Jun 06 2007

China makes, the world takes

Made in China – The Atlantic MonthlyShenzhen

Here’s a great slide show and narrative about the manufacturing industry in the industrial city of Shenzen. After viewing the slideshow, discuss some of the questions below.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does the narrator mean when he says “Shenzhen is more or less an invented city?”
  2. Why does the word “scale” come to the narrator’s mind as he explores Shenzhen? What key concept from our economics class includes the world “scale”? HowShenzhen does the growth of Shenzhen relate to this concept?
  3. What is exported from Shenzhen to the US? What is being sent back to Shenzhen from the US? What does this suggest about the Chinese/US balance of trade? Why do you think this is happening?
  4. Where do Shenzhen’s factory workers come from? Why do you think young women make up such a large percentage of factories’ workforces? Are the wages paid factory workers in Shenzhen “fair” wages? Why or why not?
  5. Is manufacturing in Shenzhen labor intensive or capital intensive? What’s the difference?
  6. What’s the significance of the last line about how Liam Casey, whose office overlooks the headquarters of the Shenzen communist party, has never “met anybody who was in there”. What does this say about communism in China today?

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About the author:  Jason Welker teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Economics at Zurich International School in Switzerland. In addition to publishing various online resources for economics students and teachers, Jason developed the online version of the Economics course for the IB and is has authored two Economics textbooks: Pearson Baccalaureate’s Economics for the IB Diploma and REA’s AP Macroeconomics Crash Course. Jason is a native of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and is a passionate adventurer, who considers himself a skier / mountain biker who teaches Economics in his free time. He and his wife keep a ski chalet in the mountains of Northern Idaho, which now that they live in the Swiss Alps gets far too little use. Read more posts by this author

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “China makes, the world takes”

  1. Nicole Wongon 12 Jul 2007 at 11:36 pm

    1. By saying, “Shenzhen is more or less an invented city?”, the narrator implies that the city has relied on new inventions for its progress. Their development from a fishing village to a busy city is a result of their creative ideas and contrivances.

    2. The word "scale" comes to the narrator's mind because the immensity of the proportions at which things are done at Shenzhen are not what he is used to; most things are done on a larger scale. In particular, the magnitude of the cargo ships that he has seen. I am not completely sure which particular key concept includes the word "scale", but from looking through the course syllabus, I am guessing that it is "economy of scale". This term explains how the increase in production will result with a reduction in unit cost of a product under operational efficiency. The growth of Shenzhen relates to this because the happenings of this city take place on a very large scale. As there is an increase in production, a reduction in unit cost then follows.

    3. Large containers (probably containing Chinese products) are exported from Shenzhen to the US to be put on railroads and delivery trucks for markets in the country. However, scrap paper and scrap metal are being sent back to Shenzhen from the US. This suggests an imbalanced trade between the two nations. This could be because of the products that each country focuses on manufacturing. China produces many basic components made from elemental materials and products from the US are largely composed off of China's produce. This imbalance in trade could be due to how China turns this scrap material into products that many other nations use.

    4. Many of Shenzhen's factory workers come from rural areas around the city. Young women may be very numerous in factories because there are not many jobs available to them. Coming from rural areas, there are no farming jobs for them in the city and a majority of high ranking jobs are taken by men. Factories cater labour work that is available to them. Although factory work does not require very much from workers, I personally don't find US$120 a month particularly "fair" especially since they have to work 12 hour shifts. Lodging and food may be provided, but I doubt they will have satisfying homes or meals.

    5. Labour intensive manufacturing involves high costs for labour, whereas capital intensive manufacturing requires spending more on producing goods. Manufacturing in Shenzhen seems to be labour intensive. This is because many products that are manufactured are simple components that do not require a lot of money to make. However, the workers in these companies are constantly doing their job, even having day and night shifts. The work of these employees does not stop.

    6. Casey's office overlooks the outsourcing flow from the communist party headquarters. Since Casey is the head of a manufacturing company himself, and he has not met anyone who has been in the headquarters building, this suggests how the communist party may in fact not be using this building for produce purposes, but rather other business that is not for the public to know. This illustrates how communism in China today keeps much of the truth hidden from the public and feeds them selective information.

  2. Howard Linon 12 Aug 2007 at 11:50 pm

    1. “Shenzhen is more or less an invented city” because when 10 years ago, the narrator came to Shenzhen, this place was still a little fishing village. It’s construction speed is amazing,

    2. The world the word “scale” come to the narrator’s mind as he explores Shenzhen because the proportions that China is producing is never seen in anywhere else and unequaled from everywhere else.

    3. The product made is being sent to US and scraps of medal shards and waste paper is being sent back. This is a total unbalanced trade. Only selling and not buying. A reason why this is happening may be because of the Chinese government. Their way of economy is just to earn and not to spend. Anther reason is because China is quite poor so it s labor would be cheap, and all the consumers are all in the west. Soon as Chinese people become richer and richer, the scene would change and Chinese people would be the consumers and the rest of the world would be the producer.

    4. The people that work in Shenzhen factories are all from country side. They are mostly women because men do other labor work that requires strength. While men work outside in day time, women have to work too because one working parent is not enough to support the family. The payment for factory workers and people that do any job in America are in different ends. The factory workers has to work an entire month, twelve hours a day, for a hundred plus US dollar, while a part time job in US will offer the same amount only working 15 hours.

    5. Manufacturing in Shenzhen is labor intensive, with thousands of workers tightly packed in each cell. There is a lot more labor work then paper work, therefore, the manufacturing in Shenzhen is labor intensive.

    6. It means that China is still much dictated. Since Casey is the head of a manufacturing company, he had yet still not met anyone that works in there.

  3. kevin maon 13 Aug 2007 at 4:19 pm

    1. The narrator calls Shenzhen "more or less an invented city” because of the growth of new technologies and the modern day styles of big major cities. He also calls it to an "invented Metropolis".

    2.The word "scale" appears in the narrator's because he is not use to the amount of product made in Shenzhen. He see's the cargo ships filled with products that are shipped to the America and some other countires, which is then spread throughout the countries. One possible key concept could be "economy of scale" which is when the unit cost of a product is decreased because of mass production. ShenZhen is mass producing a lot of things and this will affect its future as a city.

    3. I'm guessing that whats being shipped from ShenZhen to the US would be electronic goods such as the chips seen in the slideshow or anything else made in Chinese factories. US ships back scrap metal and scrap paper. I don't know about the balance of trade but the Chinese can use what the Americans are sending to make more of whatever scrap paper and scrap metal can make. Also America is a more likely country to use more electronics good than the Chinese. So to send them to America would be more profitable than keeping them in China.

    4. Most of the workers are from the country sides of China which takes a couple days of bus rides to get to. Women make up a large portion of the factories because the men stay home to farm since they are from the countryside. Or the men have other jobs. I honestly think the price is fair because they're getting free housing and food. The price of living in China isn't that much. However i find the amount of time they have to work unfair.

    5. The manufacturing in ShenZhen is mostly labor intensive. There is little capital intensive. The difference is labor intensive uses more employees to create their product. Capital intensive has fewer employees and rely on advanced machines to create their product. For example the machine that creates the chips for electronics.

    6. I would say you THINK you haven't met anyone in it. I don't know why he hasn't met anyone in it but i'd take a guess and say they just don't want to.

  4. alion 16 Jan 2008 at 6:00 pm

    where is the electronic center in china?