China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Drawing on two decades of research inside China’s manufacturing workshops, the “dormitory labor regime” thesis holds that expelling migrant workers’ welfare provisions and intergenerational reproduction from the factories to their remote home villages is a key factor defining the landscape of Chinese labor politics. However, as workers’ wages soar up, manufacturing companies have moved inland in search of untapped, cheaper labor. This “spatial fix” raises new questions: When migrant workers do not have to travel thousands of kilometers afar but can find a job in a factory nearby, how do their patterns of daily and intergenerational reproduction change? How, accordingly, does the relationship between labor’s reproduction and the production process reconfigure?
A first step to investigate this ongoing transition, this paper examines the case of Foxconn—an electronics manufacturing giant and Apple’s chief supplier—that has recently relocated its key manufacturing facilities to interior China. In 2010, Foxconn built its largest iPhone plant in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province in central China. The vast majority of the 250,000 workforce are local Henanese, including a large number of college interns, laid-off state coal miners, and married peasant women, aka. “dagongsao.” My analysis centers on the last group, who occupies a unique gendered position between the factory compound—the site of production and the village household—the site of labor’s reproduction. Examining their experience at the intersection of labor and gender politics illuminates how the relationship between the two spheres are structurally linked and changed amid the newly emerging circumstances.