Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Shenzen - Factories inside the walls, repression outside

I've seen a couple of articles about Shenzhen, China lately.

One article, from the Wall Street Journal, talks about a Taiwanese company with a huge factory in Shenzhen.

Past a guarded gate on the outskirts of this city sits one of the world's largest factories. In dozens of squat buildings, it churns out gadgets bearing technology's household names -- Apple Inc.'s iPods and iPhones, Hewlett-Packard Co.'s personal computers, Motorola Inc. mobile phones and Nintendo Co. Wii videogame consoles.

Few people outside of the industry know of the plant's owner: Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.

With a work force of some 270,000...the factory is a bustling testament to the ambition of Hon Hai's founder, Terry Gou....Mr. Gou has turned his company into China's biggest exporter and the world's biggest contract manufacturer of electronics.

Hon Hai's revenue has grown more than 50% a year in the past decade to $40.6 billion last year. It is expected to add $14 billion in revenue this year....

At the center of Mr. Gou's empire is his walled Shenzhen facility, the Longhua Science & Technology Park, which covers about a square mile. Aside from customers, few outsiders set foot inside. A reporter visiting Longhua was barred from viewing protected areas or taking photographs of more than a few scenes.

In addition to its dozens of assembly lines and dormitories, Longhua has a fire brigade, hospital and employee swimming pool, where Mr. Gou does early morning laps when he is there. Restaurants, banks, a grocery store and an Internet cafe line the company town's main drag. More than 500 monitors around the campus show exercise programs, worker-safety videos and company news produced by the in-house television network, Foxconn TV. Even the plant's manhole covers are stamped "Foxconn."

But what happens when people venture outside of the the Longhua Science & Technology Park? Well, they're being watched:

At least 20,000 police surveillance cameras are being installed along streets here in southern China and will soon be guided by sophisticated computer software from a U.S.-financed company to recognize automatically the faces of crime suspects and detect unusual activity.

This isn't necessary unique - there is similar technology in London - but they're going a step further in Shenzhen.

Starting this month in a port neighborhood and then spreading across Shenzhen, a city of 12.4 million people, residency cards fitted with powerful computer chips programmed by the same company will be issued to most citizens.

Again, this isn't unique - there are identity cards all over the world. But let's see what the company - China Public Security Technology - says about how the cards will be used:

Shenzhen Residence Card Information Management System is an integral part of the entire Shenzhen Residence Card program. Through an integrated information transfer platform, the new system will facilitate several social programs in Shenzhen, including social welfare management, one-child policy family planning management -

Let's pause for a second. Did you catch that? If you dare to have a second child, they're going to know who you are. This will give impetus to some trends that are already happening:

[T]he Chinese are having 1.5 children per person, which is a sharp population drop, and about 2/3 of the population is male.

And people say that the West is sexist. At least we don't kill our women.

Let's return to the China Public Security Technology press release:

- education management, and house rental management. The system will enable various government agencies to access information regarding immigrant populations and improve public management capabilities.

Let's pause again. Remember that when China is speaking about immigrants, they're speaking about immigrants within China - namely, people moving from the poorer areas of China to the industrialized southeastern section. The International Herald Tribune provides additional background:

The Chinese government has ordered all large cities across the country to...issue high-tech residency cards to 150 million people who have moved to a city but not yet acquired permanent residency....

[This is] officially aimed at fighting crime and developing better controls on an increasingly mobile population, including the nearly 10 million peasants who move to big cities each year....

"If they do not get the permanent card, they cannot live here, they cannot get government benefits, and that is a way for the government to control the population in the future," said Michael Lin, vice president for investor relations at China Public Security Technology, the company providing the technology.

Wonder what Fabian Nunez or George W. Bush would say about THAT.


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