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Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn and the Lives of China’s Workers

  • Date

    22 Mar 2022

  • Organiser

    Department of Chinese Culture

  • Time

    09:30 - 11:10

  • Venue

    Online via ZOOM  


Dr Jenny Chan


Department of Chinese Culture +852 34008930


Between the wave of 18 young worker suicides at Foxconn facilities in 2010 and the outbreak of coronavirus at the end of 2019, I engaged with Foxconn workers through first-hand interviews as well as their shared poems, songs, open letters, photos and videos, supplemented with meetings with managers and government officials in multiple research trips. Dying for an iPhone (Chan, Selden and Pun 2020) is a comprehensive study of a new generation of Chinese migrant workers’ hopes, dreams and struggles to survive. The book developed the analytical framework of a “global factory regime” to explain the buyer-supplier power dynamic in transnational manufacturing. Big buyers (such as Apple) and big suppliers (such as Foxconn Technology Group) are highly interdependent in outsourced electronics production, wherein the fluctuation of orders, coupled with tight delivery requirements, shifts production pressure from global tech firms to contract manufacturers. From this critical perspective, the management systems regulating factory floors in China are not only shaped by the authoritarian practices of the domestic nation state but also by the boom-and-bust purchasing practices of multinational corporations in global supply chains. The dialectics of domination and resistance are interwoven in the life and death struggles of Chinese workers who produce our iPhones.

Keynote Speaker

Dr Jenny Chan

Dr Jenny Chan

Assistant Professor of Sociology
Department of Applied Social Sciences
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Dr Jenny Chan is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Department of Applied Social Sciences of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and an elected vice president of the International Sociological Association’s Research Committee on Labour Movements. She is the co-author, with Mark Selden and Pun Ngai, of Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn, and the Lives of China’s Workers (Pluto Press & Haymarket Books, 2020; translated into Korean by Narumbooks, 2021). Her research, funded by the Junior Research Fellowship of the University of Oxford’s Kellogg College (2015 to 2018) and the Early Career Scheme of the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (2018 to 2021), focuses on the informalization of work and employment in a globalizing China.

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