~600,000 Chinese Die Making Our Shiny Toys

Let’s expand our foreign language vocabulary! Can you say, “guolaosi”? It’s a Mandarin word meaning “death from overwork!” The word describes the phenomenon of Chinese workers falling dead on the spot as they toil in sub-Dickensian conditions so you can save a dollar on your next laptop!

China Daily, an English-language state-run publication, says an estimated 600,000 Chinese workers die each year in this fashion, sometimes falling “off their stools bleeding from the ears, nose and anus,” as left-leaning mag The Nation reported in 2007.

That which we consume also consumes us. Happy Friday!

Johann Hari: And now for some good news [The Independent] (Thanks to Michael!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. lymer says:

    It’s America’s fault right?

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      We vote with our dollars after all, and our continued use of retailers such as Walmart and our obliviousness to the true cost of the things we buy. Yes.

      • DariusC says:

        Wrong. Walmart voted with their dollar and bought from them to resell to us. By your logic, retailers are at fault as well. Also by your logic, the workers are at fault for working in a place like that. If they didn’t work there, that company would not be in business!

        Yeah, thought as much…

        • scratchie says:

          Exactly right, DariusC. Nobody bears any responsibility for this whatsoever. It’s like a tsunami or earthquake.

          • DariusC says:

            Or perhaps everyone bears some responsibility? Like how no one raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood?

        • Mike says:

          “Walmart voted with their dollar and bought from them to resell to us.”

          Would Walmart keep buying cheap stuff from China if it wasn’t selling well? If Americans all of a sudden stopped buying Chinese made items and only bought items from countries that did not allow these kinds of work conditions would Walmart keep ordering products from China?

          So does Walmart have an insatiable hunger to buy from Chinese suppliers, or do Americans have an insatiable hunger for cheap goods?

          • DariusC says:

            Both. America is not the only one to blame. Everyone is, as is stated in my other post :)

            • Mike says:

              So you think Walmart is to blame for buying cheap stuff from China? Should Walmart have refused to buy such things? What would have happened if Walmart refused to buy cheap Chinese goods, how would of other retailers reacted? Would they have gone out and bought the cheap Chinese goods and under-cut Walmart on price to get a better segment of the market?

          • TouchMyMonkey says:

            Unfortunately, if we all stopped buying Chinese-made goods, we’d end up shopping in antique stores instead. Many common items are simply unavailable unless you buy Made In China. Blaming the consumer isn’t as simple as one might think.

            • Mike says:

              “Blaming the consumer isn’t as simple as one might think.”

              Well companies produce all these goods in China because it is cheaper, and these companies learned that consumers often buy on price and have no regard for where a product is made. So it is 100% the consumer’s fault in this case.

              What I think you are trying to say though is that if we all of a sudden boycotted Chinese goods it would be near impossible since so many things are made there. So I think what you really meant was:

              “Switching back to goods that aren’t made in sweatshops isn’t as simple as one might think.”

              That I can agree 100% with.

        • coren says:

          No, the workers aren’t supporting that factory financially, they’re doing what it takes to feed their family.

          And yeah, Walmart is to blame, and so are the people who keep shopping there, if they’re buying stuff where people work themselves to death in the making.

        • mackjaz says:

          To say we bear no responsibility is denying the obvious. Common sense states that when you buy a sweatshop shirt for $2, or a lead-infused toy painted by Chinese slave babies for 94 cents from Waldemort, there is a price being paid:

          In the US, we pay in the form of lost manufacturing jobs. We pay by the loss of choice in the products available to buy, and the diminishing number of stores to choose from. We pay for substandard products that don’t last.

          In China, workers pay in the form of working in an abusive environment and “sub-dickensian” living conditions.

          Just because there isn’t a string running from us to the trigger of the gun doesn’t mean we are off the hook morally.

          “You” bear responsibility.

      • Bob says:

        You looks for electronics and everywhere you go it is either Made in China or Assembled somewhere else with parts probably made in China (but we are not allowed to know). There was once a choice in the matter but that choice is going away. What kind of choice is that?

      • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

        Last I checked, Europe, Canada, Japan, and the rest of the OECD are also buying cheap Chinese goods.

        It is a simpler narrative if you blame the United States, but let’s not pretend that it’s only the US buying those goods.

      • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

        Good luck avoiding products made in China. It’s virtually impossible unless you build your own house out of sticks and live off berries.

      • jessjj347 says:

        You can buy things made in countries other than China, but the parts most likely still come from there. For example, something can say “made in USA” because technically the labor was in the US, but the product parts still came from China.

    • nova3930 says:

      We should stop this immediately so those poor Chinese people can go back to hand working the farm fields sunup to sundown everyday for even less money. I’m sure they’ll thank us…..

      • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

        Hang on a second.

        It doesn’t have to be a binary. We can relatively cheaper wages as well as better conditions.

        While I agree that farming isn’t great either, let’s not pretend that it either has to be Foxconn or farms. It can be decent conditions as well as competitive wages. There’s a huge producer surplus in the curve that can be eaten into a smidge while still allowing for tons of economic profit on a lot of fronts.

        • craptastico says:

          it would be nice if there was a happy medium. unfortunately the minute the Chinese start paying better wages and work conditions improve, manufacturers will find a cheaper country.

        • OnePumpChump says:

          This is America. False dichotomies are what we DO.

    • grapedog says:

      Uh, there are something like 3 billion people living in China… they all apparently enjoy living in a communist paradise, or I imagine they would have done something about it by now.

  2. Quake 'n' Shake says:

    U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

  3. Arcaeris says:

    Good, they already have a significant population lead on us. Any way we can thin them out, the better.

  4. c!tizen says:

    This is why we need to stop outsourcing so much stuff to other countries, those should be American workers dying from overworking and harsh conditio… oh.

  5. kjs87 says:

    My dad always boycotted “Made in China” as much as possible when I was little because of the working conditions. I think he gave up when it got to the point where you couldn’t really avoid it without making things yourself; even if it doesn’t say “Made in China,” there’s a possibility of using parts made in China, and such. But he made a valiant effort for about ten years that I recall.

    • Mike says:

      Yeah, I gave up that fight too. Honestly I challenge people to show me anything electronic in their home that was not at least partially made in China. I get the occasional made in Malaysia or made in some other random southeast Asian country, but the the ironic thing about that is that often these items are made in those countries using Chinese immigrant labor.

      • DustingWhale says:

        Not an electronic, but I got a free plastic sports bottle (like you’d put on your bicycle) and on the bottom in large stamped letters, “Made in the USA.” I nearly started crying; I never thought I’d see a cheap plastic thing with those words again. (ok, not really cry, but I was overjoyed and spent the day showing everyone within earshot)

    • elangomatt says:

      I think we all pretty much had to give up trying to avoid made in China things when Sam Walton died and his children decided to bury Sam’s made in America campaign with him.

      • econobiker says:

        R.I.P. Sam Walton. One of the Frontline stories had a first person interview which told about the conversion of Walmart to Chinese cheap stuff after Sam died.

        I sometimes ponder at what point does Walmart become a monopoly in regards to establishing pricing to manufacturers and driving them out of the US or business.

  6. SkokieGuy says:

    When companies outsource to other countries, effectively they are saying, we don’t want to pay for the costs of complying with health & safety standards, complying with environmental regulations, providing basic employee benefits, etc.

    When unions first started they fought for things like a 5 day workweek, overtime pay, worker safety, etc. In addition to corporations working hard to bust unions, offshoring has effectively bypassed all the advances that unions brought to improve working conditions.

    When products come to the US they have to meet US standards, (for example: cars sold here have additional safety equipment not required in some other countries).

    We could easily require that products must be produced requiring minimum standards for for treatment of workers, (like when you buy fair-trade goods. Yes we’d end up paying more). Products unable to verify would be subject to a significant tariff, which would eliminate the price advantage of skirting the rules.

    Because the increased costs would reduce the tremendous advantage of offshore mfg., likely a portion of mfg. would return to the US, and the increase in tariff revenue could be used to promote job growth in the US.

    • GameHen says:

      When are you running for office?

    • KyleOrton says:

      Excellent points. I would add that there are two costs to consider. The costs of good pay, health and safety etc and the non-monetary costs of living or working near people treated like this. All of the problems that come with these conditions are also exported to China.

      While I agree that imposing humanitarian, safety and also environmental standards as conditions to sale in the United States were the way to go 15-20 years ago when this was beginning, the US has lost significant clout as a global consumer market. China and other countries are increasingly focusing on the Chinese consumer market.

    • shadypeeks says:

      not saying I agree or disagree, but who does the tariff get paid to? Our greedy ass, spend thrift government? Then the original manufacture gets to boost the cost of the goods to pay for the tariff and who is the ultimate beneficiary? You and I by way of higher prices????

    • myrna_minkoff says:

      But what of our cheap HDTVs? Where are your priorities?

      /most of middle America

    • econobiker says:

      “When companies outsource to other countries, effectively they are saying, we don’t want to pay for the costs of complying with health & safety standards, complying with environmental regulations, providing basic employee benefits, etc”

      But the companies still charge 1st world prices.

      Don’t worry China will go after the USA via something like the UN when wanting pollution cleanup or health care for poisoned workers or chemical birth defect children. By the Walmart, etc will have moved manufacturing out of China to the Sudan or Somalia or some other 3rd world hole…

      Yes, the US should charge tariffs to equalize to our regulations but that would “limit trade, wa wa wa!!!” companies would say and that goes against the whole free world trade thing all the money folks want.

  7. Alvis says:

    Don’t understand why we buy stuff from China but not Cuba.

    • JMILLER says:

      One reason SIZE

      • hosehead says:

        Bingo. There’s the right answer!

      • Brunette Bookworm says:

        That and Cuba just doesn’t produce enough stuff we want to ignore the Cuban community in the US who lobbies against Cuba. Trust me, if Cuba has say, oil, we would be trading with them.

    • pop top says:

      Doesn’t Cuba still have nukes pointed at us? That’s the reason I was given when I brought that up with some conservative family members…

      • Mike says:

        HAHA! They really think that missiles are in Cuba and still pointed at us? Wow, that’s pretty funny. They do know that the Soviet Union is gone right? And that the missiles were removed from Cuba during the Kennedy administration?


      • Zowzers says:

        Nope, Cuba its self never had em; those were Russian and were removed from the island following the Cuban missile crisis.

        The main reason we still maintain this old and tired boycott is political; thanks to the Cuban refuges in Florida among other places.

    • Mike says:

      Two things happened:

      1) The Sino-Soviet split. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Soviet_Split Although during the cold war you would think that all communists were alike and they were all organizing in some pan-commie unified front to destroy middle America, the truth is that China and the USSR did not really get along.

      2) Detente. http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1946.html Nixon saw this as an opportunity to really stick to the Soviets by cooling things off with the Chinese. Thus, we never really entered a cold war with them.

      Cuba is different. Cuba had a very cozy relationship with the USSR. Also, Cuba was close to Florida, so all the refugees who hated the Castro regime took off for Florida. Thanks to the electoral college system Florida is a very important state in national elections, so if pays to be tough on Castro if you want the vote of Cuban-American citizens in such an important state. Also, yelling about the big red scare to the south is a great political talking point to work up the old, easily frightened senior citizens in Florida.

      And this is why we buy from China and not Cuba. (I worked in China and am married to a Cuban refugee and I have a degree in government so I have some knowledge of the subject, I am not making all this stuff up.)

    • xxmichaelxx says:

      Because the Cuban community is a powerful lobbying group, and neither party is willing to stop kissing their ass for fear that $$ will stop flowing.

  8. Why is this on Consumerist? says:

    I’m not sure if Consumerist is leaning to the left lately, or if this is just a case of reality having a well-known liberal bias. Either way, I approve.

    Stop buying this crap, people. Seriously, it’s not that hard. Stop buying cheap Chinese crap.

    You have less crap lying around. Less crap=more happiness.
    You have less debt.
    You have more money to spend on useful things.
    The US’s trade deficit is lower.
    The rich get less of our money. Who do you think owns all the stores that sell this stuff?
    Fewer Chinese people die.

    • Destron says:

      Really? And if you don’t buy the cheap Chinese crap – what are you going to buy?

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        The thing is, we can all live without half the stuff we buy. There are some things we need. There are lots we don’t. Just because it’s hard to not buy everything made in China doesn’t mean we have to throw our hands up and not even try.

      • Why is this on Consumerist? says:

        Well, I’m not going to buy crap, period? You don’t NEED any of this stuff. Seriously, it’s so easy not to buy crap, it’s not even funny.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      So, where do you think your computer was manufactured?

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        Exactly. There certainly is a lot of cheap crap made in China, but that’s also where (I think) the majority of high-quality electronics, computer components, etc. are made.

      • Why is this on Consumerist? says:

        Yeah, thanks, because I occasionally can’t help but buy something Chinese, that must render my entire point invalid, right? If non-Chinese components existed, I’d love to buy them.

        • Mike says:

          So how did you post this comment on the Consumerist? Where were the parts of your computer made? You have an MP3 player? How about your phone?

          We are all swimming in cheap Chinese made crap. I am with you in not buying junk, but we can’t get by without owning a bunch of cheap Chinese electronics.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          But your point was “stop buying Chinese crap” – how do you propose to do that when you yourself admit that it’s very difficult? It’s so much easier said than done.

    • physics2010 says:

      I see the url for http://www.nonconsumerist.com available. Perhaps we should stop buying stuff and hang out there.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      Nearly everything in my house is vintage or secondhand in some way. Not only was a large portion of it made in the USA, UK or Europe, but I’m also not in debt. Cool how that works!

    • Conformist138 says:

      Did you just accuse reality of being biased? Not sure that’s the word I’d be using, but thanx for making me snort.

  9. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Everything is being emphasized! I feel so…insistent!

  10. RxDude says:

    Economic growing pains. Europe and America went through something similar during the industrial revolution. No excuse to delay fixing the problem, but China is modernizing their economy, and this is part of the process.

  11. Andyb2260 says:

    Isn’t China a Sovereign Nation? You know with their own laws? If these companies are violating Chinese Labor Laws(if there even are such things there) China should do something about it.
    Talk all you want about the World Consumers being “responsible” for the working conditions there, the ultimate responsibility lies squarely upon the shoulders of the Chinese Government in Beijing.

    • failurate says:

      Well, buying the stuff sort of makes us enablers.

      Yeah, an alcoholic is responsible for their own behavior, but it probably we should probably quit buying him drinks.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      Iran is a sovereign nation, too. So we should just stand by while they arm themselves with nuclear warheads.

      There comes a time when the international community has to make its feelings known, especially when people are dying and suffering just because of where they happened to be born.

      • Marshmelly says:

        I thought getting involved in the Iran situation was more for the purpose of them not blowing us up for whatever reason? Not saying if we should or shouldn’t get involved, but I doubt our country would do anything without knowing we benefit from it in some way.

        • ekthesi says:

          The reason the US may get militarily involved in Iran is actually two or three reasons.

          Number one with a bullet is the US need to “protect” Israel. Number two is to keep Iran from meddling in Iraq. Number three is to prevent Iran from becoming even more of a regional power; once they become a nuclear state they would likely become the dominant hegemon in the Middle East. Currently they are opposed to some extent by the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the other peninsular states; a nuclear Iran would force some deference in that regard.

        • Zowzers says:

          the concern I see with Iran becoming a nuclear power isn’t a question of who would they nuke… as no country would willingly walk invite its own destruction by actually using a nuclear weapon 1st. But rather who the factions within Iran, such as the Revolutionary Guard, would be willing to give nuclear weapons to that have no nation to worry about and no problem sacrificing them selves for their chosen cause.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        Yeah, but everytime the US does that, we get fucked. Let someone else take the reins on this one. We no longer have the time, resources, finances or energy to solve every problem that pops up. Let the UN take their heads out of their asses and actually step up for once.

  12. failurate says:

    We have destroyed our manufacturing base. Even if we wanted to make stuff, we couldn’t.

    Not only is it the cost of labor, it is the cost of and essential impossibility of complying with environmental regulations that will keep us from being a country of factories.

    Our economy has gone from being based on production of products to now being based on computer manipulations of imaginary money/the Stock Market and other frauds. In the last four years we basically saw some of the results of a fraud based economy come to a head.

    But we will continue to pay the Chinese to poison themselves until we run out of money.

    • Marshmelly says:

      +100 for “computer manipulations of imaginary money”. So very true.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      + a whole lot. That’s a great summary.

    • sirwired says:

      Those environmental regulations where created for very good reasons, and they are not “impossible” to comply with. They are merely expensive to comply with. We could counter this by either prohibiting import of countries that do not hold their factories to the equivalent standards, or at least imposing heavy tariffs.

      But yes, labor, environmental, health, etc. regulations do increase the cost of doing business in America. But I’m not sure that is necessarily such a bad thing.

  13. gamehendge2000 says:

    death by bleeding-from-the-anus ftw!

  14. Dapper Dan says:

    I would read this article, but I am off to Wal-Mart!

  15. Trae says:

    This is why I bleed from my own anus at home.

    …ummm… wait… that’s not what I meant

  16. TouchMyMonkey says:

    Shopping used to be a lot more fun before everything got made in China by people working themselves to death in sweatshops for a bowl of rice a day. Now everything is a commodity with no more personality than a loaf of store-brand white bread. Same cheap plastic, same cheap-ass metallic paint to make it shiny, same incomprehensible owner’s manual, same same same no matter what the thing costs. Think you’re buying better quality at $69 than you would at $29? Think again.

    Of course, if you did manage to find the Holy Grail – a common household item made in the USA – you’ll likely find that the quality is a lot better because that’s the only thing on which we can compete with Chinese slave labor.

  17. shepd says:

    Now, to put it in proportion, that’s 0.045% of the population in China. That equals 139,058 people in the US. About 6,000 employees die from workplace accidents each year in the US.

    Between the ages of 15 (couldn’t find it starting at 20, sorry) and 75 (people now work a lot longer than your parents did!), 1,003,952 die yearly. Employed people work 7.5 hours a day, 5 days a week, for a yearly percentage of 22% of their time spent working. Assuming the deaths are well distributed, and knowing that 64.6% of Americans are working, that means 142,682 Americans should die at work per year of random causes (and this article lists random causes, not just specific deaths due to being, say, crushed by machinery, etc).

    It’s very interesting just how close that is to the population adjusted China number, isn’t it? China is working hard to become a first world country and this report actually proves it. Of course, how many people will crunch the numbers like me?

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      I was crunching the numbers before I read your post. Thanks for saving me the time :)

    • youbastid says:

      Workplace accidents != death from overwork. There are probably a LOT more deaths from work place accidents in China in addition to this number.

  18. JustLurking says:

    I have long been fighting the battle of not buying things made in China, for primarily this reason. They treat their workers like slaves and when American companies get called to the carpet on it (Apple, Nike, etc.) they blame their suppliers.

    After all, neither Nike nor Apple nor New Balance (who should get SOME credit because they make less than 20% of their shoes here in the U.S. but who should get bashed because they tried to lessen the standard for what it means to put “Made in the USA” on products about 15 years ago) actually own their factories in China because it’s pretty much against the law.

    Many will blame their suppliers, like outsourcers extraordinaire Flextronics, who have plants throughout Mexico, China and anywhere else cheap labor can be found. The big corporations end up keeping an arm’s length from their suppliers so they can say, “Hey, it’s not my fault. Haven’t you see our human rights/fair working conditions statement on our web site?”

    Less than two decades ago you could clothe yourself from head to toe in American-made clothes, but no longer. There were still a fair number of computer products made in the U.S. and even some classic toys at the time, like Etch-a-Sketch, were still made here.

    That ship has now sailed.

    I still try to buy American products, but it’s nearly impossible. And that has all changed in half my lifetime, and I’m just 41. Yes, it started leaving before that, but by the late 1980s and early 1990s, the China Express could not be stopped, not even when we watched them gun down thousands of their own citizens in a peaceful protest.

    American executives will say pithy, soulless lies like “The sole purpose of American businesses is to return value to shareholders. The corporation has no responsibility to its workers. Business is amoral by definition.” Well, that’s all true and good, but businesses are run by human beings and human beings do need to be moral in the world.

    I’m not saying we should go all socialist and have commie-style factories that are top heavy with labor, producing sub-standard products and giving workers ludicrous job protection. I think that entrepreneurs are needed to take risks. But I am saying that I can’t stand to buy stuff made in China, no matter the brand.

    If a product is worth selling in America, it is worth being made by people who can earn a decent wage and afford that product, no matter where it is actually made.

    China and by proxy American companies exploit those people, all so we can save a few pennies.

    I am slowly losing the battle of avoiding Chinese products because it has now become impossible. I still keep up the fight, but if they can kill more than half a million people a year just to keep us swimming in cheap toys (and high-end, no-value fashion crap like Coach bags), then something is surely wrong in the world today.


    • Bob says:

      San Antonio Shoes (SAS) They are very expensive by I have an 8 year old pair that I still wear. They are American Made as durable as all heck.

      • JustLurking says:

        Nice! My mother and father both had SAS shoes.

        There used to be hundreds of shoe factories in Missouri, but the last one, making Florsheim, amongst other brands, closed about 15 years ago. Johnston & Murphy closed their Nashville plant around 2001 or so.

        For the past few years, I have been buying Allen Edmonds shoes. They are expensive, but ludicrously well made. And they also come in narrow sizes, which I need. Best of all, they are (mostly) made in Port Washington, Wisconsin. They have lately added some Italian and Dominican shoes, which I have let them know I don’t approve of.

        And when you want them freshened, they don’t just put new soles on them, they “recraft” them and they are truly like new again.

        Look for a future post on Consumerist since they actually screwed up recrafting an eight-year-old pair of my shoes, which have already been rebuilt twice. Their response: Pick any pair of shoes we sell up to $345 and we’ll send them to you.

        Awesome company, no? And they hire Americans — mine and your neighbors.

  19. DanRydell says:

    China’s government needs to fix this problem. I don’t feel one bit of responsibility for labor conditions in China.

    • Mike says:

      Are you 100% sure that nobody died in China while making a piece of electronics that you own? You think that just because you don’t have voting rights on China it means that you didn’t vote with your dollars? If you own something made in China you could have blood on your hands.

      But let’s take it a step further. Did you ever buy your wife a diamond? How do you know that diamond wasn’t mined by a child in slavery? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_labour_in_the_diamond_industry

      Just because you don’t live in said country doesn’t absolve you of responsibility.

      • Zowzers says:

        I would say that if the Chinese people want to not work under such conditions then it is up to the Chinese people do make it happen. Self determination is something our own country was built on, and it would be selfish of us to take that opportunity away from others going through similar social hardships that we once did.

        • Brunette Bookworm says:

          If you read the linked article, they are beginning to rebel against the conditions. Unfortunately this rebellion and demand for better conditions means they get better pay and less hours, driving the cost of the product up. Manufacturers just end up moving to another country with less or no labor laws so we can keep buying our cheap products and not think about the people making them.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        What? Of course it does. I’m only responsible for what I do directly, and, in limited cases, indirectly one time removed.

        Blood diamonds aside, no one in their right mind examines every product they own and then does detailed research as the origins and every possible negative repercussion that could have occurred due to their purchase of that product.

        How do I know that 11 people didn’t die in a boiler explosion in the factory where the shoelaces for my sneakers were made? And and even better question would be, “who gives a shit?” I’ve got enough to worry about – now I should start taking responsibility for something that might have happened to the people who sew the zippers into my jeans?

        • Mike says:

          “who gives a shit?”

          I do. My wife and I own no diamonds because I have actually been to Africa and met the people who mine that stuff. I also lament the fact that there is no way to be sure the computer I am using does not contain conflict minerals.

          ” I’ve got enough to worry about – now I should start taking responsibility for something that might have happened to the people who sew the zippers into my jeans?”

          We all have enough to worry about, but that still does not mean I feel like it is a free pass to not care if a small child in a sweatshop sewed my jeans. What are you worrying about that is so important that you shouldn’t care about the possibility of child labor being used to make the products you use?

          • Zowzers says:

            I’m sorry but I find “think of the children” arguments to be more harmful to ones argument then helpful.

            Regardless, we had similar social issues In our own country and we figured it out. Why should we deny others the chance to figure things out for them selves as well?

          • pantheonoutcast says:

            In no particular order: I worry about my career, the state of the modern educational system, my health, the health of my parents and sister, how the economy will affect my investments, my general happiness, the happiness of the people close to me, ocean pollution, endangered animals, religious zealots with explosives, political zealots with veto power, and solar flares.

            I have a lot on my plate. Child labor in a foreign nation doesn’t being to factor into my concerns. I teach underprivileged children in the South Bronx for a living – I’ve done more for poor and downtrodden youth in one month than you do with a lifetime of “lamenting” and false concern. “Not buying diamonds” isn’t taking action or making a difference.

            Also: “I also lament the fact that there is no way to be sure the computer I am using does not contain conflict minerals.”

            You do? Really? I’m sorry. Do you lose sleep over it? Enough to do something about it? Or do you just sit around smugly “lamenting”?

            • Mike says:

              “I’ve done more for poor and downtrodden youth in one month than you do with a lifetime of “lamenting” and false concern.”

              Wow, that was rude and classless.

              You have NO idea who I am or my story. It took my eight years to finish my undergrad education why? Because I was travelling throughout Africa trying to play my part. I was in Zimbabwe when there was a financial crisis. I was in Lesotho when there was a coup and a bloody battle. I have been on the border of Eritrea and Ethiopia and worked in orphanages with kids who lost their parents in war. Have you ever been to a village in Swaziland that has lost half of its population to AIDS? Have you ever stood outside a mine in South Africa passing out invitations to a presentation to teach them how to avoid HIV infection? I have.

              “Or do you just sit around smugly “lamenting”?”

              No, I don’t sit around. In fact just this morning my wife and I were discussing about whether we should take a trip to Western Kenya to visit a friend who is working on a poverty project out there. I do anything but sit around smugly.

              But guess what? I am one of those little brown kids who grew up in NY that you teach to now. I hope you are not as condescending to them as you are to me.

              • pantheonoutcast says:

                I stand partially corrected. It sounds fascinating and noble (and I’m not being sarcastic). However, had you have been one of my students I’d be:

                1) Proud that you were attempting to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate,
                2) Disappointed that your actions weren’t directed towards the less fortunate people of your own country.

                As much as I detest “bumper sticker politics,” one always resonated with me – “Think globally, act locally.” Not only do I think it’s a logical suggestion, I think it’s preferable to any other type of activism. I think bottled water is stupid. So I don’t buy it, and I teach my students the reasons I think it’s stupid (but I don’t preach – it’s still up to them to make their own decisions). But I’m not going to stand in front of an Evian factory and protest – it accomplishes nothing. Educating others on a local level helps them help themselves make correct choices so they don’t end up continuing the cycle of poverty, ignorance, and helplessness. My concerns are always local first – you can blame it on selfishness, but I do believe that if everyone was the tiniest bit more selfish, insofar as caring about their personal growth and immediate habitat, then the effects would spread, virus-like.

                I’m going to apologize to you for sounding judgmental; I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong :)

              • hotcocoa says:

                Props to you and your efforts for improving others’ lives and thanks for putting this dude in his place. The internet has become a stomping ground for rude, abrasive, argumentative, self-glorifying assholes.

              • psm321 says:

                I thought it read like he was saying your lamenting was not doing any good, not that you don’t do any good. But after his new reply I’m not sure

              • incident_man says:

                +1 million.

    • craptastico says:

      unfortunately China’s gov’t also feels no responsibility for their workers.

  20. rgetter says:

    Does anyone else think the article is a bit difficult to accept at face value?

    For starters, China has a population of 1.3 billion. That means 600,000 is about 0.05% of the population. Since people generally live around 75 years, the overall death rate is somewhere around 1.5%.

    Second, the article brings up the recent news about suicides at Foxconn even though the suicide rate there is on the par with suicide rates in other places including the United States.

    Third, “falling off their stools bleeding from the ears, nose and anus” seems it’s there just to add shock value. How many people have died that way? What was the actual cause of death, and was it really related to work hours? I’m sure the number of people in the United States that have died that way while on the job is greater than zero. Without more information, it just clouds the issue.

    Finally, the only information that the article claims comes from China Daily is the 600,000 number.

    Labor conditions in China are certainly pretty bad, but the articles linked here don’t smell right.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      But a Communist country’s state-run newspaper just seems so trustworthy!

      • Zowzers says:

        wait, its from a state run newspaper?

        Translation: it was actually 1,200,000. And “sometimes falling “off their stools bleeding from the ears, nose and anus,”” really meant that they were shot off their stools for working to slow.

    • Traveshamockery says:

      I agree. The 600,000 number sounds completely impossible.

    • ap0 says:

      Believing this article is like believing the DPRK’s KCNA. Unfortunately, Consumerist posts have really trended far towards the left in recent months. But hey, if it’s posted on the Internet, it must be true, right?

      I agree that working conditions in China suck, and I do try to buy products manufactured in countries that treat their workers halfway decently, but this article reeks of external Chinese propaganda trying to make the rest of the world feel bad about exploiting their workers. Meanwhile, the Chinese government are the ones in control of labor laws and regulations there, but I don’t see them trying to raise the standard.

  21. pantheonoutcast says:

    How many Americans were hurt or killed by products made in China?

  22. Dallas_shopper says:

    I don’t want their cheap badly-made shiny shit. I buy American whenever I can. Which, for many things, isn’t too often. :-(

  23. evnmorlo says:

    I don’t see a physical explanation of how fatigue is going make you bleed out of all orifices. Sounds like Chinese propaganda and/or a cover-up of an Ebola epidemic.

  24. Erika'sPowerMinute says:

    KitchenAid stand mixer. Still made in Ohio and incredibly durable. I expect to give mine to a grandchild….I have a couple friends who have heirloom machines that were wedding gifts in the 40s.

    Fiestaware dishes.

    Lodge cast-iron is still made here….isn’t it?

    I think my beautiful better-with-age 1989 Jenn-Air cooktop was made in Indiana. They probably aren’t anymore.

    Those are probably the only things in my house that were made in the USA and are beautiful, durable, and I don’t feel guilty about their manufacture.

    I hate Chinese imports for the guilt factor, the lousy quality, and most of all their inescapability.

  25. dolemite says:

    Honestly, we condemn this, but America is well on the way to becoming a 3rd world nation itself. All the debt we owe, unemployment rising, people working 50-60 hours a week or multiple jobs just to make ends meet, states converting paved roads to dirt roads because they can’t afford to maintain them, aging electrical system that will produce more and more blackouts and brownouts, substandard high speed internet that lags behind most nations, rising healthcare costs, shaky financial system, water shortages in some cities…we need to be watching our own back.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      Don’t forget the fact that we don’t actually manufacture anything anymore. Or fix things. Or offer customer service for things.

      Come to think of it – what the hell do we do?

  26. Sian says:

    Chinese peasants are going to labor under horrible conditions and die from overwork.

    It’s egotistical of us to think we have a hand in what has been Chinese history for as long as China has records for. (and China keeps very good records)

    Haters gonna hate, but China isn’t going to change any time soon.

  27. brinks says:

    Once, a customer at my old job went off on one of my employees because none of our computers were made in the USA. He asked to speak to a manager and then proceeded to go off on me. I wasn’t about to try to explain to him the entire concept of globalization, so I simply told him that there are currently no options available ANYWHERE if you’d like to purchase a laptop that was wholly made in the USA. I also had to explain to him that the $500 laptop he was looking at would probably be well over $2000 had it been made here.

    You really have no options with certain items like electronics. With clothing, sometimes you do have a choice. I know that there are horrible things going on in these sweatshops, but until I get rich and my options are something other than douchebaggy American Apparel, I gotta go with Made in China.

  28. zekebullseye says:

    Bleeding from the ears, nose and anus from overwork…That’s a new one. Over here we just bring a gun to work and shoot the place up.

  29. Master Medic: Now with more Haldol says:

    This may come as a surprise but 27 year old males don’t just “drop dead” without serious (read undiagnosed) medical conditions. I doubt China has much health care for these workers so for all we know he had cancer and it finally did kill him but because he is a worker it’s attributed to over work.

  30. FaustianSlip says:

    The conditions in a lot of the factories in China are truly awful, but the vocabulary cited in this article isn’t unique to China. There’s a word in Japanese that means the same thing: 過労死 [karoushi]. Essentially, a salaryman puts in eighty hours a week for ten or fifteen or twenty years at his job, then drops dead of a stroke or heart attack or throws himself in front of a shinkansen because the bubble bursts and he’s laid off.

    We can boycott Chinese products all we want (and I think that’s a great thing to do), but the fact of the matter is that these days, we couldn’t make our own stuff in the U.S. if we wanted to. Sad state of affairs we’ve created for ourselves, really.

  31. EverCynicalTHX says:

    Too late to become an isolationist country, the proverbial cat is out of the bag.

    The US fosters a climate in which is has become cost prohibitive to produce goods here.

    Thank the unions, thank your politicians and thank the lawyers.

  32. runswithscissors says:

    But their beloved leaders work just as hard for just as little pay, right? And they die from overwork at the same ratios, right? They don’t live like royalty in palaces driving imported cars, right, cuz in Communism everyone is equal, right?

    … right?

  33. xrmb says:

    If I could find USA made toys I would buy them… but I can’t find any in any local store. But, I was recently in Germany, oh wow, so many toys Made in Germany, and not much more expensive than the Made in China crap.

  34. Carlee says:

    If the Chinese government were concerned about the welfare of their citizens (as they should be), they should change their labor laws. But they don’t care.

    I’m not saying that sweatshops are fine, because they’re not. But according to a friend who actually visited Foxconn’s factories, the working conditions are not bad. Is it boring tedious work? Yep. Could the workers be paid more? Probably. But changes aren’t going to be made by the foreign corporations – they have to come from within.

    China wants to be a superpower and the way that they are going to get there is to offer cheap labor and make every other country dependent on them. The people in power (the Communist Party) doesn’t care about the average worker. It’s up to the workers themselves to do something about it. Just like in the U.S. – people formed unions and forced change (of course, now some of the unions are corrupt and pointless, but that’s a different story).

    As a country, you can’t enjoy the spoils of your citizens being exploited, and then cry about the exploitation.

    Believe me, I would be happy to buy stuff not made in China… but it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.

  35. peggysister says:

    Americans don’t care. All they want is cheap goods at any expense.

  36. RvLeshrac says:

    Someone close that Italic tag!

  37. mbemom says:

    Is this really true…that number just seems huge. I know it’s China and there are billions and billions of them so 600,000 may not seem like a lot but, still, it seems like a lot

  38. Jimmy37 says:

    So where are all those union people protesting? Or those anarchists that come to all the G-something meetings to destroy? Where is Human Rights Watch protesting this? They all know if they tried to get into China, they wouldn’t make it out. So when is the boycott starting? I guess never because everything high tech comes from China.