The Taiwanese Fox in Mainland China’s Henhouse
Why must one wonder whether Foxconn is not an arm of the Taiwanese intelligence services?
- Foxconn's Chinese workers face their own replacement by machines. It makes one wonder whether Foxconn is not some surreptitious effort by the Taiwanese intelligence services.
- A Communist Party that is incapable of guaranteeing a workers' paradise at least for assembly-line workers has clearly lost its reason to exist.
Foxconn, the Taiwan-based assembler extraordinaire of nearly all things Apple — especially iPhones and iPads — has long been the Fordist face of contemporary China. Its business model is based on the notion that the country is not so much a manufacturer of real importance than a cheap locale where hordes of humans, housed in chicken coop-like conditions, are told to assemble, for subsistence wages, totems of the Western upper middle class lifestyle. The first cracks in that model emerged in 2010, when individual workers, robbed of all semblance of a human — i.e., non-machine-like — existence, took the drastic step of committing suicide. That was not good for Foxconn’s PR and its stock price. Far more importantly, it shined an unwelcome spotlight onto a curious form of synergy between China’s Communist Party and a business entity from the presumed arch enemy, Taiwan. To repair the damage, Foxconn promised to raise wages and improve living conditions. Things got a little quieter on the assembly line for a while. Then came announcements — evidently aligning Foxconn’s interests in keeping assembly costs low with the Chinese Communist Party’s interests in building up the Western interior of China — that the company would move many assembly facilities out of the crowded coastal areas, especially around Shenzhen and the Pearl River Delta. Presumably, farther inland, workers would be happier to have a job and would not demand ever higher wages. But, according to recent news reports, workers’ wages are still rising too quickly for Foxconn. What to do? Clearly, special measures are called for. Rather than see the assembly operations be shifted to lower-wage Vietnam (what an insult to proud Chinese to be displaced by Vietnamese), a splendid new solution was found swiftly, a la Japonnaise: replace all that expensive Chinese labor with a bunch of robots. I’m not kidding. In what must be heralded as a major moment of historical irony from the perspective of outsourced workers in the Western world, now it is Chinese workers who face their own replacement by machines. To boot, Foxconn has announced plans to use one million robots within just three years. In light of that announcement, one has to wonder whether the entire Foxconn enterprise is not some surreptitious, and potentially highly explosive, effort by the Taiwanese intelligence services. In today’s financialized world, the aim is no longer an invasion of the mainland. Rather, it may be what is known as a reverse takeover, where the smaller partner, supposedly the one being usurped, ends up taking over the much larger one. Just how would this happen? Essentially by sweeping the Chinese Communist Party from power. And nothing would be a more sure-fire way to accomplish that than to deploy millions of robots. Yes, that would tame wage inflation. But it would also depose the Communist Party. After all, a Communist Party that is incapable of guaranteeing a workers’ paradise at least for assembly-line workers has clearly lost its reason to exist.