About Mairi Bradford

I am a 4th year Textile Design student at Duncan of Jordanstone, working towards my final degree show on the 17th of May

Changes to Chinas work force


There have been lots of changes in Chinas workforce throughout the years. Due to an increasing rate in suicides and people running away from their employers because they are being forced to work ridiculous hours and for an extremely low wage. This has forced employers to increase the workers wage and to be given added family/lifetime benefits. Young workers are less willing to work long hours for a dismal wage. They are realizing their worth and seeing a dramatic increase in goods being made in china and the demand for them.

China witnessed their first work related strike, where Honda saw 2000 workers walk off the production line in May last year. It was only when their bosses gave into their demand for a higher wage they agreed to go back to work. This inspired dozens of other factories across china to demand better pay for the hard work they do. Nowadays Chinese people are finding their voice and realizing their value to the companies they are working for.  However, even though workers are paid more, living costs are higher. So the salary is actually even lower than it was before, if you take the ever increasing living expenses into consideration. There were 90 thousand cases of labor conflicts in 1995 and over 800 thousand in 2009. The next generation will follow this trend and speak out for their interests and in years to come this may even influence Chinas political structure.

Employers in china are finding it increasingly hard to find workers, due to the fact that people have more choice now than they did 10 years ago. Job fairs are held throughout the year and have witnessed a drastic change. The jobs available far outnumber applications, only two years ago crowds scrambled to find any position they could but now people have the luxury of choice and employers are finding themselves competing with other companies to give workers the best benefits to entice them in.

Workers today will not put up with as much hardship as they did only 20 years ago. People differ from generation to generation. In the 1960’s people where used to enduring hardship known to the Chinese as “eating bitterness”, they worried about having adequate clothing and food but now people talk about the enjoyment of life and eating nice meals out. Before it was about it is about being prosperous and secure. The stream of people migrating to work is noticeably different; unlike before they are not just here to feed their families they are there to have their share of Chinas “economic miracle”. Workers are getting younger, getting a better education, and have bigger dreams than their predecessors. They do not want to spend their whole life in the same factory doing the same thing for 50 years.



In a documentary about “changing the face of the Chinese labor force” one of the managers of a factory stated “Workers are now spoilt their eagerness to learn and work hard is lower than those born in the 60’s”

I think this statement is wrong, it’s just that the younger generation is more interested in succeeding in life and being part of the new up incoming world, they have more ambitions and more opportunities than previous generations did and are using them to their advantage. Today’s new generation of laborers will be demanding more for their hard labor, knowing they are the driving force behind Chinas export economy.

All though it is looking quite positive for workers on the Chinese production lines for the future it is feared that some of these changes will put pressure on other parts of Chinas culture and will get worse as a consequence. How women have been treated in china has been questioned over the years. Women are under pressure from: men, their families, work and now an added pressure from themselves to prove to their families that they can work hard and earn their own money, taking control of their own lives. Over past generations women have been seen as belongings to their families or husbands, if someone wanted to know if a woman had a husband they would ask “do you have a Zui?”  Zui mean master this instantly suggests that once married they are owned, under the control of their husbands. But now women want to escape this lifestyle and the old traditions. However it is said because of this and the struggles companies will face in the next 20 years women will face a more terrifying future. There will be the threat of abduction, a significant increase in trafficking women / prostitution, and sexual violence towards women and young children will increase. The main reason for this prediction is due to women’s increasing want for more independence and freedom. This will eventually lead to an increase to the lengths people will go to stay in control, and try to keep up their traditions. Also due to workers across China unwilling to work for these low wages, it is predicted that children and women will be abducted and made to work long hours for little or no money. It is already being seen today and will only get worse as employers get more desperate.



assignment 3 – made in china ?


China is known throughout the world for being, a cheap and easy place to produce large quantities of clothes, for only a fraction of the price.  Supplying designers from all over the world with garments, in a fast and efficient way. Some people however see the “made in china” label and automatically assume they are cheap and poor quality. Made by people in a “slave” like environment in sweat shops. Though this might be true in some parts of china, It is really up to the designers themselves to investigate into where and who they are getting to make their products, to be sure that they are receiving high quality garments and that the people making them are getting a fair wage for their craftsmanship.


Every company is different, so you need to find out what goes on behind your own “Made in China” label. Karen Stewart, co-founder and designer of Stewart + Brown

Some people believe China gets an unfair stereotype due to various human rights, and environmental issues, that have been breached over the years. Chinese vendors should be seen as a positive part of the manufacturing process. For their centuries years wisdom, expertise and pride in their craftsmanship. Companies, who investigate and choose carefully where their products are being produced, will benefit everyone in the long run.

Companies aim to follow these guidelines when working with china:

  1. Create a safe, non-hazardous, and productive environment for all workers, including access to first aid and the eschewal of toxic carcinogens.
  2. Treat labor in a fair way, which includes providing clean working environments, restrooms, regular breaks, fair and regulated wages, and overtime pay. And absolutely no underage labor.
  3. Adhere to environmental regulations including treating and purifying all wastewater, recycling raw materials when possible, and no illegal waste dumping.

But who really knows if these steps are really taken seriously or companies are merely interested in getting the cheapest form of production of their goods. 


Having said this, consumers are still seen to be buying clothes made in china, not caring where they came from or what people had to go through in the production process. I personally don’t think about where the shops get there cloths manufactured, and don’t think it would change my opinion on a certain shop just because they get china to produce their goods. There have been allegations that the Olympic Pin badges for the London 2012 games where being made by children in Chinese sweat shops:


“Three young workers were said to have put in 11 hour days working in the fume-filled factory”  (according to the Sunday express)

Children as young as 15 are put to work in these sweat shops, being paid only six pence an hour, to make these badges featuring the Olympic mascots Wenlock and Mandeville. This was discovered by an organization set up to protect workers producing products for the Olympic games 2012 known as Playfair. Last year three young workers where found to be doing 11 hours shifts in a remote workshop In the small town of Huizhou, and where promptly removed. Under Chinese law children under sixteen are not allowed to be employed full time. After production of the badges began in April last year. Playfair went on to discover a further two boys and a girl aged 15 working in poor health and safety conditions and living in cramped dormitories without excess to any hot water.


”We welcome and acknowledge that further action is necessary and are committed to act immediately to ensure that factory owners can no longer exploit workers in the name of the Olympics.”


To prevent this situation from arising again there has been a Chinese language hotline was set up to enable the workers/public to report situations where it is suspected that underage’s are working or to put forward any other pressing issues people feel need urgent attention. It is doubtful that this will put a stop to underage workers completely but it is a step in the right direction.




The history of chinese silk

Assignment 2- Chinese design


Silk is a very important part of Chinese heritage; and was one of the most closely guarded secrets in history. The key to Chinas success is all down to the Blind, flightless, moth Bombyx Mori (Latin for, silk worm of the Mulberry tree) this moth cannot exist naturally in the wild it is totally dependant on humans for its survival. It is thought that this moth originates from Brombyx Mandarina; a silk moth living on a white mulberry tree, unique to china. However now it can be found in Northern India, Northern china, Korea, Japan and even as far as Russia. The Bombyx Mori is able to lay 500 or more eggs in the space of 4 to 6 days, but then dies soon after. This moths soul purpose in life is to reproduce. 100 of its eggs only weight 1 gram, each egg is as small as a pinpoint and out of 1 ounce of eggs come 30,000 worms. It is mind blowing how one little moth can produce so many babies. These 30,000 worms eat up to a tone of mulberry leaves, which allows them to produce up to 12 pounds of raw silk. To ensure the quality of the silk is as high as possible, the silk worms are prevented from hatching out and are given a good diet of leaves from the mulberry tree’s, Marus Rubra, Morus Nigra, or Osage Orange.

The silk worms are kept in bamboo trays, roughly one hundred worms in each. The trays are placed on specially made shelving in a room between 25 and 31 centigrade in a high humidity and will stay there for approximately 3 weeks until the eggs are hatched.

To increase the quality of the silk the Chinese went on to practice sericulture using all possible types of silk moths known to them. This helped develop the silk worm, so it could produce the best possible silk. Through sericulture, Bombyx Mori evolved into the specialized silk producer it is today; a moth with no flight; only capable of mating and producing the next generation.


When silk was first discovered it was a very prestigious substance, it was at the rulers disposal only; the Emperor, his close friends, and the very highest of his dignitaries, had the honor of sampling such a fine piece of cloth. No other material could compare to silks soft, smooth, fine fabric. Which oozed elegance and wealth.

When silk was first discovered, china was up and coming in technological development. This allowed them to experiment and develop different ways of using silk to make clothes and enabled them to discover there were many others uses for it, not just textile based.  Silk was quickly introduced into industrial use by china; it was commonly used for; musical instruments, fishing lines, bow string, and rag paper. Silk soon was seen as a very prestigious material, which for a while led to it turning into a form of currency.  During ‘Hans Dynasty’, silk became a form of payment, farmers paid their taxes in grain and silk, and was also used to pay civil servants, as well as rewarding people for outstanding services to their country. This lead to such a dramatic increase in silks importance in china, that 230 of the 5,000 “alphabet” have silk as the “key”.


Silk has a long-standing history and is known as the “National Gem of China” purely because it was kept a secret from the rest of the world for such a long time. It is said that the secret of silk was hidden for up to 2000 years. Which is why it is the most proud/guarded secret in history.


Food traditions in china

Food traditions in china

Households in rural china are known to thrive on growing as much of their own food as possible; this allows them to spend very little money on food. This low food expenditure suggests high poverty rates, however china’s rural population are generally not malnourished. Their diet mainly consists of rice, wheat flour, other grains and vegetables, with a low protein intake; through this most of their nutritional needs are met. Spend very little on food, allows families to save their money for the more important things in life: like school fees, household construction and other goods or services they may need.

Chinese people have many different eating traditions. Table manners are seen as a very important part of daily life, it is said that if you have good table manners it will add to the enjoyment of your meal and keep everyone in good spirits. Hosts in china are all friendly and hospitable. However, you must show them respect. Some may offer words of greeting to visitors before you eat and it is not till they have finished and say “please enjoy” or words similar you can tuck into your food, failure to do so shows major disrespect and is offensive to the host. The elders in a family are looked upon with great respect; they are seen as wise/intelligent people. As a show of respect it is tradition to present the senior members of the family with the best and finest foods first, this what is expected and has been going on for many generations. As shown in the photo hosts place the main dish in the center and arrange the side dishes evenly around it creating a circle. If dishes are prepared in a decorative form they will be presented facing the guest and elders, as a final act of respect.

As everyone knows china is the hometown of chopsticks but china were not the only ones to take up this tradition, they were also introduced in Vietnam, North Korea, and South Korea. It is said that the invention of chopsticks shows the wisdom of the Chinese, creating the simplest design of two sticks able to do so much to and with food. Nowadays it is a strong belief that chopsticks bring good luck to peoples lives, so are given as wedding presents and gifts. Chopsticks have developed over the years, starting off 5000 years ago as a two twigs picked off the ground and developing into two tapered sticks of equal lengths coming in all kinds of materials like bamboo, plastic, metal, bone, ivory, and gold. With allsorts of patterns engraved or printed onto them.

There are many rules regarding the correct way to use chopsticks. These must be obeyed or you could come across as having bad manners and can be seen as being very disrespectful.

  1. Firstly, it is considered begger like to hit the side of your bowl or plate with your chopstick because Chinese people think you would only do that when you are begging for food.
  2.  Secondly, it is seen as a kind of accusation to others if you where to stretch out your index finger while eating or point your chopsticks at another, at the table.
  3. Thirdly, it is seen bad manners to suck the end of a chopstick; this implies you haven’t been brought up properly, so puts shame on your family.
  4. And lastly, do not insert a chopstick vertically into the food. This is only done when burning incense to sacrifice the dead. So is a sign of major disrespect.

As you can see food is a very important part of Chinese heritage. There are many different traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation, that Chinese people just see as a way of life but others looking in, might deem unnecessary. Their relationship with food is very important part of their life and people from around the world should look into this culture and try new things. Then people might even start up their own traditions to pass down the generations.