English

Why producing in China?

Hi,
I am not so sure that I know good enouth your brand, but Before buiyng your phone I whould like to know why are you stil producing in China? Is there realy no otrher option? Is the only thing I don’t like of your phone

Short answer: Because in China there is the biggest potential for positive change.

Some longer answers you’ll find in the blog:

https://www.fairphone.com/en/category/good-working-conditions/

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Not to forget, that there is no real alternative. From one of the very first blogposts back in 2013:

Practically, producing our phone in this European factory meant shipping the entire contents of a Chinese factory to Europe. Additionally, many of the subcomponents would still be made in China.

For the moment this ship has sailed…

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Hi Alex, the probability is pretty high that a lot of the stuff that you wear and eat comes from China. We no longer have the skills or the production facilities here in Europe to build smartphones at scale. Production has been moved to countries with lower cost of labor. It’s called globalization - and there is no way to turn back the wheel.

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Hi,

Thank you for your knowledge …

I personally try not to buy chineese productuction, but spanish or european products made in Alicante (shoes x ex), electronics made in Germany, clothing made in Italy and so long

Many brands already saw that more and more people do not accept well chineese shit.

Thankyou, but we do have options

Greatings and sorry for my english

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I would rather call it exploitation. But yes, that is the business model. In the capitalist mindset, civil rights do not matter, labour rights do not matter, environmental protection does not matter. All that matters is profit. That is how you get all the cheap stuff you have. Corporations externalize the production to somewhere else for the sake of profit. Then again, you might belong to the wealthy minority that can actually afford to buy everything according to ethical principles and pay an elevated price, but most people do not have that choice. That is called privilege.

I think that in order to “turn back that wheel” of insanity, a large scale reform of all the global economy is required. I admire Fairphone for making a point that ethical production is needed, but I do not think that they alone will make the radical change that will fix the issue, let alone the hidden hand of the free market. :roll_eyes:

I think it is rather a question of progress than going back to somewhere. We need to address the role of the means of production in our society and the insustainability of the economy at large.

So, I think that the answer to the question is not that simple and actually raises many more questions.

Why not redistribute wealth?

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Hi Alex, I try that, too. But you have to be able to afford a sustainable, conscious lifestyle - because it is more expensive. What electronics made in Germany, btw? I am no longer aware of any.

Also, products from China are not necessarily “shit” or produced under unfair conditions. Production has long been moving to even cheaper countries already for many goods.

The problem with capitalism is that its based on the idea of endless growth, which contradicts the idea of long-living products. So sure, we do have options. But it is naive from my point of view to assume that buyers will change the system from within. Because most people just don’t care.

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I’d like to add a bit of nuance to your point. The west does have the skills. Point in case: the Raspberry Pi is assembled in Wales. However, we don’t have people with these skills at the scale that Asian countries do. And if there’s no people, there’s no point in having/building these facilities. Of course, I still agree that companies producing in China is an economical decision rather than anything else, which is tilted in China’s favour by cutting corners like (unhealthily) low cost of labour and disregard for environmental standards.

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So true. Problem is that most people just care about cheap all-inclusive holidays and stupid entertainment on commercial television. Panem et circensis. The fairphone community is an elite filter bubble.

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There’s a large community like that, amplified by media like Instagram and TikTok. But I’m absolutely convinced that there’s an even larger community of people that barely get by after paying their rent/mortgage, bills and mother expenses, either because they are unemployed, on minimum wage or hanging on in the “gig economy” (parcel/food/people delivery). A lot of these people can’t afford ethical, their only choice is cheap or not at all. It’s easy to judge from the sidelines, but when there’s next to no space for luxury in ones life, trying to take away their liberty to buy cheap luxuries under the pretense of ethical production or consumption will understandably be greeted with a hostile accusation of snobbery.

Ultimately to truly solve this problem, I believe we need to find a way to make sustainable and ethical products less expensive. The role of the more affluent part of societies is to scale up the demand for such products such that the cost can be driven down. Of course ethical products will always be more expensive non-ethical due to higher expenses for labour and care for the environment, but the gap can be closed. Not to mention that longevity can make a massive difference in “cost per year of use”, which can make sustainable an economically competitive option on the long term.

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También es cierto que hay una gran mayoría que pueden revisar su consumo pero no lo hacen por no romper hábitos. A quienes no les llega ni para terminar el mes no les hables de consumo consciente pero ¿y el resto? Hoy por hoy suena utópico pero ya se están dando muchos cambios desde abajo que son los importantes y el futuro nuestro y del planeta pasa por cuestionarnos qué compramos, cómo se produce y también dónde compramos. Cuando aumente la demanda bajarán los precios sin perder sostenibilidad porque en este cambio, la persona está en el centro.
Saludos a todxs!

There’s another smartphone manufacturer from Europe with a similar concept to Fairphone: Shiftphone. They also manufacture in China and their reasons are similar as well. Here’s what they say in their impact report:

Aber warum überhaupt in China? Wäre es nicht viel nachhalDger eine FerDgung in Deutschland zu starten? Man könnte doch Arbeitsplätze hier vor Ort schaffen. Muss es denn tatsächlich China sein? Die Antwort ist, dass es derzeit tatsächlich der Umwelt zuliebe sehr viel nachhalDger ist, in China zu ferDgen. Vorprodukte von SHIFTPHONES sind vor allem empfindliche Bauteile wie PlaDnen, Displays, Kameras, ICs und Sensoren. Diese müssten aufwendig verpackt und klimakontrolliert per Lu^fracht exporDert werden und würden somit sehr viel mehr Volumen, Gewicht und Verpackungsmüll produzieren. Nahezu alle wichDgen Teile kommen aus dem asiaDschen Raum. So ist es wesentlich sinnvoller, unsere Vorstellungen von fairer ProdukDon nach China zu bringen und nicht alles andere zu uns.

Strange that this quote looks like written in Saxonian slang but something went wrong with copy/paste. If you want to translate, here’s the original source: https://www.shiftphones.com/downloads/SHIFT-wirkungsbericht-2019-05-10.pdf (chapter 5)

As someone who works in Electronics manufacturing in Europe I can additionally say that nowadays we’re still producing many products that incorporate customization, high-tech components and low volumes. Consumer-grade generic stuff like mobile phones really seem to make not too much sense here; but our factorys are still capable of making such.

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It’s a problem with copying/pasting joined letters in the text.

If you look closely when marking the text, e.g. the “ti” in “wichtig” is one glyph, it’s not two letters anymore. But it’s somehow indexed and searchable as “D” (you don’t find “wichtig” in the text but “wichdg”).

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I think that it is quite typical in these kind of debates that many come to the resque of the conscient consumer and duck the question about the wealth redistribution. I guess that is the aforementioned filter bubble of people who are unaware of their privilege.
On the postive side, I am happy that there people in the community who are not that naive.

The proposal about scaling up the demand so that the costs can be driven down is not so clear to me. What kind of magic is that? If people cannot afford to do the ethical consumer choices, they are not going to affect the demand, or are they?
With respect to the response in spanish: not posting in english means that most people do not understand your comment. I guess that few if any make an effort to translate it.
Me parece que te cuesta reconocer tu privilegio, o como es que simplemente prefieres ignorar los que viven en pobreza debido a una desigualdad inherente al sistema economico y las politicas neoliberales?

By the way, I did not mean to derail the thread. I just happen to think that the answer to the original question is somewhat complicated.

My summary would be along the lines:

Why? Because of capitalism and neoliberal policies.

How to fix it? At least I am quite sure that consumerism alone will not work.

In another place, regarding the coronavirus closure of an hotel in Cornwall, I said:

Well, it’s interesting that the hotel is owned by Shearing Holidays, which is owned by Specialist Leisure Group (SLG), which is owned by American Private Equity Group Lone Star Funds. Thus the money rises… Isn’t Capital wonderful !

And they own the hotel along the road, and 2 other hotels in Cornwall…

Come back Basil Fawlty…

The thing about modern Capital is that they concentrate on buying other companies until the Iron Law of Monopoly is fulfilled, and so cut competition and make profits vanish upwards, rather than wanting to encourage local skills. To them, the people of the West are just there to buy stuff.

Old Trump may have done little for his rust-belt voters, but his opposition just wanted, and wants, to ‘retrain’ them for non-jobs and denigrate their annoying beings. Neoliberalism Kills. Only the few have any importance to modern political parties.

Choices offered are mostly illusory thanks to companies holding companies:

If you buy from Fruit of the Loom money rises to Warren Buffet.

If you buy from The Gap money rises to George Soros.

Apart from which neither old fellow is hurting for money, and each should be at his prayers.

“What ought to happen,” said the Biscuit, “is this. If I had the management of this country, there would be public examinations held twice a year, at which these old crumbs with their hoarded wealth would be brought up and subjected to a very severe inquisition. ‘You !’ the Examiner would say, looking pretty sharply at Frisby. ‘How much have you got ? Indeed ? Really ? As much as that, eh ? Well, kindly inform this court what you do with it.’ The wretched man, who seems to feel his position acutely, snuffles a bit. ‘Come on, now !’ says the Examiner, rapping the table. ‘No subterfuge. No evasion. How do you employ this very decent slice of the needful ?’ ‘Well, as a matter of fact,’ mumbles old Frisby, trying to avoid his eye, ‘ I shove it away behind a brick and go out and get some more.’ ‘Is that so ?’ says the Examiner. ‘Well, upon my Sam ! I never heard anything so disgraceful in my living puff. It’s a crying outrage. A bally scandal. Take ten million away from this miserable louse and hand it over to excellent old Biskerton, who will make a proper use of it. And then go and ask Berry Conway how much he wants.’ We’d get somewhere then.”

P. G. Wodehouse : Big Money

China has massive working force and machines to produce a product at a lower unit cost. People tend to reject Chinese products thinking those are low quality…But, it’s a myth…Branded Chinese products are high-end and quality products…

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Try to find something that is NOT made in China. There is simly hardly any industry for electronic devices left elsewhere. And even thombstones and garlic are often from China.

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Dear everyone,

It is so good to see a lively debate on these questions. Finding answers to them will determine if humanity will get past the global warming and biodiversity crisis (and not just the rich and powerful few).

However, I have to set a few facts right.

  1. No more smartphones manufactured in Europe: wrong.

The GIGASET company (formely part of SIEMENS) manufactures smartphones in Germany. Do some components come from China ? And if so, how much of the smartphone in weight ratio and value ratio comes from China ? I haven’t investigated that yet, but I will.

  1. Everything coming from the People’s Republic of China are bad products :
    the short answer is: wrong because of the word “everything”
    the long answer is: it is complicated
  • I rarely see how it is eco-friendly to buy something from the other side of the planet
  • you never really know what you are going to get, even different batches of the same product can have a different set of components, a different quality, a different origin (factory or even subcontractor)
  • it is hard to really know what are the labor conditions
  • it is hard to really know if you can rely on product lifecycle (including end-of-life recycling), customer support, spare parts, etc

There is probably incredibly good quality and socially responsible products from PRC. But, for now, it is too much efforts to find these good PRC products. And, most of them wouldn’t be environmentally responsible anyway because they have to be shipped from halfway around the world.

For now, I have successfully avoided PRC products for most of my goods (and believe me, it is even harder in Switzerland than in the EU). But in terms of quality in the future, who knows ? It could change like it did with japanese products. Most young people don’t remember it because they weren’t born yet. At first, after the second world war, japanese products were considered by western countries (sometimes rightfully, sometimes not) as cheap, illegal, bad quality copies of western products. Now, almost everything coming from Japan is considered top quality. However, what is not going to change is that PRC products (or asian products in general) have to be shipped from the other side of the planet. That’s not a good thing for the environment.

  1. Fair, environmentally and socially responsible products can only be bought by upper-middle class or higher: true and wrong.

True now.

Wrong if you change the system: strengthen environmental and social legal standards (as a result making a larger range of current legal but unethical products illegal), give more budget, power and independence to state agencies who enforce these standards, put additional taxes on legal but less ethical products, lower or remove any taxes on 100% environmentally and socially responsible products, give massive grants to companies that specialize in lowering production costs of fair products, etc.

But to do that, it means going against powerful and dangerous lobbies that don’t even understand the huge long-term cost to their own corporations if they keep defending this old, “short-term”, polluting and waste-producing economy. That’s because they don’t understand a basic concept : the earth ecosystem is the same as a machine or a tool in their factory. If you use it well, maintain and repair it, it will keep producing goods for a very long time. If you start taking parts from it to produce goods, eventually, your machine or tool will cease to work and your factory won’t produce anything anymore. Some of the mid-management understand that with machines and tools, very few of the upper-management do. Finally, very rare and few of them seem to understand that the same rules apply to the Earth ecosystem.

Best regards,

Swiss-fairphone

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I listed some German press reviews here:

One says:
“Der Hersteller rühmt sich damit, der einzige zu sein, der wieder in Deutschland Smartphones produziert - allerdings mit einer entscheidenden Einschränkung: die Teile des Gerätes stammen allesamt nicht aus Deutschland, sondern werden angeliefert. … Die eigentliche Produktion beschränkt sich aber auf die Montage der vorgefertigten Teile.”
My translation:
“The manufacturer prides himself to be the only one, producing smartphones in Germany again - though with a crucial constraint: all the parts of the device are not from Germany but get delivered. … The actual production is limited to assembling the prefabricated parts.”

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