A Blue Christmas at China’s Own North Pole
Toy manufacturing companies have received huge hits since the 2008 economic crisis, with the most recent example being the November 25th closure of the Guangdong Kai Da Manufacturing factory. Once key factors in China’s economic rise, many are questioning the future of China’s economy as more and more toy factories are fighting insolvency. Time’s Bill Powell reports:
At about six o’clock Thursday evening, around what used to be quitting time for the day shift at the He Jun toy factory in Dongguan, China, 40-year-old Wei Dong Li made his way to the factory’s front entrance, his three-year-old son Qian Jie tugging at his sleeve. The factory is now closed; a few security guards stand inside the locked gate. Posted each evening at the front entrance is a sheaf of documents: the latest rulings from a local court on compensation claims filed by many of He Jun’s 4,000 workers, Wei included. “They process a few of them a day, so I come back every other day to check and see if my case is on the list,” Wei says. He has no luck again. “I’ll just wait some more,” he says. “I have nothing else to do at this point.”
Dongguan, along with a handful of similar, nearby towns, is the real Santa’s factory at the North Pole. A sprawling, charmless city of 7.5 million that sits 80 km southeast of Guangzhou, the provincial capital of Guangdong in southern China, Dongguan produces a vast amount of the toys that will end up under Christmas trees around the world. Toys were one of the critical, low-wage, low-tech industries on which China built its economic ascent over the past 30 years. But as workers such as Wei know better than anyone, 2008 is the year that that part of China’s miracle has come to an end.