Apple’s an easy target, but you can’t blame them for Foxconn

The cries from the media blaming Apple for the conditions at Foxconn are getting out of hand. Blaming Apple solely for the problems at the factory is like blaming one car-maker for greenhouse gasses. It doesn’t make sense. There are many companies and many factors that make Foxconn what it is.

Does Apple have a responsibility to the workers are Foxconn? Absolutely. However, I believe that Apple is doing more than any other company out there. They publish reports of audits and also detail things like what it’s doing to rid its products of dangerous chemicals.

What are the other companies doing that even compares to Apple’s progress? We don’t really know, because nobody bothers to find out.

TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey nailed it in an article the other day saying that “Foxconn is used by most of the major electronics brands in the world. Samsung, Microsoft, Amazon, and the rest all contract with Foxconn to manufacture, assemble, or finish their products. The threatened mass suicide the other week was, in fact, at an Xbox production facility.”

Why then aren’t the media holding Microsoft’s feet to the proverbial fire over that? Because that headline isn’t as sexy as blaming Apple.

We can’t simply ignore the problems that arise in manufacturing the devices we love to use, but we can’t throw the blame at Apple’s feet and demand they do more. At the very least the reporters blaming Apple should contact the other companies and ask what they are doing to solve these problems.

  • I feel like this is a little disingenuous. After more than a few days of talking about the astronomical profits that Apple hit in Q4, and then comparing it to everyone else, you now turn around and put them on equal footing when it comes to corporate responsibility? If they are making the most money from Foxconn’s exploitative practices, do they not bear more responsibility than most? 

    As you’ve also pointed out many times, Apple products are copied every day. Do you not think that as industry leader that if they made a decisive statement, others would copy this as well?

    I’m not saying that I disagree with you, but  praising a company on one hand for doing everything right, and then saying they’re an easy target when criticism comes seems, as I said, disingenuous at best.

    • It’s not a matter of money, but responsibility. Everyone should be held accountable, not just Apple.

    • Vamsmack

      The issue here is they’re the only ones who seem to be talking about or taking any responsibility for the welfare of these workers and they’re being hung out to dry for it. In terms of corporate responsibility they seem to be the only ones taking ANY responsibility for these people and their working conditions.

      • James Bond

        The sad thing is that you and apparently 3 other sheeple believe that. Apple is nearly 40% percent of Foxconn’s business. They are the only ones who can stop this slavery. But you people are so in love with Apple that you have to defend them at all cost.

    • Anonymous

      Your perspective is skewed.

      Apple make money is not because of Foxconn handling the manufacturing aspect of her business.

      Apple makes money because her products are the best of its class.

      Blaming the plight of the employees of Foxconn on Apple is flat wrong.

      What would you say if Apple is not making money, would you still blame Apple?

      • Ciaochow

        BS.  Apples is doing well because Foxconn has the ability to execute. No one else can.  It’s funny that one one mentioned China makes “cheap” stuff in this forum.  It’s because they make cheap ones, expensive ones, and good ones.  One more thing Foxconn is from Taiwan.  In other word, Chinese.

    • His Shadow

      saying they’re an easy target when criticism comes seems, as I said, disingenuous at best.

      Here’s the problem. With the exception of a few human rights groups who are routinely derided by the US press as communists, socialists, anti-capitalists and hippies, articles on human rights issues regarding China were few and far between. The upside of Apple’s runaway success is that these issues will enter the mainstream and just maybe, cause consumers to rethink the human price for our incredibly cheap consumer goods. The downside of the matter is that the usual suspects have wasted no time in painting this as an issue for which Apple is somehow responsible, in defiance of the fact that nearly every single electronic device in your house, Apple branded or not, was made in China or at the very least assembled in China. 

      China is a totalitarian regime. It also happens to be a sovereign nation. Imagining that Apple alone has any weight with the Chinese government is naive. It is in fact China that has all the leverage here, given the Western World’s addiction to cheap consumer items. 

      Apple is one of the very few tech companies who has started to inspect it’s contractors facilities and release regular reports on the standards to which it expects it contractors to adhere. It has seemingly paid for such openness by being accused of supporting child slave labour as if anyone would be aware of it if Apple itself had not demanded it’s contractors overhaul it’s hiring practices, which actually exposed more cases of underage hiring. 

      Again, using Apple’s high profile to bring attention to conditions in China is a perfectly legitimate tactic. But many are seemingly unaware, or simply didn’t care that this was going on long before Apple became a global powerhouse.

      • In 2010 Apple found 61 cases of underage workers in their suppliers and 30 historically (out of millions). There may be more and this it is always sad when someone under the legal age of employment must work to support their family. 40 years ago my parents had to do it and I’m sure there are school drop outs across America today.

        But say the term child labor to anyone and the first image that comes to mind is factory floors full of 10 year olds forced to work there ala Oliver Twist. This is far from the case. What I would be interested in knowing is what happens to these kids after they have been removed from the factory floor? Do they return to their villages and return to school (as required in Apples agreements with their suppliers) or do they seek work elsewhere?

        Chinas compulsory education system is entirely different to the US. It’s tiered depending on where the child is from (rural areas have less stringent requirements than the cities) and is only required for 9 years. For those who don’t continue past these 9 years what do you think they do?  If they live on a farm they most certainly work and some like millions of others trek to the cities in search of higher paying jobs. 

  • Most articles on the working conditions at these factories are laughable at best. A Guardian article mentions the unpaid 20 minute military style assembly prior to starting their shift, treating this like some sort of travesty, and ignoring the fact that this a habitual activity across Chinese society (including Taiwan) from elementary school through to their working life. It’s boring as hell sure, strange to my eyes, but the bias of the reporter is projecting is way off.

    At least a tech crunch reporter came over here to visit the Foxconn facility. Most people reporting haven’t, nor have they experienced the conditions in any other factory assembling products elsewhere in the world. Nor do they have any understanding of the cultural differences between the US and China. Now that Apple is no longer the underdog you can expect the company to receive much more criticism, deserved or not.

  • The too perfect timing of the New York Slimes articles playing off the Apple news high tells you all you need to know. As Gore Vidal once said, “You can always trust the NYT to take the low road.”

  • Slion4013

    The Apple-Foxconn relationship is one of codependency. Apple can suggest but it cannot demand. I am amazed that folks who have not run a company or been to China can arrive at these facile solutions. This business of imposing the US worldview on another country has been tried. It”s also called nation building. How”s that working out.  The New York Times position is clear. If a company sucks, are not interested in their business practices

    • GHY

      Start putting conditional tariffs on china until they have minimum wage and better laws. Maybe we should encourage global unions to fight global companies

  • Solutionandmachine

    No you can’t blame them ‘soley’, but blaming them is definitely a step in the right direction. That’s the price of success. Analogy: when you get caught doing cocaine, it’s not a big deal. When Kate Moss or Lady Gaga does, it’s a whole scandal and we question what it does to ‘society’ to have people like them behaving like that. That’s fame. Suddenly your actions count more. Clinton getting a blow-job threatens the security of the nation, Donald Trump getting one, not really interesting. That’s because of their relative position in society and the social ecosystem.

    They are without question profiting most by the situation.

    Generally – wtf? Do you work for Mitt Romney? This article pushes the idea that corporations should be forgiven some of their gross immorality if they aren’t totally horrific (trying to reduce pollution in their products), or some others are bad also. Heck, what were they going to do, make less money? That’s ABSURD. How can we expect any corporate board to allow a decision that will reduce profits? Profits are what make corporations live – and corporations are people! By suggesting we deny them profits it’s like we’re condoning murder! Feel free to suggest that we should blast other corporations too, but don’t defend a rapist by saying ‘At least he didn’t beat her up first’.