Why do American jobs end up in China? The supposed answer in an anecdote: the late Steve Jobs summons his senior lieutenants and holds up the iPhone prototype. It's due to be shipped to stores in not much more than a month. He points out that the plastic screen has been scratched by his keys. "I won't sell a product that gets scratched," he says, according to a recent New York Times story. "I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks."
“After one executive left that meeting, he booked a flight to Shenzhen, China,” the Times reports. “If Mr. Jobs wanted perfect, there was nowhere else to go.” The next sequence reads like a montage in some 1920s film about industrial production. Within days, a Corning Glass plant in China is turning out big sheets of toughened glass, which are shipped to a nearby Chinese plant to be cut into iPhone panes. The small panes are trucked to a Foxconn factory complex eight hours away.
The first truckloads arrived in the dead of night, according to a former Apple executive. Managers rousted thousands of workers out of their beds, lined them up, gave each of them a biscuit and a cup of tea and launched them on a twelve-hour shift. In ninety-six hours, the plant was producing more than 10,000 iPhones a day. Within three months, Apple had sold 1 million of them; since then Foxconn has assembled more than 200 million. The suicide rate among its workers was, Jobs insisted, below the overall Chinese rate.
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