Chinese Labor in a Korean Factory: Class, Ethnicity, and Productivity on the Shop Floor in Globalizing China

Chinese Labor in a Korean Factory: Class, Ethnicity, and Productivity on the Shop Floor in Globalizing China

Chinese Labor in a Korean Factory: Class, Ethnicity, and Productivity on the Shop Floor in Globalizing China

Chinese Labor in a Korean Factory: Class, Ethnicity, and Productivity on the Shop Floor in Globalizing China

Synopsis

Chinese Labor in a Korean Factory draws on fieldwork in a multinational corporation (MNC) in Qingdao, China, and delves deep into the power dynamics at play between Korean management, Chinese migrant workers, local-level Chinese government officials, and Chinese local gangs. Anthropologist Jaesok Kim examines how governments, to attract MNCs, relinquish parts of their legal rights over these entities, while MNCs also give up portions of their rights as proxies of global capitalism by complying with local government guidelines to ensure infrastructure and cheap labor. This ethnography demonstrates how a particular MNC struggled with the pressure to be increasingly profitable while negotiating the clash of Korean and Chinese cultures, traditions, and classes on the factory floor of a garment corporation.

Chinese Labor in a Korean Factory pays particular attention to common features of post-socialist countries. By analyzing the contentious collaboration between foreign management, factory workers, government officials, and gangs, this study contributes not only to the research on the politics of resistance but also to how global and local forces interact in concrete and surprising ways.

Excerpt

We will make Qingdao the most investment-friendly
place for Korean enterprises.

—CHONG YÜ, vice-mayor of Qingdao, March 2006

Chengyang is not a part of Qingdao but a part of Seoul.

—JUNG, manager of Nawon Korea, September 2002

Globalization is usually perceived as a progressive shift from bounded, local, and homogeneous forms of modernity to an ungrounded, flexible, and fluid postmodernity (Harvey 1991; Appadurai 1996). the urban landscape of China clearly shows the increasing intensity of transnational and global flows of people, media images, ideas, and capital. When I arrived in the northern Chinese city of Qingdao on a late summer day in 2002, the first scene that caught my eye was the colorful electric signs in English. Many of them advertized Hollywood movies running in local theaters, as well as branches of multinational corporations (MNCs), including chain stores such as Wal-Mart, Carrefour, and justco, fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s and kfc. the signs indicate that Qingdao is a key consumer market of MNCs: Qingdao is the wealthiest city in Shandong province and also is ranked tenth out of China’s top twenty wealthiest cities (KPMG 2006).

However, the dazzling scene of thriving consumerism created by foreign corporations is misleading because the service industry is not the main interest of foreign direct investment in the region. Instead of in the tertiary industrial sector, foreign corporations made about four-fifths of . . .

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