China Blue Documentary
Erin Brumbaugh 03. 18. 2013 ChinaBlue/Ngai China Blue offered a different perspective on the working women of China in sweatshops. The quota levels and the pay was very disorganized, and called for very in-depth attention to the workers by management. In China Blue, the girl was marveled at the accommodations of the factory, and quickly realized that these accommodations, and the food provided was not free, nor were they really much better than her home life.
According to Ngai, dormitory labor systems regulate the labor mobility, and control the labor force in a way that is usually not seen. Many of the laborers are migrant workers that travel from the countryside to the city to find work, and as seen in China Blue, these workers are often underpaid, and have strict regulations from being in the city. In both the article and the film, the factory controls the migrant workers, and the city provides legislation and/or policy that the factories must house them.
By having dormitories onsite, the factory is almost its own little city. It provides food, shelter, and because they control every portion of the laborers life, they can force them to work late, and penalize them for bad behavior, or not meeting their quotas. According to Ngai, the dormitory system is also stressful on these migrant workers as it removes them from their families. Isolation and maltreatment in the form of cheap labor is how China expects to compete globally.
The force their workers to work long hours, subsidize their living expenses, and keep their wages low. There seems to be a force dependency upon the work. This is seen in the film. The girl was isolated, and unable to return home during the New Year. She was left by herself, and she relied heavily upon her fellow workers. However, the camaraderie between coworkers only extended so far. There is also the issue of adjusting to the new economy. As China entered the WTO, and the rural life became harder, people began to send their children to the city to earn more money.
These low educated youth are expected to work in the factories, and have very little knowledge of the world outside their farmstead. This is the major point discussed in the film. These factories make a lot of money exporting their goods abroad. China’s economy is based upon exports. And their profit margin increases when they don’t have to pay their workers well. It was seen quickly that when a strike was going to be staged, the manager in China Blue was willing to concede immediately to get their shipment sent. In order to do that, the workers were forced to work all night.