Foxconn: The Disruption of iSlavery

in Asiascape: Digital Asia
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


This paper connects the scholarship of labour sociology with studies of information and communication technologies (icts). It contends that, despite the wonders of social progress associated with digital technologies, the emergence of the digital electronics manufacturing industry in Asia has led to serious regressions in society. Among the worst of such digital disruptions is the challenge of Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer and one of the most notorious sweatshops in the history of industrial capitalism. Tragedies at Foxconn force us to reconsider industrialization and the role of icts so fundamentally that it requires us to revisit old regimes of slavery in order to fully understand these events. From a critical historical perspective, this paper examines disruptive moments in Foxconn while developing the idea of iSlavery and, in particular, manufacturing iSlaves, as a conceptual device to rethink the Foxconn suicides as emblematic of a disruptive and disrupted digital Asia.

Foxconn: The Disruption of iSlavery

in Asiascape: Digital Asia



AllainJean The Legal Understanding of Slavery: From the Historical to the Contemporary 2012a Oxford et al. Oxford University Press

AllainJean The Legal Understanding of Slavery: From the Historical to the Contemporary 2012b Kindle DX ed. Oxford et al. Oxford University Press

AndrijasevicRutvicaSacchettoDevi ‘China May Be Far Away but Foxconn is On Our Doorstep’ Open Democracy 2013 June 5 retrieved 14 June 2015 from

bbc ‘Apple’s Broken Promises’ Panorama One 2014 December 18 retrieved 7 May 2015 from

bbc ‘France Telecom Suicides: Prosecutor Calls for Bullying Trial’ bbc News 2016 July 7 retrieved 14 August 2016 from

BurawoyMichael The Politics of Production: Factory Regimes Under Capitalism and Socialism 1985 London Verso

Caixin Net ‘Gaoxiao diaocha baogao zai jie Fushikang lanyong xueshenggong’ (Universities Investigation Report Shows Foxconn Abusing Student Workers 2011 May 21 Retrieved 16 August from

ChanJenny ‘iSlave’ New Internationalist Magazine 2011 April 1 441 retrieved 6 May 2015 from

ChanJennyPunNgai ‘Suicide as Protest for the New Generation of Chinese Migrant Workers: Foxconn, Global Capital, and the State’ The Asia-Pacific Journal 2010 8 37

ChenBrian X. ‘Factory: iPhone Girl Is for Real, Not Fired’ Wired Magazine 2008 August 27 retrieved 6 May 2015 from

Daily Mail ‘The Stark Reality of iPod’s Chinese Factories’ 2006 August 18 Retrieved 16 August 2016 from

DeanJason ‘The Forbidden City of Terry Guo’ The Wall Street Journal 2007 August 11 A1

DouEva ‘Apple Shifts Supply Chain Away from Foxconn to Pegatron’ The Wall Street Journal 2013 May 29 Retrieved 7 May 2015 from

DuJiabin ‘Fushikang de dianshang he mendian jun shibai’ (Foxconn Failed in Both E-Commerce and Material Stores) Global Entrepreneurs 2013 June 2 retrieved 8 May 2015 from

EdwardsJim ‘Apple’s iPhone Suppliers Use Children to Dig in Lethally Dangerous Mud Pits for Tin Ore, the BBC Alleges’ Business Insider 2014 December 18 Retrieved 6 May 2015 from

EquianoOlaudah The Life of Olaudah Equiano 1999 New York Dover Publications

FoucaultMichel Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison 1977 New York Pantheon Books

France 24 ‘Ex-France Telecom CEO Probed Pver 35 Suicides’ 2012 July 6 Retrieved 8 May 2015 from

Free the Slaves ‘Pioneering New Frontiers in the Fight against Slavery – 2013 Annual Report’ 2014 Retrieved 8 November 2016 from

FuchsChristian Digital Labour and Karl Marx 2014 New York Routledge

GoldsmithBelinda ‘Who is the Mystery iPhone Girl?’ Reuters 2008 August 28

GuLengbinPanPeiyao ‘Fushikang canju de shengsi lizheng’ (Life and Death Evidence for Foxconn Tragedies) Asia Weekly 2010 July 25 retrieved 7 May 2015 from

HaPeter ‘Foxconn Suicides: Eh, They Are “Below Average” Says Apple CEO’ Time Magazine 2010 June 1 retrieved 25 June 2015 from

HuangHao ‘Guo Taiming: chule daoqian haishi daoqian’ (Except Apologies, There’re Still Apologies) Jing Bao (Jing News) 2010 May 27 retrieved 16 August 2016 from

iLabour ‘2015 nian Fushikang gongzi gongshi yu qiye guanli xianzhuang diaoyan baogao’ (2015 Investigation Report on Salary, Work Hours, and Current Management of Foxconn) 2015 April 25 Retrieved 6 May 2015 from

IsherwoodCharles ‘Speaking Less Than Truth to Power’ New York Times 2012 March 18 C1

JimClare ‘Apple is Snubbing Foxconn after iPhone 5 Production Problems’ Reuters 2013 May 13 retrieved from 6 May 2015

Jinghua News ‘Fushikang zongcai Guo Taiming yaoqiu shouhui zisha mian ze xieyi’ (Foxconn ceo Terry Guo Demands Withdrawal of Suicide Disclaimers) 2010 May 27 retrieved 16 August 2016 from

JonesRichard ‘Something Rotten at Apple’s Core? Shocking Toll of Suicides at iPad Factory in China Revealed’ Daily Mail 2010 May 29 retrieved 6 May 2015 from

KanMichael ‘Foxconn ceo Blames Past Worker Suicides on Breakups, Family Disputes’ Macworld 2014 June 25 retrieved 7 May 2015 from

KriklerJeremy ‘The Zong and the Lord Chief Justice’ History Workshop Journal 2007 64 1 29 47

LiLi ‘Fushikang ma xiangqian qinshu yi bei zisha Pinguo diannao shouci huiying’ (Ma Xiangqian’s Relatives Suspect He Was ‘Suicided’, Apple Issues First Response) Apolo News 2010 May 27 retrieved 7 May 2015 from

LiYongWenWenfeng ‘26 sui Fushikang gongchengshi zuo nao bei qiechu zhi hou’ (26-Year-Old Foxconn Engineer after Surgical Removal of His Left Brain) Jing Bao (Jing News) 2012 September 28 retrieved 16 June 2015 from

LichfieldJohn ‘Telecoms Giant Hit by “Suicide Epidemic”’ The Independent 2014 March 21 27

LinYaweiLinHongwen ‘Hong hai jiu dajiang mie liuguo’ (Nine Generals of Hon Hai Extinguishing Six Kingdoms) PChome 2005 March 14 retrieved 14 March 2005 from

LiuDanWangWei ‘Di yi Caijing Ribao yu Fushikang fabiao lianhe shengming, susong chexiao’ (First Financial Daily and Foxconn Jointly Rescind Law Suit) XinhuaNet 2006 September 3 retrieved 6 May 2015 from

Lixiong ‘Fushikang shengming: Sun Danyong zisha zheshe chu neibu guanli buzu’ (Foxconn Statement: Sun Danyong Suicide Reflects Shortcomings in Internal Management) Sina Technology 2009 July 21 retrieved 6 May 2015 from

National Business Daily ‘Fushikang chai 300 wan pingmi fanghuwang, anzhuang buzu 2 yue bei zhi hen langfei’ (Foxconn Demolishes Protection Nets Installed Less Than Two Months Ago) 2010 August 18 Retrieved 16 August 2010 from

Netease Tech Channel ‘“Liang’an san di” gaoxiao Fushikang diaoyan zongbaogao quanwen fabu’ (The Twenty-Universities Joint Team Investigation Report on Foxconn) 2010 October 9 Retrieved 6 May 2015 from

Netease ‘Fushikang yuan gong: zui di yi yue zheng 340 yuan, 700 duo ren zhu yi wu’ (Foxconn Employers Claim Their Minimum Monthly Wage Is 340 Yuan and Over 700 Workers Live in One Dorm Room) 2006 June 17 Retrieved 8 May 2015 from

Next Magazine ‘Jiashu zhikong Fushikang jinyiwei kuxing’ (Families of Foxconn Victims Reveal Jinyiwei Torture) 2010 June 3 Retrieved 15 August 2016 from

O’NeilSara ‘The Voyaging Life as a Never-ending Cycle’ Intro to Maritime History 2011 retrieved 1 December 2016 from

Oxford Dictionaries ‘Definition of Factory in English’ n.d. retrieved 1 December 2016 from

PattersonOrlando Slavery and Social Death 1982 Kindle DX ed. Harvard University Press

PhillipsAbigail ‘Twenty Things You Don’t Know about the Man Who Makes Your iPhone’ Manufacturing Global 2015 January 15 retrieved 28 April 2015 from’t-know-about-the-man-who-makes-your-iPhone:-Foxconn-CEO-Terry-Gou

PunNgaiChanJenny ‘The Spatial Politics of Labour in China: Life, Labour, and a New Generation of Migrant Workers’ South Atlantic Quarterly 2013 112 1 79 90

PunNgaiChanJennySeldenMark Pingguo beihou de sheng yu si 2015 Hong Kong Chung Hwa Book Co. (Apple Foxconn and the Struggle of Chinese Workers)

PunNgaiLuHuilinGuoYuhuaShenYuan Fushikang huihuang beihou de lianhuan tiao (Suicide Express behind the Glory of Foxconn) 2011 Hong Kong Commercial Press

PunNgaiShenYuanGuoYuhuaLuHuilinChanJennySeldenMark ‘Apple, Foxconn, and Chinese Workers’ Struggles from a Global Labour Perspective’ Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 2016 17 2 166 185

QiuJack Linchuan Goodbye iSlave: A Manifesto for Digital Abolition 2016 University of Illinois Press

RauhalaEmily ‘The Poet Who Died for Your Phone’ Time Magazine 2015 June 5 retrieved 9 June 2015 from

RedikerMarcus The Slave Ship: A Human History 2007 Kindle DX ed. New York Viking Penguin

RedikerMarcus The Amistad Revolution: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom 2012 New York Penguin Books

sacom ‘Workers as Machines: Military Management at Foxconn’ Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour 2015 October 12 retrieved 7 May 2015 from

ShenTingting ‘Shou gongshang, Fushikang que shuo: bushi wo de ren’ (After Work Injury, Foxconn Said: Not My Worker) Yangcheng Evenging News 2013 December 19 retrieved 16 June 2015 from

ShenYuan The Face of Chinese Nongmingong Paper presented at the September workshop “Network Society of China” 2010 Barcelona Open University of Catalonia

Sina ‘Fushikang zaixian yuangong tiaolou zisha, gongren cheng iPhone shengchan zhi yali da’ (Foxconn Experienced Yet another Staff Suicide – Workers Report Great Pressure from iPhone Production) 2016 August 23 Retrieved 1 November 2016 from

Sina Technology ‘Fushikang, ni gaiguozixin le ma?’ (Foxconn: Have You Changed?) 2012 April 1 Retrieved 6 May 2015 from

Sohu ‘Huawei zisha shijian beiwanglu’ (Memo on Suicides in Huawei) 2008 March Retrieved 25 June 2015 from

TanEe Lyn ‘Worker’s Injury Casts Harsh New Light on Foxconn and China’ Reuters 2012a October 10 retrieved 16 June 2015 from

TanEe Lyn ‘Family of Brain-Damaged Worker Takes Foxconn to Court in China’ Reuters 2012b October 30 retrieved 16 June 2015 from

Tencent Commentaries ‘Fushikang gongren “ziyuan jiaban” zhi mi’ (The Myth of Voluntary Overtime at Foxconn) 2015 February 5 Retrieved 7 May 2015 from

The Economist ‘Back from the Edge: A Dramatic Decline in Suicides’ 2014 June 28 Retrieved 25 June 2015 from

TsaiTing-I ‘Employee’s Suicide Puts Hon Hai, Apple in Spotlight’ The Wall Street Journal 2009 July 23 B7

WebsterNick ‘Welcome to iPod City: The “Robot” Workers on 15-Hour Days’ The Mail on Sunday 2006 June 14 retrieved 6 May 2015 from

WilberforceWilliam WilliamCobbett ‘On the Horrors of the Slave Trade’ Cobbett’s Parliamentary History of England: From the Norman Conquest in 1066 to the Year 1803 1789 London Bagshaw R 1806 1820

WillamsRhiannon ‘Apple Goes to War with the bbc The Telegraph 2014 December 19 retrieved 7 May 2015 from

XuMingtian Guo Tai-ming he Fushikang (Guo Tai-ming and Foxconn) 2007 Beijing China CITIC Press

XuShikai ‘Kong Fushikang hai gongren li ai, gang, tai laotuan jiang fu gudonghui chenqing’ (Protesting Foxconn Causing Workers to Have Cancer, Labour ngos in Hong Kong and Taiwan Joining Foxconn Stakeholders’ Meeting to File A Petition) Civil Media 2015 June 24 retrieved 29 June 2015 from

YanYang ‘Fuxujin guogao, hui bianxiang guli yuangong zisha ma? (Will High Compensation Unwittingly Encourage Employee Suicides?) Prosecution Daily 2010 May 28 retrieved 16 August 2016 from

YangJune ‘Samsung Electronics Workers Commit Suicide, Policy Say’ Bloomberg 2011 January 13

ZhaiRui ‘Shenzhen Longhua Fushikang jiben qingkuang’ (Basic Situation at Shenzhen’s Foxconn Longhua) Tianya bbs 2013 June 19 retrieved 7 May 2015 from

ZhangShuyiZhangDianwenZhifangLu Sanqianyi chuanqi: Guo Tai-ming de Fushikang (Legend of Three Hundred Billion: Foxconn’s Guo Tai-ming) 2002 Beijing Machinery Industry Press

ZuCuijun ‘Shu wan yuangong zhao zhi lai hui zhi qu? Fushikang wan zhuan renli ziben’ (Firing and Hiring Tens of Thousands of Employees at Will? Foxconn Is Good at Playing with Human Resources) China Computer Daily 2009 March 25 retrieved 14 June 2015 from


  • View in gallery
    The slave ship Brooks and the plan of its lower deck, 1788.

    source: us library of congress (digital id: cph.3a34658).

  • View in gallery
    Inside the peace dormitory building at Foxconn Longhua, 2006.

    source: netease (2006).

  • View in gallery
    Slave ship equipped with anti-jumping net, as depicted by Olaudah Equiano, 1745-1797.

    source: o’neil (2011).

  • View in gallery
    A typical Foxconn dormitory building with anti-jumping nets.

    line work: kwan kei heung.


Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 117 117 75
Full Text Views 109 109 61
PDF Downloads 6 6 2
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0