China Blue (2005)
Documentary about a clothing factory in south China; produces jeans for retail stores in Europe and North America.
What is the purpose of a documentary film?
**Cue up a map of China’s provinces: Where is the town of Shaxi 沙溪镇?
Why are most factories producing goods for export located in south China?
Population of Shaxi? About 162,000
Number of migrant workers in Shaxi? About 100,000
Number of clothing manufacturers in Shaxi: over 700!
What is a migrant worker? Are there migrant workers in the U.S. right now? Where are they? What do they do? What reasons might cause a person to become a migrant worker?
Director: Micha Peled
Who is he? (Israeli filmmaker; now resides in the U.S.;; film director; investigative reporter)
What are his credentials? (When Wal-Mart Comes to Town, 2001; Bitter Seeds, 2011)
What is a “sweatshop” (血汗工厂)?
Why do they exist in the world?
In what kinds of countries are they usually found?
What are conditions like in sweatshops?
Have there ever been (or are there now?) sweatshops in the U.S.?
A Brief History Lesson
During the late nineteenth century the U.S. economy underwent a spectacular increase in industrial growth. Factories!
The expansion of manufacturing created a need for large numbers of factory workers.
What kinds of educational background and work skills did they need?
Did immigrants play a major role?
Pants factory; New York City; 1937
Factory workers had to face long hours, poor working conditions, and job instability. Economic recession = no work!
Factory conditions were also poor and, in some cases, deplorable.
No government regulation meant a lot of women workers and child labor (why?), unsafe and unhealthy work sites, and very low pay.
1880s and thereafter: trade unions appear
Government regulations and laws?
Minimum wage for workers? What about government legislation to provide job security, guarantee a minimum wage, or ensure the safety of the workplace?
Most businessmen and political conservatives argued that wages are set by the marketplace and that higher wages and worker protection would lead to higher prices for consumers.
When did sweatshops first appear in China and why?
What is the “urban migration” (流动人口) population in China?
Who are the young people who work in them?
Mr. Lam (factory owner): what is his background?
What are the working conditions like in the Lifeng Factory (丽锋服饰制衣有限公司)?
How is the pay?
What is someone gets injured on the job? Workers’ compensation? Unemployment pay?
Health insurance for workers?
Why are there no unions to look after worker’s rights?
What work options does someone like Jasmine have?
China Blue: Background
Jasmine’s family and educational background; where was she from?
What is the current population of the U.S.? (As of this morning: around 329,000,000. Of China? Around 1.4 billion (20% of the world’s population); about 500+ million live in the cities along the east coast of China; 800+ million live in rural areas. The families in the villages are generally much poorer than people living in the cities.
Not all people in China are like the stereotypical characters in dumb movies like Crazy Rich Asians!
What sort of work did Jasmine’s parents do?
Poor? Why didn’t she go the high school and college, or get a job in Sichuan?
Why leave the countryside in the first place? It looked pretty nice there.
If farm life is so bad in Sichuan, then why doesn’t Jasmine’s family just move to the south where the factories are?
Why doesn’t Jasmine just leave China and emigrate to Europe or North America and find a good job?
What sort of work was Jasmine qualified to do?
How many migrant workers are there in China? In 2019: about 290 million migrant workers). China’s “floating population.”
Why so many young women in China’s factories? More submissive and less likely to cause problems? True?
Between 1985 and 1990, 1.26 million people migrated to Guangdong, where Jasmine’s factory was located. Why?
Jasmine and her friends at the factory: are they migrant workers?
How did they relate to the local residents in the town?
Why buys clothing from Lifeng and other sweatshops in south China? GAP? H. and M.? All the “mart” stores.
How much does a pair of jeans typically cost at the Gap? Remember the “buyer” in the hotel in Shanghai? How much was he going to pay for each pair of Lifeng jeans? Who, then, is making all the money? Where are the real profits going? To the chain stores!!!!!!
Why was the film China Blue banned by the government in China?
Why would the Chinese government accuse factory owner Mr. Lam of “collaborating with foreign media without a permit”?
Why would Mr. Lam allow in a film crew in the first place? (the film makers told him they were making a film about the “new generation of entrepreneurs in China”)
Why do factories like Lifeng exist in the first place (cheap labor; hence, lots of foreign investment; entry into the WTO in 2001 meant that China would play a bigger role in the global economy)?
How would you describe the working conditions for workers like Jasmine? 12 workers to a room? Did you see the toilet? Where was the shower?
Hours (long!)? Pay (delay after delay)? (6 cents an hour) Food? Living conditions? 12 girls to a room? “Squat” toilets? Total factory control of the workers? Why fine a worker for going to town for a few minutes to buy some “energy tea” in order to stay awake and work?
What about worker’s rights? Collective bargaining? Where can a worker complain when they are not paid? No where!
Under what circumstances could working conditions in the factory be improved? What would need to happen? ?
What did Mr. Lam do before he bought the Lifeng factory?
As a former police chief, does he have any privileges with the local government? The concept of “guanxi” (“gwan-she”) or “connections” in China.
What did Mr. Lam think of the workers? (“They are uneducated, low-caliber types without work ethics, lazy and devious (狡猾)”)
Irony: the factory inspection guy in the film said that the conditions at the Lifeng Factory were better than most other sweatshops! How could that be?
How could those Western people who visited the factory be so blind about the horrible work conditions there? Why did that lady keep saying: “Oh, so they are all happy here”?
Why would Wal-Mart buy jeans from a factory that abuses and mistreats its workers and regards them as trash?
Assuming that she is paid, does Jasmine make more money in a month than her parents?
Why was it so important for her to send money home? Are you going to send money home on a regular basis after you get a job?
Why was she so disappointed when she could not travel home for New Year’s?
What is globalization? How does it work?
Who are the “winners” in globalization? Walmart? Mr. Lam? American consumers?
Who are the “losers”?
Why don’t the buyers (Walmart, Gap, and so on) do something about the working conditions?
What is the purpose of this documentary? Raise consumer awareness about where (mostly) chain-store clothes come from and what those workers who produced them have to endure.
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