women from the countryside came to work at clothing factories that starting popping up around the coast. The government was happy because they hired cheap labor and women were happy because they were close to the cities and out of the sun. I feel like the government was taking advantage of the women and not treating them like human beings. The women were given so many rules to follow, it just seemed as if making money was more valuable then a human life.
In chapter 8, I was pleased to read that the rules and conditions a Chinese clothing factory had to abide by were made stricter. I think its great that inspectors from America are sent to the factories to make sure they’re following the guidelines. The U.S. and other countries are putting strict requirements in their contracts for factories overseas so that the employees work in good conditions and receive fair pay. I don’t think the workers in these foreign countries will ever receive a fair pay though. I was surprised to read that factories in China are moving to poorer countries with less strict regulations and cheaper pay. Could this lead to a dramatic decrease in companies outsourcing to China? Could China stop being the leading cotton clothing exporter one day? I find this an incredibly interesting topic.
I think you are raising some great questions. “Since the price has been decreasing, does this mean the quality has as well? Does it also mean that the people who work for the factories are getting paid less and less?” In my view, competition always drives price down. The world textile & apparel industry has the problem of oversupply rather than short of supply, meaning the competition is much fiercer than many other sectors in the world. As we discussed in class, retailers pass the price pressure to factories, and factories can only cut their wage level so as to survive. Eventually the workers become the victims of such a system of “racing to the bottom”. As to your comment on chapter 7, I totally agree that much improvement can be made in the human right area in China. At the same time, the logic behind the practice of the Chinese government is: when the economy develops, the country will gradually have more resources to help those poor people in need. At least, majority of the Chinese people find their living standard has much improved over the past decades. In terms of “fair pay”, it is also related to the development issue. Why you think even in the U.S., the minimum wage varies from state to state? Why in this country the tax rate for different income groups are different? “Fairness” involves subject judgment and depends on the specific context that it applies to. Overall, great thinking in the comment!
This section of the book discussed the interdependency between China and the United States as well as how they influence each other in the textile and apparel industry. I was surprised, like many others, to learn that America, particularly Texas, grows the largest amount of cotton for T-shirts then produced in China. It was no surprise to find that China dominates the global textile and apparel industry, but it was interesting to read that every year since 1993 America has dominated the world’s cotton market.
Great detail is places on the conditions of each factory the author visits. While reading the descriptions it is almost like being there in reality, especially with the emphasis on the “Communist Green” walls. The discussion of how the cotton is grown in America, China transforms it into yarn and creates a simple T-shirt, then we get it back. “Despite millions of dollars put into research on mechanization, people are still required to piece together fabric.” I understood this to mean, this is the part where China comes in. For Assignment 1 we discussed in our papers how Chinese workers differ from American ones. Americans frankly wouldn’t work in the conditions that Chinese workers operate under. The vivid description of the “sweat shops” put things into perspective for me. It makes sense that women and children are used as factory workers for their docility. They are less likely than men to cause trouble. The fact that they are paid less doesn’t hurt the business either. One interesting thing I noted was that married women are preferred over single women because of their need to work as a family responsibility.
Textile clothing workers have “low pay, long hours and poor working conditions,” they are “controlled, exploited, overworked and underpaid.” But still these workers prefer working in a factory to working on a farm. How interesting to note the differences in worker mentality between Chinese and American.
Another point discussed in the book that caught my attention was when the author discussed global labor standards that are emerging as topics of conversation for the World Trade Organization. While it is true that conditions of today have greatly improved, I wonder exactly by how much? Is it fair to say that a good amount of people with knowledge of the textile and apparel industry are aware of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, that killed 146 people? Recently we discussed in class a case study based on a similar fire occurrence which killed 110 people. This incident happening just this past year in Bangladesh. How much has changed in the hundred years that have gone by. These two cases may have happened in two different countries but if laws where in place to prevent the same incident from occurring again, whose to say that 110 lives could not have been saved?
These chapters were very enlightening into the lives and thought process of factory workers, not only in China but other countries as well.
Excellent points! I agree that it is meaningful to think about why after hundreds of years with thousands of tragedies we still do not have an world-wide standard on labor conditions. My view is the development gap–for example just see how the wage level significantly varies across the world. while in a developed country like the US, a minimum $7.5 payment sounds low, remember in the world we still have 1.2 billion people who is living on less than $1.25 dollars per pay. Many countries simply cannot afford to offer more decent working conditions while still enjoy price competitiveness of their products. That’s the dilemma we are facing today. I hope this class can help students get aware of these issue and better understand why they are complicated.
I enjoyed Part II of the T-shirt book more because I was able to understand and connect to it. At the beginning of part two, Patrick Xu told the author to visit China and he will show her everything. After going to China a few times, I have learned that, there are certain things that could be shown to a certain degree. So I was surprised when the author mentioned about visiting the factories. I visited a textile factory in China during my last visit in China and my classmates and I all wondered how much of what we see is reality, what they go through on a daily base. Of course I wasn’t surprised that the author was not able to revisit Shanghai Number 36 Cotton Yarn Factory or Shanghai Brightness Garment after her book got translated into Chinese. I am not sure what the author described in her first book, but it probably described an aspect of the factory which the government does not wish to be exposed to public, especially in the Western society.
The author mentioned about hukou in China which I see it as a powerful tool to keep people stay to stay where their household registration are. The author said, “hukou is competitive strength, ensuring a stable and cheap labor force for the urban industry while at the same time ensure that rural citizens bring their labor, but not themselves to Shanghai” (Rivoli 106). The girls who worked at a mill liked it better than the farm is similar to the “floating people” in China. In the cities they can find a better opportunity and a higher income compared to working on the farm. But at the same time, the government does not allow them to become a resident in the cities because cities such as Beijing and Shanghai will have an exponential increase in population which will create problems such as city budget Julie mentioned in her email. As I mentioned before, I think hukou is a powerful tool because it makes it hard for Chinese citizens to change their household registration and the government knows where foreigners are easily.
Toward the end of part two, Sadie, one of the girls who worked at the mills said, “Many of the young men talk to me, but I don’t go out with any except Henry. Lately he has been urging me more and more to get married…I think I’ll wait” (Rivoli 115). Women started to get married at a later age because of an increase in their disposable income, which allows them freedom. If you compare the women from the pre-Industrial Revolution to women from the mills, there is an increase in power and independence in women because they are making their own money. The increase of disposable income will lead to a higher education and eventually the factory jobs will be shipped off to other developing countries such as China. And I predict this same pattern will happen in China too and soon the manufacturing jobs will be shipped to a different country.
I agree with your obversation in the last paragrah. I think it is what is happening today. An interesting question to think about is : is it rational for a country short of labor to engage in labor intensive industry? This is where the “comparative advantage theory” comes from
In part II, I feel like I learned more than I did in part one. It opened my eyes more to things going that I wasn’t aware of. The fact that young children from
“poorhouses” had to work in textile factories to earn their keep is not right. A child at young age around 5 are mainly not worrying about anything and there biggest fusses are small things. To have a child become self-sufficient at that age is disturbing. Another section in part 2 that I found disturbing was that women were treated so poorly in these working conditions. They didn’t have a say in anything, they had to share pajamas and beds. Due to this confinement, disease spread faster throughout these places. Another group of people I read about was the floating people. These people are all by themselves with no support system (families) around them. It was shocking to find out that these “floating people” were not allowed to have access to many things, due to the fact they aren’t residence. Not being a residence meant poor living conditions, no education, and no childcare. I could never imagine not having a life outside work or school. We have all heard about how terrible the working conditions, but after reading part 2 I never imaged that they would be that bad.
When I first started reading Part 2 I was a little bit more intrigued especially after reading the first part and being surprised on some of the things I learned. Part 2 concentrated on labor in China after the cotton is exported from Texas to China for the production of apparel. It’s still weird to know that the cotton that a garment is made from was originally from the United States but because it was manufactured in China it has a “Made in China” label. Last year I took a public speaking class and did 4 speeches and four months of research on my topic of sweatshops overseas. I felt I knew a lot about this topic but again “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” surprised me again. After knowing about the bad working conditions in China, the long hours, and low pay, it might have been a shock to know that the women and girls chose to work in the sweatshop mills instead of the farms. It makes sense though, they were just happy to have a job where they were earning money than they would on the farm. I could never imagine working 12 hours and only getting paid 12-10 cents per hour. Even the living conditions are bad, where some had to share beds in over crowded spaces. Chinese workers definitely seem dedicated especially since they began working at such a young age. It’s such a different culture compared to the United States, where workers are extremely privileged in their earning salaries and hours. We often take for granted all of our labor laws including minimum wage. The stories described about injuries and deaths in chapter 8 really give you insight on just how bad working conditions are. For example, how children died from injuries from the machines and lung diseases from cotton in the air. It was heartbreaking to read and makes you appreciate the labor force in the United States. I’m excited to see what’s next in Part 3 and how the story will continue.
“I could never imagine working 12 hours and only getting paid 12-10 cents per hour. ” this is how we can enjoy low price of apparel. If we want apparel “made in USA” , either add a “0” on the price tag, or expect the similar sweatshop move back to the US.
Reading part two of the book was interesting. Chapter five starts out part 2 where we see cotton from Lubbock in the USA navigate to China. China’s new capitalist city of Shanghai accepts the US cotton and turns it into spun yarn, knitted into cloth, cut into pieces, and finally sewn into clothing. China matters more today than during the past. China is not only the largest buyer of American cotton, it is also expected to soon produce more than 40% of the word’s cotton textiles. The creation of textiles requires machinery, therefore it is capital intensive. On the other hand apparel is labor intensive so it requires a lot of hands or people. The perceived future of China increasing impact on the production of cotton concludes that China has a growing capital economy. Growing capital means growing technology and machinery.
The new communist China in the 1950’s devised a hukou system where the great majority of the country’s citizens were assigned rural hukous. This created order where the country side citizens produced the food. This is related to a caste system seen in India.
Labor protection language is now
Written into the US trade agreement of “Global Standards” which is portably for globalization. This section of the reading was interesting and is important for learning about how the world works in the textile and apparel sector today.
P.s. the comments time stamp is fast by an hour.
“Like any frequent visitor to China, my most significant impression of the country is one of frenetic change: promising change, unsettling change, but most of all accelerating change” (Rivoli, 80-81). Rivoli couldn’t have summed this up any better. This statement directly relates to what we have been discussing in class: China is on the rise as a developing country and there is a lot of potential for the country in the future. Rivoli goes on to comment on how everything is always the same when she returns back to the United States; the main reason for this, I believe, is because it is already a developed country and does not necessarily need to change things for improvement. I thought that Rivoli was very fortunate to be able to visit and observe what actually goes on in a Chinese factory back in 2000-2006 when she was a “nobody” to the Chinese people. This opportunity of exploring the operations on a typical day at a Chinese factory makes her book even more incredible and exciting to read because she is sharing her first-hand experiences and isn’t telling stories based on what she has heard through other people. On page 90, Rivoli discusses the falling prices of clothing in the United States and backs this up with an example of a Walgreen’s T-shirt she purchased previously for $6.00 and not too long after that same T-shirt at Walgreen’s was priced on sale at 4 for $10. It is eye-opening to think how greatly the United States relies heavily on apparel imports from foreign countries, especially China. It is also very discouraging to think of the negative impacts global capitalism has on workers and the world as a whole.
I was pleased to read in the opening paragraph on page 92 that, “[…] until at least 1750, China rivaled Europe in virtually all measures of well-being and development. […] China, if anything, was more favorably positioned for industrial development than even the most advanced regions of Europe until the middle of the eighteenth century” (Rivoli). If only China could have jumped on the bandwagon as the Industrial Revolution swept through Europe. However, it is very admirable how savvy Chinese households were, because families knew every step of the textile production process and made their own clothing at home and by hand. A major benefit of, “the family production system [was] that at almost all times of the year all members of the household could be productive in one way or another” (Rivoli, 93). As this chapter goes on about the success of Britain during the Industrial Revolution, I greatly enjoyed reading about how textile production originated in New England because it hits home.
“Yet while the sheer number of Jiang Lans, as well as their low wages, are often put forth to explain China’s dominance in light manufacturing, the truth is that these economic factors – the supply and price of labor – take us only part of the way toward understanding China’s leadership position in this industry” (Rivoli, 105). We are all guilty, including me, to assume that cheap labor is the only reason why China is able to sell their products at jaw-dropping, low prices; there are many other factors that contribute which are usually overlooked. I found the meaning behind the Chinese term for accident, hukou, to be a little unsettling, especially when the book states that this, “[ensures] that rural citizens bring their labor, but not themselves, to Shanghai” (Rivoli, 106). I interpreted this as believing that the Chinese government wants their workers to be the equivalent to machines, while leaving their personality at home. It is mind-boggling when you compare the life of an average American worker to that of a Chinese worker; a polar opposite is what you will find!
Chapter 8 explained the phenomenon about how global capitalism and labor activism work as a cohesive team rather than against each other as enemies. I found it very inspiring when reading about how generations of activists have made a difference and “changed the rules of the race and raised the bottom, making it a much better place than it used to be” (Rivoli, 121).
great comment! The book is based on the author’s first hand observation and trip. All characters in the book are real (even not using the fake name). This is also one reason why I like the book. I hope the author can keep updating the book. Things are keeping changing in recent years: the financial crisis, the rising labor cost in China, the structural change in China’s economy, etc. I visited a textile factory in Shanghai in 2007 (the picture above), which could be the same factory visited by the author. The working conditions are not too bad–compared with many others in the country. But I won’t say I like to work there–on the contray, I felt lucky I was not a worker. Shanghai used to be the leading city producing textiles and apparel in China. However, since early 1990, the local government started to push “upgrading” the economy and as results, many textile and apparel factories were closed to leave space for other sectors such as auotomobiles and service sector. I wont’ say life was easy for these laid off workers from the textile mills, but 20 years later when you looking back, I think it was a right decision. So travels of a T-shirt from my view has two meanings, one is the global production as you’ve read. and the other is the location of production will keep moving around the world–maybe 10 years from now, will happen mostly in Vietnam, Bangalash or even Africa. Enjoy reading part III which is my favorate~
The content of these chapters grabbed my attention a bit more than section one. I enjoyed reading this because I was able to recognize and connect the material to what we discussed in class. It was interesting to read about the incline of Chinas industries and how their apparel exports have grown at an average annual rate of 30% since 1980.
Although China produces around 40% of the worlds cotton textiles, their working conditions are still dangerous. When I was reading about the sweatshops, it got me thinking about our case study that we just did. With long hours, poor pay, dangerous machinery and other working factor, there can be another incident like the one in Bangladesh. More people should be informed about their working conditions behind then scenes. It’s discouraging to read that labor laws are being ignored because China’s government knows that cheap labor makes a bigger profit. The safety and well being of the workers is not as big of a concern as it is in the United States. Although it is sad, people still purchase clothes made from China because it is cheaper.
These workers are not given much of an alternative to the tedious jobs at hand, such as “fixing broken yarn.” No matter how torturing the work may be, people are not willing to quit because there are thousands of other people who are willing to take their place.
It was nice to read in chapter 8 that some people are fitting to help abolish the poor labor conditions in China. Although this section overall was sad to read, it taught me a lot about the unseen realities overseas.