About Abigail Crowther

3rd year textile student

Chinese Generations

New Generations

 

More money seems to be China’s main goal, the fact that product and profit comes before people make me slightly depressed, all the documentaries I have watched recently on China and their ever growing production lines makes me feel like a lot of people from China are merely existing. I don’t think I could cope with what Chinese factory workers go though, the thought of working in a factory where I work over twelve hours a day for £10 seems ridiculous, and knowing my work will never change, if you start your new job at the iron safety checking station thats where your going to stay. I recently watched Gok Wan’s documentary on channel 4 which made me aware of how skilled some Chinese factory workers are, to be able to cut a pattern for jeans in minutes is something that deserves high praise, I attempted it one, gave up after two hours. One company in Xintang makes 260 million pairs of jeans a year and has 3000 employees, which works out as 86,666.6667 pairs per employee which means one employee makes roughly 237 pairs a day, who seriously needs that many jeans. Another interesting thing I found out was that a bra company makes 1.5 million bras a month, mainly for the UK for companies like ASDA, Marks and Spencers, Debenhams and Victoria Secret, each bra is made to the exact same quality but in ASDA you could pick one up for as little as £4 where as in Victoria Secret they cost around $50, such a ridiculous difference in price just for a label.

 Even the British black cabs are made in China, all the components are made in China to keep costs down, workers are more respectful, helpful, organized and are whiling to work all hours just so they are able to make money to send home to their families,  three sisters saved enough money to build a house for their family, I highly doubt that anyone would do that here.

Half of Shanghai’s old neighborhood was demolished to make way for new high rise developments which attracts a million people a year to the already highly populated country. In the past ten years 600,000 families have been forced to move neighborhood so their houses can be destroyed and the government is making a fortune leasing land to new developers, but some people are refusing to leave due to a terrible amount of compensation, they are living in dreadful conditions without water or electricity, how can people be treated with so little respect, they are just completely disregarded and betrayed by their government. The amount China has changed in 20 years is vast, the views seem tainted by the over the top high rise buildings. With the fast changing economy companies struggle to keep up and within four years many factories closed down and left 24 million workers unemployed. I recently read an article about Chen Zhongwei, 26 years old, who used to work as a security guard until the factory started to lose orders, he is now back at home in the countryside without a job, he describes the village as dull, useless and provides him with no passion. Millions of people his age cant find the life they want but they also refuse to live the lives their parents have because they have grown up during a time of expansion and want more from life than to just survive.  Another interesting article I read highlighted the fact that parents and children have left the countryside to work in factories but unlike their parents they are increasingly not prepared to work in such poor conditions, they are protesting for a bigger share in the profit the companies make “they want to build a life for themselves in the city, and to do that they need money.” Workers are in high demand so they are more whiling to stand up for themselves. In China older generations worked to survive, taking any job possible, the new generation has plans for their futures, they have aspirations so they want a job that will provide them enough money to get there. I watched a documentary the other day where a teenaged girl who works in a sock factory said she wanted to be a doctor, I felt sorry for her because I knew this was never going to happen, even if she works all her life she probably wouldn’t save up enough money to put her through school especially when half her earning go to her parents. As China grows so does its peoples plans for their futures, they want better conditions to work in so they can provide a higher standard of living for their family.

Assignment 3: Attitudes to China Today

After doing a bit of research about Chinese sweatshops i found an article about the products for the Kardashians fashion empire, they are reportedly made in Chinese sweatshops. Now for anyone else like myself that watches a lot of reality tv they will know that keeping up with the Kardashians is a programme about the families busy lives, they make a lot of money, around 65 million dollars a year. According to the article the garments at K-Dash, which are priced extremely high, are being made in Guangdong in China where workers reportedly earn as little as $1 an hour, and working up to 84 hours a week in terrible conditions. For a family who earn such a ridiculous amount of money you would think they would make more of an effort to make sure the garments were produced in a well equipped and clean environment where workers were properly paid and looked after. I think companies like this should be taken to see where their products are produced, so it can be put in perspective for them. Awareness in the West of dangerous working conditions and low pay was raised by the 1993 fire in a Thai toy factory that killed 188 workers. This event brought a lot of bad publicity to companies who were using sweatshops, this forced American company Wal-Mart to drop a clothing line after it was found to be using sweatshops to produce the products. 

Another article I read was about investigations into sweatshops in China and how they go about finding out truthful information and what they actually find out. “No one is willing to tell you the truth of what they are doing,” said one of the investigators staking out a factory. Chinese labour laws are strict, the work week is 40 hours, after which generous overtime must be paid, ranging from 150 percent to 200 percent of base salary, until a total of 66 hours, the effective legal weekly limit. Workers are entitled to at least one day off a week. No one younger than 16 is allowed to work in a factory. If the laws were well implimented their would be no problem, companies just get greedy and stop thinking about the wellbeing of the workers. Last year 68 percent of the factories that were investigated did not pay workers overtime, and nearly 70 percent of factories worked staff beyond the legal limit of 66 hours a week. The factory inspectors have a very difficult job because even though they want to protect the workers thats not always what the workers want, their must be a reason why they work the extra hours or why they even have that job in the first place. Rural families have trouble paying rising tuition fees so they send their children to factories as an alternative to school. A lot of underaged worked purchase forged identity cards to fool the factory management, workers want to provide more money for their families so agree to work all these extra hours so its not just a case of shutting down factories who are going against the law, the problem needs a proper solution.

I wanted to look through some of my clothes and find out exactly what I have that is Made In China, I was very surprised by the small amount from China and also how some pieces of clothing had ‘England’ written in huge writing all over the label then underneath say ‘Made In China’, definitely false advertising. I also thought that brands would have all their clothes made in the same place but was surprised to find out they weren’t. I also thought the price range of garments would have a deciding factor on where it was produced but was wrong about that too. 

After asking one of my friends how aware he is of where clothes he buys are manufactured he replied “not very aware. I think companies will only point out where things are produced if they are trying to create a positive public image about how they treat workers. Otherwise companies will avoid telling consumers where their products come from in case the customer thinks that the people who make their clothing are not being treated fairly and then they will lose customers. For the most part I will know where things are produced if it is custom made as production that is specific will ofter occur in the west where employee rights are stronger and companies are therefore more whiling to disclose that information.” The same question was asked to someone else, they replied with “I have a rough idea, depends on how much they cost and what brand they are, my new custom shoes were made in Holland which surprised me cause they weren’t clogs.”

If I had more time I would prefer to buy locally produced products, but most of the time I don’t bother to look, I just go for convenience and price. Even if the product isn’t locally produced just to know it was made in a factory that has workers that are well paid and working in the correct environment. I think companies should be made to make it clearer exactly where their products are made, and let the consumer decided.

Last year we received a lecture from Nicholas O’Donnel Hoare who graduated jewellery design at Dundee in 2008, he worked on a project called Trojan Egg which basically lets you scan the egg with your smart phone which will then transfer you to the website and you get a live feed of where your egg was produced and shows you the conditions the chickens are kept in, I think this would be a great idea if it was used on clothing labels so you could see exactly where the clothes are produced before you buy them. 

Chinese Foot Binding

Until 1912 the ideal length for woman’s feet was a tiny 3inches. When girls turned between the age of three and six in China her mum would bind her feet. First each foot would be soaked in a warm mixture of herbs and animal blood, this was meant to soften the foot and help the binding process. Then the toenails were cut back as far as possible to prevent in-growth and infections, since the toes were going to be pressed tightly into the sole of the foot cotton bandages were prepared by soaking them in the blood and herb mixture. The help the size of the feet to be reduced the toes of each foot were curled under, and then pressed with a huge amount of force into the sole of the foot until the toe broke. This whole process was carried out without the use of pain relief, most of the bindings would be done by a professional, who made the bandages extra tight and ignored all the screaming from the young girls,  for  the poorer families the mothers would have to take care of all the foot binging. The broken toes were held tightly against the sole of the foot, the foot was held down straight so the arch could be broken. The bandages were repeatedly wound in a figure of eight, when completed the girl was made to stand to crush her feet into shape. When the bandages dried they made the binding even tighter forcing them into more of the desired shape. The bound feet required a lot of attention, every time they were unbound they needed washed, checked in case of infection or injury, they nails were always carefully trimmed but because they cause infection if in grown they were usually removed altogether. The feet were frequently beaten so the bones stayed broken and flexible. The feet were prone to infection so disease usually followed, a lot of woman died from septic shock because of the foot binding. The bound toes would often develop gangrene, which is when the tissue dies and then gets infected,  this happened because they had a lack of circulation so would end up falling off. The Chinese saw this as a blessing because it would make the feet even smaller. The girls aged between three and six would never be able to walk properly again or for a long period of time, this left the girls without a proper childhood. The practice of binding young girl’s feet was gradually stopped, the practise was banned in 1912. Many woman whose feet were already bound (already had broken bones) had to continue rebinding them to prevent the even greater pain caused by letting the feet out, the few women left with bound feet are now extremely elderly and suffer from disabilities. The older woman that bound their feet were more likely to break hip bones due to being unable to balance securely on their feet which led to them being completely immobile.

By restricting movement bound feet stopped woman from leaving their home and her husband, and stopped wives from being unfaithful, this was a great appeal for men, and they felt like they owned their wives. Bound feet were once considered intensely erotic in Chinese culture, a woman with perfect lotus feet was likely to marry into a rich family. Feng Xun was recorded saying “if you remove the shoes and bindings, the aesthetic feeling will be destroyed forever”, men understood that the symbolic erotic fantasy of bound feet did not match the unpleasant physical appearance of the feet which is why they were kept hidden. The primary erotic effect of the lotus feet was how the woman walked with them, the tiny steps and swaying walk of the woman was bound lotus feet was only because they had to walk on their heels, placing all the weight on the back of the feet because they were so deformed. The uncovered feet would give off a horrible smell from the unwashed folds, which was another reason they were usually covered up.

I think the fact parents were whiling to do such a terribly painful process to their three to six year old daughters is disgusting, it is a lifetime of punishment for anyone, they were keeping their daughters from having an enjoyable childhood and giving them to a life of pain. Every day for the rest of their lives they have to go through the pain of rebinding their feet for something Chinese society perceived as beautiful. A three inch foot is not anatomically correct, so there is no need to change it, feet are never a particularly attractive body part so the fact men only found the lotus feet attractive when covered by shoes seems ridiculous. They liked the way woman walked, tiny swaying steps, but the excruciating pain meant they could not walk very far at all. Things have not changed that much though, people may not be binding feet but they are having plastic surgery, sun beds, tattoos, all just to fit in a be more like what society thinks is beautiful.

Chinese cuisine and herbology

When i think of Chinese food the local takeaway comes to mind, i usually order egg fried rice, hot and sour crispy beef or sweet and sour chicken, not very adventurous at all. i went on a little trip to the local Chinese supermarket and had a nosey around, i was a bit disappointed with the range of food and ingredients but decided to play safe and just purchase crispy seaweed(which was in fact just green cabbage, which apparently they sell in most takeaways) and some spicy pork dumplings which i found disgustingly chewy, i plan to try and make my own at some point and will hopefully enjoy them a lot more.

In the Chinese supermarket i did find a bag of chicken feet which made me feel slightly ill, but it did make me curious about how to cook and eat them, not that i was ever going to try it, after doing some research and watching to many youtube videos on it i found out that they are called Ji zhao or Ji jiao and are deep fried and steamed before being stewed in a sauce or just simmered in a sauce containing Chinese herbs, a dish like that certainly doesn’t appeal to me. While researching Chinese cuisine the most shocking thing i came across was that serving dogs as food was only made illegal in the early part of the 21st century but before then they were one of the nine varieties of animals that could be eaten, they were raised to be eaten just like chickens and pigs are. A rescue mission was carried out by the Animal Asia Foundation to rescue these animals but it wasn’t completely successful, a lot of dog meat was sold on a lamb which had a higher value.

Chinese food can be categorized into ‘eight culinary traditions of China’, its all to do with the different parts of China and the variation of cooking styles because of the resources available, climate and lifestyles. All the food varies in flavor and texture, China is known for using every resource available, they use a lot of preservation techniques such as drying, salting, pickling and fermentation so no food was wasted. The style of cooking most known to us in the UK is cantonese cuisine which comes from Guangdong Province in southern China, this is apparently because of a huge number of early emigrants.

I found the idea of Chinese herbology very interesting, i used to walk past one of the shops on the way to school in the morning and found some of the images of skin infections slightly disturbing but after researching it i really wanted to know if what they said was true, can eating a dried lilly bulb really be good for your lungs and help against flu? Most people i asked had never tried it or ever been to China but they couldn’t see how it could possibly work, they argue that if it really does work why are they not widely renowned throughout the world. I completely agree and think that because China is a very traditional place and they believe in the same things their ancestors did, so stick to using herbal medicine.

Chinese herbs have been used for centuries, the manuscript “Recipes for 52 Ailments” which was found in the Mawangdui tombs that were sealed in 168 BC has lists of prescriptions for specific minor illnesses. Shénnóng (Devine Farmer), who was a god like figure in China, he was said to have lived around 2800 BC, Shénnóng apparently tasted hundreds of herbs and past on his knowledge of medicinal and poisonous plants to farmers. He is said to have written the oldest book on Chinese herbal medicine, his recipes have little to no side effects and help maintain and restore the bodies natural balance. In China there are roughly 13.000 medicinals used and over 100,000 recipes recorded in ancient liturature, the most common ingredients are plants and extracts, animal parts are also commonly used. A few strange things i found out were that the penis of animals is therapeutic, snake oil is traditionally used for joint pains and Chinese wolfberries are used to improve sight. Human bones, fingernails, hairs, earwax, urine, sweat and organs were all previously used in ancient recipes but are used very little nowadays.