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Behind the silk curtain of iPhone manufacturingCNET's Sumi Das talks to Senior Writer Jay Greene about what it was like to report on working conditions at Pegatron and Foxconn in China.
-Hello. I'm Sumi Das with Inside Scoop. Joining me is Jay Greene, Senior Writer at CNET. Jay, thanks for being with us. -Thanks for having me. -Jay recently returned from two weeks in China where he was researching the life cycle of an iPhone. You're working on a series of reports, and one of those reports will focus on the working conditions at the factories where iPhones are created, manufactured. Tell us what that was like trying to get that information. First of all, it must have just been kinda difficult being in China as a journalist, as you said, a white male in China, you stuck out a little bit. -You stand out a bit. Yeah. You know, -Uh-hmm. -so, I got to visit a Pegatron Factory, outside of a Pegatron Factory in Shanghai. -Uh-hmm. -Pegatron makes iPhones in addition to Foxconn that more folks know in the world-- -Right, we're all familiar with Foxconn. -Right. So, I asked both Pegatron and Foxconn if they'd let me in and neither said they would sadly. Apple was also now-- -Which is not unusual. -Not unusual. They have let some journalists in-- not many and they've chosen not to let me in and that's-- that is what it is. -But you were able to speak to some employees. -That's right. So, I-- what I did is I went to some interpreter and we went outside the Foxconn and Pegatron facilities and it was fascinating to chat with these guys but you're right, you know, as a white guy, I stand out. And you know, culturally it's a really interesting experience, you know, when boundaries are sort of different issues, a different experiences when you're in different countries, you know, I might talk with somebody and that was a curiosity as it was and people would gather around and they'd wanna hear what the conversation was and it has been on running commentary as I was interviewing somebody. It was an interesting experience. -So, you knew some information going into China. -Sure. -But what surprised you when you got there? -You know, maybe surprised just too strong but the thing that is always fascinating me to do any kind of reporting like this, is the new ones that comes out. And the fact that none of this is clear cut, it is absolutely clear that the conditions at any of these factories are not like what you would find at US factory. Some employees without question aren't happy about it. Others are grateful for the job, and you know, the pay is from any of these folks, less than $250 a month which seems [unk] to I think most American employees. That's it for a lot of these folks, it's better than any other job they might have otherwise had. And so, you know, when you talk with these people, you get some of these new ones as a come out. You're able to put you know, a face on some of these issues. Not usually what was kinda most fascinating to me. -I know you weren't able to go inside but can you describe what the location is like? The environment, the buildings. -Sure. So, I went to a number of different cities. So I visited Pegatron in Shanghai. I visited Foxconn Facilities in Zhengzhou and in Shenzhen. -They have many different locations. -That's right. Foxconn is a major employer in China and they're located throughout the country. -Uh-hmm. -They have some big facilities in some areas and they're building more and more facilities England because often a lot of the workers at many of these factories are migrant workers. They come from their villages, travel many, many hours, and it leads to some of the issues that you hear about some loneliness and some of those issues, and so Foxconn has actually chosen to build factories near to some of these villages. So Zhengzhou was a fascinating one. Zhengzhou, it's a two-year old plan. It's a little bit off the beat in track. It's actually one of the plans that Tim Cook visited when he visited China in a spring, and it's a fascinating place. It's a fairly arid place. It's actually not too far from the Shaolin Temple. -Uh-hmm. -And it-- there are something like 100,000 employees work for Foxconn at that facility, and you know, it's a number that-- it's an abstract number to anybody hearing this too. -But when you see a thousand-- -It's-- -a hundred thousand people, -It's astonishing how many people work there. And what's really interested is that factory is growing and so everywhere you travel near that facility, there's construction everywhere and you know, the fact that they're gonna-- -Spurred by the factory being there? -To all Foxconn. -Okay. -Yeah, I mean you'll see Foxconn signs for all this construction. So, it's just-- I mean, it's in a maze of the scale of what's going on there, is truly impressive. I mean, it's astonishing to see. -All right, Jay. Thanks for the insight. We look forward to the report. -Thank you. For Inside Scoop, I'm Sumi Das. Thanks for watching.