When news is reported about Chinese factories assembling products for Apple, Samsung, Sharp and others, most of what we hear is the poor labor conditions of those factories, in particular those owned and operated by the Hon Hai Precision Industry, Co., Ltd., better known as Foxconn. The company’s 13 factories assemble as much as 40% of the world’s consumer electronics products and employ as many as 450,000 workers.
Just 1500 miles away, a factory owned by a well-known tech giant is experiencing quite the opposite.
Shige Watanabe remembers the boom days.
“It was solid cars on the roads. The factories ran full steam, constantly,” he says, standing in front of the electronics shop he has run for 30 years in the Japanese town of Yaita. A car occasionally cruises by his shop window, packed with Aquos TVs and other Sharp appliances, but the giant Sharp plant across the street is still, its windows dark on a quiet Friday afternoon.
About 1500 miles to the west, in the outskirts of Zhengzhou, China, the scene is very different, with the sounds of traffic and construction heavy in the air. This is Foxconn Electronics territory, and thousands of assembly workers roam the streets between shifts, walking around piles of bricks and construction equipment. Building crews scramble to finish dormitories next to bustling factory lines, and tractors flatten fields nearby to build more.
What follows is a sad tale that illustrates how quickly things can change in the tech business.
UPDATE: This story (on Bloomberg,com) appeared after the PCWorld one, above. Sharp might not be partnering with Foxconn after all, according to the article.