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Apple’s China Comes Home to Haunt Us

Posted on Feb 15, 2012 via Engadget

By Robert Scheer

Four decades ago Richard Nixon, a once famously hawkish Republican president, cut a deal with the Communist overlords of China to reshape the world. The result was a transformation of the global economy in ways that we are only now, with the sharp critiques of Apple’s China operation, beginning to fully comprehend.

At the heart of the deal was a rejection of the basic moral claim of both egalitarian socialism and free market capitalism, the rival ideologies of the Cold War, to empower the individual as the center of decision-making. Instead, the fate of the citizen would come to be determined by an alliance between huge multinational corporations and government elites with scant reference to the needs of ordinary working folk.

It was understood by both parties to this grand concord that monopoly capitalism could be constructed in China to be consistent with the continuance in power of a Communist hierarchy, just as in the West capitalism was consistent with the enrichment of an ostensibly democratic ruling class. Sharp income inequality, the bane of genuine reform movements bearing the names populist, socialist and democratic, came to be the defining mark of the new international order.

The current controversy over Apple’s treatment of its 700,000 foreign workers, mostly in China, is a manifestation of that cross-ideological betrayal. The ironies are manifest. Not the least of which is that businessmen from Taiwan, the bastion of anti-Communist Chinese during the Cold War and still the pretend reason for a U.S. military presence in the region, are the essential organizers of mainland China’s workforce. But in the pursuit of profit, and at a time when the startling success of China’s hybrid communist-capitalist model keeps the U.S. Treasury afloat, few questions are asked.

Indeed, the pressure is now on to better emulate that model within the United States, to keep still more jobs from being shipped abroad. The human rights concerns of the U.S. have by now been opportunistically tailored to exclude any serious concern about the rights of workers to organize unions to make their job conditions more humane. China’s labor practices are now to be admired rather than scorned, lest the American economy decline further in the new world order.


Square, Site wide
As The New York Times pointed out last month in its devastating overview of Apple’s shift from its once proud claim of making its products in the USA to near total dependence on China: “It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.”

Parse that language to find the excuse to run roughshod over environmental protections, workers’ rights and occupational safety standards in order to allow “flexibility” at the massive Foxconn and other plants in China where robotic work is performed by humans under conditions that even Apple has conceded in an internal audit are unacceptable under modern industrial standards.

In reality the multinational corporations prefer China’s state-sponsored model of capitalism, which assures them an endless supply of docile workers unprotected by those pesky unions and restrictive government regulations. As Steve Jobs told President Obama last year, “Those jobs aren’t coming back.” The reason that Jobs supplied in his 2011 approved biography is that the Chinese government is so wonderfully acquiescent to the development plans of foreign corporations. Not as in the U.S., where, Jobs claimed, “regulations and unnecessary costs” make it difficult for companies to operate. That the result of China’s deregulation is poisoned air, worker suicide and a massive waste of resources is deemed to be beside the point.

Oddly enough, Jobs, who succeeded in business without attending more than part of a single college semester, also blamed a U.S. educational system “crippled by union work rules” for what he proclaimed to be the sorry state of our domestic labor force. One of the basic human rights being violated by the Chinese government is that of workers to organize unions responsive to their needs; rather, they are at the mercy of phony organizations tolerated by the Communist government. It is sad, and not encouraging, that Jobs endorsed a blatantly anti-union position by claiming that until the teachers’ unions were broken, there would be almost no hope for education reform.

Considering the workforce employed by Apple, one has to question what sort of properly trained graduates Jobs had in mind. If the habits required of Apple’s workforce in China are to be emulated, the U.S. military, or perhaps our outsized prison system, should become the essential schooling system for American workers to better compete with the properly disciplined assemblers of iPhones in China.

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M Henri Day's avatar

By M Henri Day, February 22, 2012 at 9:18 am Link to this comment

Carl, you seem to be quite the expert on the Chinese penal system - have you ever resided in the country ? Do you speak the language ? What surprises me is that you seem to have much less knowledge regarding the penal system of your own country (as stated earlier, I presume you live in the United States, but for reasons of your own, you have refrained, from either confirming or deny this assumption). It is indeed the case that in the number of prisoners executed, China does take the palm before the United States, which despite its much smaller population, leads in most other fields related to incarceration. This is unfortunate and should come to an end - I am utterly opposed to the death penalty, whether carried out in China, the US, Japan, India, or elsewhere. You may be pleased - or displeased - to learn that the Chinese authorities have reduced the number of capital offenses (the historically literate will recall that it was not before 1832 that, for example, shoplifting and sheep, cattle and horse stealing were removed from the list of capital offenses in the UK) and tightened up the procedures under which such sentences can be made and carried out. Much more, of course, remains to be done. But again, it does seem odd that you devote so much effort to discussing aspects of the Chinese penal system of which you do not approve on the thread of an article detailing problems with voluntary employment in that country. Do you feel that these problems - working conditions at places like Foxconn - are not worthy of discussion, or is your motive perhaps rather to attack the Chinese government on every available venue, whether relevant to the discussion at hand or no ? In this connnexion, I must admit that I don’t quite understand the question with which you close your previous posting : «How can we protect ourselves from such atrocities?» - do you mean that you worry that the Chinese government is going to send medical personnel to the United States to harvest your organs ? Or was the question simply a means for you to couple the word «atrocity» to the Chinese authorities ? If your professed «humanism» was real, perhaps you would be attempting to hinder the atrocities daily committed by your government in its wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to name only two - but of these matters, not a word in your postings….


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By EmileZ, February 22, 2012 at 2:11 am Link to this comment

@ vector56

Sorry about before. I felt bad about it.

Definately over the top.

I forget sometimes that I am not just yelling at the television by myself, alone in a dark cavern, with moisture dripping from the ceiling and feces in the corner.

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By BigJer, February 21, 2012 at 10:36 pm Link to this comment

“China’s hybrid communist-capitalist model…” sounds a lot like “National Socialism”.

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By Carl Olson, February 20, 2012 at 11:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


The Laogai Research Foundation ( has another major concern about Apple’s personnel policies, i.e. medical coverage for U.S. and Chinese employees.

China has a system of executing thousands of persons yearly on a schedule such that the body parts can be “harvested” and sold to high bidders.  The victims usually did not commit any crime that we would consider serious, such as murder.  For those who are against capital punishment, this is doubly horrendous.

The question for Apple is whether its medical coverage includes transplants from victims of Chinese executions.

How can we protect ourselves from such atrocities?


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By M Henri Day, February 20, 2012 at 10:45 am Link to this comment

PS : I presume that readers of this article and participants on this thread have all seen this story ( or a variant of same. My comment on the Reg thread, which is ordered chronologically, can be found at the bottom….


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By BR549, February 20, 2012 at 10:34 am Link to this comment

@ M Henri Day, February 19 at 3:41 am
Article 6 was another unfortunate concession to the Federalists, and is a bubble burster, as you indicated, to those who think the Constitution was inviolable. Despite all the pontification by that Washingtonian gaggle of stuffed shirts, look where we are; heading further down the crapper ..... still.

One would think that after 200 years of these legislative drivers taking this vehicle down the road, we might have been able to tune this car up so that it wasn’t constantly at the roadside with its hood constantly up in the air. Instead of paying attention to the fact that the car has been sputtering and choking, they continue to drive the vehicle into the ground, using God knows how much more energy it would have taken to actually run a country of this size because, after all, they don’t have to pay the bill. The drivers we have elected to operate this vehicle seem more concerned with stopping at every bar or Starbucks on the highway and using the maintenance money to buy their lattes, and stay in lavish hotels with prostitutes.

But to address your point, that part of Article 6 dealing with oaths (6-3) also relied on the integrity and loyalty of those 2/3, who were supposedly “bound by loyalty or affirmation to support the Constitution.” What a loop hole. It almost invites abuse, or at the very least exonerates the legislature from ever having to be held accountable for, well, any crime against the citizens of the Unites States that it couldn’t somehow treasonously bury within the text of a treaty.

That said, I still believe that the Declaration, and the Constitution, along with its unincluded interpretations in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798-9 and the Federalist Papers, are the best documents to date to address the intentions of our forefathers in escaping tyrannical rule. For those who might insist that we must adopt an all or nothing policy about the Constitution; i.e. biting the bullet on 6-2 and being forced to live with the potential, if not all to realistic, degradation of that document, I would say that the burden of having our population adhere to that troublesome clause is countered by the trust that the people placed in the legislature to interpret it in favor of the population which entrusted it in the first place; hence 6-3, about officials having to take oaths and affirmations. Even if the treaties, which are expected to be adhered to, regardless of other language in the Constitution to the contrary, come back and suggest that we must ignore our own 1st, 2nd and other amendments, I doubt that the body of American people would still be comfortable watching Dancing with the Stars if they knew that the legislature had been undermining our way of life. Then again, maybe that and the StuporBowl distractions might be just enough to lull everyone to sleep.

Clause 6-2 was meant to keep us from using our 2nd Amendment, for example, to justify our defending what we thought was “our property” after it had been resolved that that parcel might have actually belonged to an adjacent nation; NOT dismantle the entire ability of the American people to resist tyranny.

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By M Henri Day, February 20, 2012 at 5:55 am Link to this comment

I note, Carl, that you choose to make a distinction between what are considered to be «crimes» in the US and in China - to you, all those called by that name in the United States are «real» crimes, albeit «victim-less» (which argues for a view of the US justice system which I should characterise as naive at best), while you claim that in China, certain categories of offenses are not crimes. Here you point, as you have consistently in your postings, to the laogai system, without bothering to inform readers that it was abolished in 1997, i e, some 15 years ago. Why do you choose to withold that information ? Indeed, why are you attempting to turn this thread into a discussion of the inequities of (an out-dated version of) the Chinese prison system, when the subject of Mr Scheer’s article is rather the poor working conditions to which Chinese workers who are not involved in that system and who contribute to the inordinate profits of foreign, often US, companies are subject ?...

To address your query as to how (to work ) «to improve things for the average person», I suggest that one of the main things is to keep one’s eye on the ball and keep in mind the words of Matthew 7:3-5, i e, not to allow oneself to be distracted by those who would point the finger at others in order to distract attention from themselves. More specifically, were I a resident of the United States, as I presume you to be, I should work to increase the degree of union membership and the political and economic clout of those organisations, while attempting to avoid the cheap and ultimately improductive - but o, so seductive - temptation to blame regimes in other countries for the disasters caused by the regime in one’s own….


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By berniem, February 19, 2012 at 3:38 pm Link to this comment

What we see in the photo of Chinese workers at a plant making products for Apple is not an example of Communism but one of corporate Fascism. What passes( and has passed) for Communism is as far removed from the utopian views of Marx as what we have here in Amerika!

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By Carl Olson, February 19, 2012 at 11:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Thank you for the analysis.  People who want to be free are having a tough time these days.

Remember, the laogai system is not a prison system for criminals.  It is entirely separate.  No crime required to be stuck in a laogai facility.

Yes, the WTO and all its multi-billionaire insiders are totally mysterious and lacks any transparency.  Can you tell us who is actually running the place?  And by what rules it has, and what rights the public has to know what is going on and to participate in open hearings and other proceedings?  And why news coverage is almost nonexistent?

As for the prison population in the U.S., most of the excess is from drug-related victimless crimes—either possession or dealing.  This is intended by the drug cartel to help keep the prices of drugs exceedingly high and profitable.  Of course, no major drug kingpins are in jail—they pay off the politicians.  And so the taxpayers lose again.

What do you suggest to improve things for the average person?


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By M Henri Day, February 19, 2012 at 4:41 am Link to this comment

«It would be frightening if the World Trade Organization (WTO) could override anything in the Constitution.» Prepare, Carl, to be frightened ; you might want to reread Article VI of the US Constitution in which the following passage is found :

«... all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.»

You may not approve of the laogai system - and indeed, I understand it to be the subject of criticism in China itself - but it is in accordance with current law in that country. So my point remains - if products produced domestically under conditions of slavery or involuntary servitude imposed after conviction for a crime can freely be sold in the United States, so too, can foreign products under WTO regulations, which nota bene are the «supreme Law of the Land» and thus overrides 19 U.S.C. § 1307, which I believe is the statute to which you refer in a previous posting. This, so long as the United States remains a WTO signatory (as, like GATT, the WTO came into being as a result of the US government desires to impose its rules on international trade, I deem it unlikely that that country will withdraw from the organisation in the near future). As a matter of fact, the United States and China signed a memorandum of understanding in 1992, whose stated purpose was precisely to prevent products of prison labour in China from being exported to the United States. There has, not unnaturally, been some dispute as to how well these provisions have been followed - just as disputes between China and the US as to how well various WTO regulations have been followed have occured in that forum.

In any event, given that the GATT regulations from 1947 (now subsumed under the WTO agreements) remain the supreme Law of the Land, it might be of interest to see what the relevant sections have to say on this matter :

«Article XX: General Exceptions

Subject to the requirement that such measures are not applied in a manner which would constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination between countries where the same conditions prevail, or a disguised restriction on international trade, nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to prevent the adoption or enforcement by any contracting party of measures:


(e)    relating to the products of prison labour;»

Please note the anti-discriminatory pre-conditions for any such legislation or practices.

Summa summarium, if, indeed, it is really slavery or involuntary servitude which is the true object of your concern, rather than the manufacture of industrial products in China, perhaps you might want to turn your attention to the plight of prisoners in (what I presume is) your own country, given that, as noted previously, more persons are incarcerated there than in China, both in per-capita and absolute terms. Then, perhaps, your admonition to «push toward the goal of individual liberty» could be taken seriously….


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By Maitreya, February 19, 2012 at 12:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The author has got his history wrong. Nixon’s deal with China has hardly anything to do with China’s reforms under Deng Xiaoping. The former had to do with finding a balance against the USSR. That has no relation with China’s eventual economic reforms after 1978. The author incorrectly tries to relate the two, and sadly, an otherwise sane article is disgraced by its very opening argument.

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By IMax, February 18, 2012 at 4:29 pm Link to this comment

I have been one of China’s harshest critics.  I have also been labeled a liar on these pages for pointing out many of the issues in this article - China bashing, fear-mongering, racist and worse. 

For months, while nearly everyone puts every focus on the United States, I have attempted to draw attention to China and its systemic ways of doing things - both domestically and internationally.  Until this week every world event involving China was met with the same responses.  Not interested!

Perhaps now a few will become slightly more interested.


Apple and others face a double edged sword.

Doing business in China raises the living standards for millions of people in and adjacent to China.  As deplorable as Westerners find living and working conditions in China to be, literally hundreds of millions of people directly benefit in food, housing, and health inside China.  Simultaneously, as China opens more of its markets, in this case the Chinese labor market, the world will benefit from lower labor costs. 

Doing business in and with China also opens one up to criticisms of supporting the Chinese way of doing things.  Some will claim it’s nobody’s obligation and should not interfere.  Others will claim Western corporations and governments have an obligation, passively or aggressively, to change the way China conducts its business.

I’m not sure it’s right to judge Apple and others too harshly just yet.  Does Coca-Cola, for example, have the right to demand interference in the Chinese economic system?  Do we have the right to demand Coke interfere with Chinese domestic policies?  Is Coke obligated to change the Chinese socioeconomic system?  Or would that be considered American hubris?

I more than welcome any conversation which isn’t rooted in all things “American”.

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By BR549, February 18, 2012 at 11:42 am Link to this comment

MenschGuy, February 16 at 11:43 am
“But what are the real solutions when capital cannot be controlled or contained within borders and everyone now lives in a hyper-competitive world?”

MenschGuy mentioned a “hyper-competitive world”, yet that doesn’t mean that we have to toss out the rule book on human behavior just so that a wealthy 1% can trick the rest of mankind into believing that corporations must, out of necessity, become omnipotent. Corporations used to be required to demonstrate some measure of benefit to society; otherwise, they would not get their charter renewed. What the f_ck happened?  J.D. Rockefeller successfully managed to break that much needed restriction, to the point now where there are none, and well, look where we are as a result of that, the adoption of the Federal Reserve and its forcing the US into bankruptcy. Social Security became a debt repayment vehicle as well as a slush fund, just as our taxes have been funneled into FEMA under the guise of “national security” since the ‘80s to fund this buildup of a police state that too many are still in denial about.

Author Robert Ardrey stated decades ago in his book, “The Territorial Imperative”, a society was defined as a “group of individuals competing for conventional prizes through conventional means”. Yet we have these corporations which seek to break up those unique ethnic and cultural conventions that bind these individuals together within the very groups that they evolved into out of necessity. When corporations and aberrant foreign policy are allowed to do that, what takes place is a rape of capital and a seizing of wealth from people who don’t have the manpower to ward off aggressive countries or corporations that have little respect for any boundaries. Our hegemonic US Foreign Policy, a cookie-cutter model of the slimy and secretive policies of Great Britain and other dysfunctional European models of governance, has become an efficient vehicle for raping the manpower, financial, and resource capital of countless third world countries that have only wished to be left alone.

As John Perkins pointed out in his book, “Confessions of an Economic Hitman”, first we attempt bribe the head of state, then, if that person shows himself to possess a conscience, we send in the phony dissenters and try to start riots. Such was the case when Kermit Roosavelt, working for the CIA, orchestrated the overthrow of Mossaddegh under Operation Ajax. If that maneuver doesn’t get the juices moving, then we attempt to stage a coup or later execute the poor slob in a “mysterious” plane crash; e.g. Omar Torrejos of Panama, Jaime Hurtado of Ecuador, Allende of Chile, etc, the list is endless. When all that fails, as in the cases of Manuel Noriega or Saddam Hussein, we build up some phony humanitarian violations or exaggerate some real one, beside the ones we would soon be committing, to send in our military, stage false flags, whatever; either way, the US will have its way.

The reason we live in a hyper-competitive world, rather than one where the UN was not just a facade pretending to eliminate world hunger (instead of getting all those straggler third world countries marching in step with the IMF), and where the firearms industry would have died a natural death simply because no one saw a need for them anymore, is because the parasites living at that top 1% need to keep everyone struggling for a higher rung at the bottom of the ladder and fighting amongst ourselves.

And to keep us appropriately anesthetized, they “allow” us to become transfixed on the StuporBowl or some other Bread and Circus nonsense.

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By Carl Olson, February 18, 2012 at 11:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


You have brought up a couple points.  I don’t know if China has any restrictions on importing goods made by prison labor.  It would be frightening if the World Trade Organization (WTO) could override anything in the Constitution.  The WTO is almost totally secret in its operations, and the public is almost totally ignored.

In China, the laogai system is entirely separate from the regular prison system for criminals.  You can be assigned to the laogai by the local communist commissar for anything without any trial. Harry Wu, a geology professor, was put in the laogai for questioning whether the crushing of the Hungarian uprising was justified.

Let’s push toward the goal of individual liberty.


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By PatrickHenry, February 18, 2012 at 11:07 am Link to this comment

The Apple share holders all made significant dividends and the share prices are up.

At what cost?

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By bpawk, February 18, 2012 at 10:46 am Link to this comment

Where’s all the goody two shoes who start up charities for African or Indian child labour kids and why aren’t they complaining about China’s human rights and labour rights? I guess they’re busy buying their ipods and ipads no doubt.

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By M Henri Day, February 18, 2012 at 7:33 am Link to this comment

Well, Carl, if, as you rightly note, slavery or involuntary servitude is permitted in the United States when «punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted» and the products produced under these conditions can be freely sold in that country, then surely, under WTO regulations, goods produced by prisoners convicted of crimes in China can also legitimately be sold in the United States ? Or is this one more example of that Quod licet Iovi non licet bovi reasoning so characteristic of some inhabitants of that country ?...


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By vector56, February 18, 2012 at 7:18 am Link to this comment

Am I the only one to notice that “Knight114” is not a real person?

Where is the “Span” patrol?

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By vector56, February 18, 2012 at 5:25 am Link to this comment

“So is Apple the new Nike? “

Migs, “truer words were never spoken”.

To quote Chris, we may well be witnessing “the death of liberalism”. In a recent poll, 65% to 70% of self-proclaimed Liberals/Progressives stated that they were OK with “drone killings” without a trial. Many Liberals worship the myth of Steve Jobs and love their inanimate Apple products far more than the care for the faceless, nameless people who toil to make them. I fear, Hippies have mutated into Yuppies!

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By Migs, February 18, 2012 at 3:47 am Link to this comment

So is Apple the new Nike?

To this day when I see people wearing Nike products I judge them for being either apathetic about slave labour or at least apolitical and ignorant. It seems Apple users are heading for similar stigmatisation.

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By Michael Shaw, February 17, 2012 at 6:12 pm Link to this comment

Bravo Mr Sheer! It seems to me what the corporate CEO’s really want is an non educated workforce, working in an unsafe and perhaps even deadly environment, paying sub-sistant wages leaving the workforce without the ability to afford health care. Only in this way can “Amerika” remain competitive!

Also glad to see someone finally come out of the woodwork and call out the Steve Jobs model for what it really is! Slavery to ensure quick massive profits for the 1%.

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By vector56, February 17, 2012 at 11:45 am Link to this comment

“She does look awfully tired doesn’t she??? “

That she does my friend, that she does.

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By EmileZ, February 17, 2012 at 11:17 am Link to this comment

She does look awfully tired doesn’t she???

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By Carl Olson, February 17, 2012 at 11:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Thanks for your thoughts.  The ban is on IMPORTING goods made by forced/slave labor, not on domestic production.  The 13th Amendment prohibited “involuntary servitude” except in consequence of conviction for a crime.  You may want to work on labor unions who oppose prisoner-made goods in the U.S. as an unfair competition.



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By EmileZ, February 17, 2012 at 11:04 am Link to this comment

@ vector 56

Not really.

I see dead-eyed iPhone users all the time, this “corporate slave” does not look like one…


I withdraw my forgiveness. Now you can go about your merry way without any threats hanging over your head.

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By vector56, February 17, 2012 at 10:55 am Link to this comment

“What a stupid thing to say on your part.

I forgive you, just don’t let it happen again buddy!!!”


Based on the above statement, you misunderstood my meaning, or we fundamentally disagree?

Either way I shall clarify: when I looked at the eyes of the young lady in the photo I saw a human being mimicking a machine. Her “dead” eyes were those of a modern corporate slave.

We may not agree on my observation, but I see no reason not to keep it “civil” my friend? 

To call my idea “stupid” and to warn me “not to do it again” is a bit over the top, don’t you think?

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By vector56, February 17, 2012 at 8:02 am Link to this comment

After thought:

This is to counter any “Lame Libertarian” rebuttal that would assert; “hey, we are not responsible for the way their own government (China) treats or mistreats them!”

Just “good” opportunistic businessmen. 

Kinda reminds me of CIA rendition; “we did not torture them, we just “out sources” them to Egypt or Syria.

Outsourcing torture or slavery while reaping the benefits still makes all of us who buys the “gadgets” guilty as sin!

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By EmileZ, February 17, 2012 at 7:57 am Link to this comment

@ vector56

I don’t know what you are talking about.

She is definately there as much as anyone else I have ever seen photographed.

What a stupid thing to say on your part.

I forgive you, just don’t let it happen again buddy!!!

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By vector56, February 17, 2012 at 7:49 am Link to this comment

Thank you EmileZ for such kind words.

Look into the eyes of the young lady (worker) in the foreground; if the eyes are the “windows to the soul”, she seems “empty”! A vessel void of humanity for Apple, Dell, Ford, GM, Maytag to use until she can’t be used anymore and welcomes the sweet release of death. I hear Fox Conn has put up nets to prevent her escape.

We love our “gadgets” far more than their humanity.

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By EmileZ, February 17, 2012 at 3:51 am Link to this comment

Papa Scheer…

Keep harping on this subject, you are a talented, experienced, and wizened old harpy (in the best sense of the word).

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By BlueNeck, February 17, 2012 at 12:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Remember when Wall Street went ga-ga for layoffs back in the 1990s? I wonder if the recent reports of Apple’s stock soaring was Wall Street’s love for Apple’s leadership role in labor and environmental abuses at Foxconn, a stamp of approval for outstanding one percent values. Those sociopaths probably have set Jobs’ promise that “those jobs aren’t coming back” into a rousing anthem that brings joy to their “hearts” and tears to their eyes.

Now Apple is promising to launch an investigation into the Foxconn scandal. Translation: Let’s buy some time and PR and get some “free-market” think tanks, media outlets, politicans, and celebrities to be on the same page as we are and vibrate the echo chamber in blissful unison as to why the system must not change. Surely one refrain will be that improving Foxconn’s working conditions would hurt America. Maybe the strategy will be to make some cosmetic changes that will be promoted as a brave paradigm shift in memoriam to Jobs.

Okay, that’s enough. I can’t keep up with my own cynicism. I did like the article though.

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By Anna kissed me, February 16, 2012 at 7:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Let this be our consolation (as we fight the right fight).

We all die. The rich die, the exploiters die and the exploited die.

No one escapes.

Justice is timeless and universal, the chaos of balance and creativity is compelled to “even the score”.

We all pay or get paid eventually.

God ?              Call it what you like.

It is unfathomable.

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By vector56, February 16, 2012 at 5:28 pm Link to this comment

When you strip away all the “happy talk”, who we truly are comes bubbling up to the surface. Under NAFTA and the WTO, Patriotism, citizenship, and even the teachings of their Jesus Christ take a back seat. No, I do not refer to the cold callous Jesus of the Puritans or the corporate Jesus of Calvinisms. The little Jewish wood worker I quote (through Paul)is the guy who said, “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle ten it is for a rich man to get into heaven”.

Until these people in China being used by Apple, HP, Dell, GM, Ford, Maytag, Whirlpool, the Garment Industries,... are seen by us as fellow human beings and not competitors the owners of industry will always have both us and them at their mercy.

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By MenschGuy, February 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment

The problem is: we are all at the mercy of plutocrats and oligarchs and their private cliques and special social clubs and their private power worlds as they command and control the interminable march of a consumer culture and the drive of capital to beget capital—-regardless of adverse consequences to humanity. But it is not the death of the human species as we plod along to do our best and make the world a better place as best we can with our limited resources.

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By M Henri Day, February 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm Link to this comment

Carl, if you regard the laogai (??) programme as slave labour, you might want to consider whether the work done by persons incarcerated in the United States - which incarcerates far more persons than any other country in the world, not excepting China, which has a population more than four times greater than that of the US - is such that it is prohibited by the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution ?which dates not from 1932, but from 1865?. You may wish to begin your research by consulting Sara Flounder’s recent article, «The Pentagon and Slave Labor in U.S. Prisons» (, published on the Global Research website. But then again, the mote is one’s brother’s eye is always of far greater interest than the beam in one’s own, is it not ?...


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By PeopleOVERgreed, February 16, 2012 at 12:59 pm Link to this comment

I believe Al Gore has an idea being launched today that is worth taking a look at that specifically addresses the issue:

LONDON (Reuters) - Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore wants to end the default practice of quarterly earnings guidance and explore issuing loyalty-driven securities as part of an overhaul of capitalism which he says has turned many of the world’s largest economies into hotbeds of irresponsible short-term investment.

Together with David Blood, senior partner of ‘green’ fund firm Generation Investment Management, the environmental activist has crafted a blueprint for “sustainable capitalism” he wants the financial industry to adopt to support lasting economic growth.

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By MenschGuy, February 16, 2012 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment
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There are obviously smart and knowledgeable people here commenting. A doctoral thesis could indeed be done on this issue. But what are the real solutions when capital cannot be controlled or contained within borders and everyone now lives in a hyper-competitive world? A lot of futures rests on well managed money and investing in emerging markets for premium yield is something that managers see as a necessity—and their responsibility.  Perhaps until the world’s living standards for the poor have fairly equaled out across the globe will there be the ability to be humanly responsible to fair wages, proper working conditions and correct husbandry for the environment. This is opportunity for our rising youth as problems today will require answers tomorrow. Of course, Apple people could just fall in love with Microsoft and be free of guilt!

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By Ralph Kramden, February 16, 2012 at 11:45 am Link to this comment
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Any working class person who is anti-union should have his or her brain scanned—-might as well be a deer who joins the NRA. Yhe USA is doomed, perhaps we could survive if we repealed Taft-Hartley and got money out of politics. It won’t happen, so Israel and the Corporations will lead us to war and disasters which will pave the way to applying Greek-style solutions to the working class in the USA.
What Robert fails to mentioned about the Times article is that it was almost fawning of the Chinese model. They did mention the suicide nets strung as an attempt to halt workers committing suicide. Think about that for a minute.

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By Carl Olson, February 16, 2012 at 11:32 am Link to this comment
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Goods made by forced/slave labor are banned for import into the U. S. ever since 1932.  China operates a gigantic forced/slave labor system called laogai (“reform through labor”).  It has 1 million workers in 1000 factories, farms, and other facilities.

Courageous Harry Wu survived the laogai for 17 years.  He came to the U. S., became a citizen, and formed the excellent Laogai Research Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Does Apple use any of these laogai facilities?  Maybe we just need some enforcement of existing laws.

The CIA has been looking for productive things to do.  They could track every one of the laogai facilities, and intercept any forced/slave-made goods.  That would be awesome.

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By M Henri Day, February 16, 2012 at 11:25 am Link to this comment

Much of what Mr Scheer here writes is a cogent analysis of capitalism’s recent history, but the first paragraph is hardly accurate. Nixon’s visit to the People’s Republic, forty years ago this month, did indeed produce a sort of political alliance, aimed at the Soviet Union, but the deal he describes as «a rejection of the basic moral claim of both egalitarian socialism and free market capitalism» was not put into place until som six years later, when Maoist doctrines were replaced by those of ??? ([paternal] grandfather Deng) and capitalistic cats were once again permitted to catch as many mice as they could in China. Hardly surprising, as Mr Scheer notes, that Taiwanese (and Hongkong) compatriots have played a vital role in organising capitalism in China. As for the Jobs, in addition to his marketing prowess, his reputation as a business genius rests to no small degree on his ability to squeeze everything possible out of his supply chain. In doing so he enjoyed great help from another epitome of capitalist brilliance, Hon Hai/Foxconn’s Guo Taiming (aka Terry Gou, the same chap who sought help from the director of Taipei’s zoo to control his employees), whose methods of cost reduction are nothing short of ingenuous (I believe the current catchword is «innovative»), as shown in this article on Foxconn internships ( But who knows - this worm - the migrant labourers who fuel the factories of China - may yet turn, as did their great grandparents, the Chinese peasantry, some 70-odd years ago. Mr Fukuyama’s prediction about the end of history never seemed more far-fetched (save in the banal interpretation of a thermonuclear conflagration unleashed by a US political class that feels its power slipping away) ....


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By Byard Pidgeon, February 16, 2012 at 10:25 am Link to this comment

Why “piling on” Apple?...perhaps because of the blatant
hypocrisy of Jobs and his corporation, ignored by most of the
Apple cultists who see Jobs as some sort of guru and
consumption of Apple products as a righteous act.

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By Tony Calderon, February 16, 2012 at 9:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wish everybody in the USA would read this article. It makes me think of the maquiladoras — production / assembly plants all along the Mexico-US border that exploited everything they could — the poor, young women and the environment.

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By chacaboy, February 16, 2012 at 9:50 am Link to this comment

This is an extremely cogent, eye-opening and important essay on Apple, global capitalism, and China’s actual partnership with the U.S. (We generally see the Chinese as adversaries). Congratulations to Robert Scheer. Keep it coming…

The saddest, and most tragic element of this partnership is that there is a huge, puzzling segment of American workers who regularly support and cheer on the Republican Party, and the worst attributes of the new and twisted version of the Democratic Party. How do they do it? How do they so consistently and successfully manipulate so many people to undermine their own best interests?

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By mindful, February 16, 2012 at 9:37 am Link to this comment

Almost every social system has feedback mechanisms, until a catastrophe happens, war or revolution.

The fact Apple et-al have exploited the third world has had a psitive feedback here. Why? Because we can borrow from China and while we are eating at the Chinese table we will not look too carefully at Chinese human rights, pollution, labor exploitation. Further, China has Apple and many other US corporations now enjoying tax breaks, no pollution or environmental restrictions or need to pay labor fairly. What would happen if China were forced to change.. feedback through Wall Street greed lords and then to Congress via the old boy communication network, called lobbies.

If the US is borrowing, the economy is static and people have less money too spend, (positive feedack), Wall Mart justifies its labor and merchandise practises.
The public does not wish to see prices rise.
One hand dirties the other, and so it goes.

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By BR549, February 16, 2012 at 8:46 am Link to this comment

Steve Jobs’ blaming Teachers’ Union is right on target, actually with ANY of the unions, but before any pro-union readers here start foaming at the mouth about how we need unions, let me say that, yes, we do. The problem has been that the need for the unions came as a result of poor management and poor and government. That same problem was the bastard child of corruption and big
money, all at the expense of those who had little voice and who were stuck at the bottom.

The unions have become their OWN source of power and corruption and over the decades have paralleled quite effectively the same problem it sought to abate. Maybe what we should have been reviewing, all along, is the effectiveness of our culture in being able to allow its individuals to feel secure enough within it so as not to feel that anyone needed to take their individual chinks out of the
collective armor in order to survive. That way, government officials would be adhering to their oaths of office and legislators would be tripping all over themselves to put everything on the table instead of doing all they can to hide their dirty work.

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By balkas, February 16, 2012 at 8:43 am Link to this comment

it would be nice to compare US with china. such a comparison would have to include all salient facts about
both china and US of today or yesteryears.
but even without an adequate/accurate comparison between two empires, just one fact alone would
explain a lot.
the fact is that US is governed by personal supremacists or noncommunists and they are rabidly supported
in that endeavor by at least 98%  of americans.
that is not the case in china. i do not think chinese communists get more than 70% support.
and the opposition to communist rule everywhere and not just in china is of the deadly kind.
opposition in US and most countries ruled by supremacists is seldom if ever of the mortal kind. nor do
dissidents in US call on a foreign power to help them start a revolution and start killing lots of
supremacists [fascists, nazis, cultists].
in this connection, remember korea, vietnam, nicaragua, cuba…?
opposition there was of the mortal kind and called in foreign powers to destroy govts of the above-
mentioend lands.
and do you think chinese have not noticed this? and did not want to become like palestinians or apaches,
lakotahs, zunis, kiowas?
and so the pact with evil to avoid evil!! nothing new here! thanks, bozhidar balkas, on the moon!

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By balkas, February 16, 2012 at 8:02 am Link to this comment

“communist overlords”? what about supremacistic overlords, master of people,
wars, death and life, work, etc?

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By mindful, February 16, 2012 at 7:45 am Link to this comment

Mr. Scheer
What a spectactular piece of intelligent and scholarly journalism.

Indeed, if we did not owe our American souls to the Chineese store, what a different world.

I recently saw a male baby circumcision drap that said, Made In China. Torture of babies also for the buck isn’t beneathe them. Circumcision in China is un heard of, except for medical conditions.

I state this not to be perviant, but to show every arbitrary need of American culture, comes to us from the dark skies of China.

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By SarcastiCanuck, February 16, 2012 at 7:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m sure given enough time our alleged elite will convert us into the same pliable slaves that China now exploits.Promising future,huh…

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By DonSchneider, February 16, 2012 at 7:07 am Link to this comment

Why only Apple ?  I do not own Apple stock, let that be clear !  But Apple
imports of chinese made products pails in the light of the direct involvement in
Chinese Manufacturing of American private investment dollars and the
investments and demands of the Retail Giant Walmart ?  Get real here ! If
American investors and Retail giants didn’t directly write the contracts requiring
slave labor conditions in factories their bottom lines DEMAND them !! They are
cognizant of the effects of their demands, but have always found it convenient
to turn their backs while their cheap “plastic”  crap is being churned out ! It is
not novel or new at all ! Remember Edward R. Murrow….Harvest of shame ?
those conditions still persist here at home and our glorious mega capitalist
entrepreneurs have managed to export our inconsistencies in the realm of all
venues of production, wherever developing countries are willing to turn their
backs on their own workers !  Americans have been shown the facts about
sweatshops on news shows and specials since the 1920’s and have chosen to
ignore their development .  Stultifying two tiered economic systems thriving in
those developing nations and the ideology that fosters them are on the move. 
Now we see the re-development of AMERICA by those same Corporate and
entrepreneurial interests into a two tired economic system like those we have
been tolerating elsewhere ! The chickens are coming home to roost ! The
legislative agenda of A.L.E.C. and their coolie legislator members are popping
up all over the United states in a well developed effort to destroy collective
bargaining rights for America workers !  History is repeating itself !

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By D. H. Kerby, February 16, 2012 at 6:33 am Link to this comment

Nice column, Mr. Scheer.

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By Big B, February 16, 2012 at 6:00 am Link to this comment

Why all the sudden are we piling on Apple when our entire retail sector has been dependant on the uber cheap goods flowing out of the third world and China for nearly 4 decades now? Shit, Chinese labor practices have singlehandedly created that evil american Icon Wal-Mart.

Textile jobs will only return to america after organized labor is completely eviserated (and it’s on life support now) and the US publicly funded education system is destroyed. The day that a massive american undereducated working class is making a $1.50 an hour and working 60 to 70 hour weeks, just like in the third world, that will be the day that manufacturing returns to america.

The third world (China, India, Brazil) are coming up a little, while we are falling alot. it will all balance out some day soon. That day america will look surprisingly much like it did 150 years ago. a polluted and poisoned place, filled with company towns and indentured servants.

But the jokes on them, for there is only about 20 to 30 years of affordable oil left under the ground. And just before then, society will begin to pull apart in an ever warming world. I suggest you put all your money into canned food and shotguns, because there is no leader, no political movement on the american horizon that will be able to institute the radical change that is needed to avoid the decline of western civilization.

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By ardee, February 16, 2012 at 5:45 am Link to this comment

Typical of rampant capitalism, why is anyone surprised?

If we had a President who truly believed in the platitudes he mouths regarding his “concern” for the American worker, a concern that grows the closer we get to the election it seems, there are steps he could undertake.

Any company that offshores over a percentage of its manufacturing or its work force is ineligible for government contracts.

Tariffs on goods being shipped here from abroad, regardless of ownership of the means of production. There was a time in our history when all government monies were earned from tariffs; as late as the Civil War we still saw half of all revenues acquired in this fashion.

Of course this would require a President not desperately seeking Susan…err corporate election funding.

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By Dr Bones, February 16, 2012 at 5:19 am Link to this comment
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All this was known pre-NAFTA.  I mean come on, we all knew the trade deals were for slave labor and dumping toxic waste by-products into the environment for free.

We also all know that the reason politicians allowed the rape of our planet and work force is because they got paid off via K-Street pay to play rules.

At some point we need to accept that we as a people, suck.  In a society where all that matters is the almighty dollar.  Where every election comes down to “the economy” based on illusions and fraudulent accounting, at some point, we need to realize we have the leaders we deserve.  They suck and so do the people.  Barely out of Iraq, having destroyed it and the majority of US citizens already support another illegal war. 

More war and zero solution for global warming.

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By PatrickHenry, February 16, 2012 at 4:05 am Link to this comment

The bottom line runs smack dab into patent infringement.

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By MenschGuy, February 16, 2012 at 3:50 am Link to this comment

Well noted Mr. Scheer. Using the prison population of America would perhaps truly be beneficial to both the corporations and to the needs of the common inmate who so typically does in fact lack the basic work skills, habits and visions needed to succeed in life. IF, and IF, the GOP continues on its campaign to cut all spending for education thusly leaving America fully behind the rest of the world in what is needed to compete and be inventive because the GOP lacks any long term pragmatic vision and realistic view to invest in our own citizenry—well then, the prison population will no doubt increase and the middle class will shrink. This means too that the Democrats have too change their ways of keeping the multinationals content at the expense of others. We cannot stop capital from crossing borders today when with one keystroke one can send millions to anyplace, at anymoment. And because it is doubtful that nations will ever assemble to collectively write laws enforcing domicile capital provenance the only solution is to raise the capital gains tax to be at least in synch what other sophisticated countries—like Germany—has done in order to invest in education. We as a nation can not succeed with our current mode of operation. Even China heavily invests in education sending its students to Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, U.C. Berkley… We are being seriously left behind the world as we ignore and dismiss the need for expanded education throughout the whole of our society. This needs to be the fundamental policy change.

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