China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
China has become a productive site for thinking about production. It currently accounts for a quarter of global manufacturing output by value. Its factories churn out all manner of goods from ephemera to high-end electronics. Its industrial workforce is the largest in the world. Centered on cases from China’s present and recent past, our panel probes the question of how processes of production intersect with different forms of technology and labor in facilitating, hindering, or recalibrating socialist or capitalist accumulation. Focusing on the making of cheap commodities in 1980s Wenzhou, Victor Seow examines how technologies of production undergirded the rise of mass manufacturing in China’s reform era. Silvia Lindtner explores the emergence of Shenzhen as a hub not only for China’s contemporary maker movement but for the prototyping of “entrepreneurial living” in which experimentation and hacking are deeply embedded in a particular economization of life. By following the work of married peasant women in Foxconn’s iPhone plant in Zhengzhou, Yige Dong elucidates how spaces between factory compounds and village households became sites of social reproduction in inland China. And Lu Zhang shows, through her investigation into electronics manufacturers relocating from coastal to western China, how labor regimes could have a hand in reshaping geographies of capitalism—capital mobility here was not necessarily a “race to the bottom.” Together, these papers demonstrate how Chinese productive regimes are very much shaped by the specificities of site and how in processes of making commodities, socioeconomic orders may be made, remade, or unmade.