Book Talk: Dying for an iPhone

  • Chan, J. (Invited speaker)
  • Yu Zhang (Other)

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


Between the wave of 18 young worker suicides at Foxconn facilities in 2010 and the outbreak of coronavirus at the end of 2019, I engaged with Foxconn workers through first-hand interviews as well as their shared poems, songs, open letters, photos and videos, supplemented with meetings with managers and government officials in multiple research trips. Dying for an iPhone (Chan, Selden and Pun 2020) is a comprehensive study of a new generation of Chinese migrant workers’ hopes, dreams and struggles to survive. The book developed the analytical framework of a “global factory regime” to explain the buyer-supplier power dynamic in transnational manufacturing. Big buyers (such as Apple) and big suppliers (such as Foxconn Technology Group) are highly interdependent in outsourced electronics production, wherein the fluctuation of orders, coupled with tight delivery requirements, shifts production pressure from global tech firms to contract manufacturers. From this critical perspective, the management systems regulating factory floors in China are not only shaped by the authoritarian practices of the domestic nation state but also by the boom-and-bust purchasing practices of multinational corporations in global supply chains. The dialectics of domination and resistance are interwoven in the life and death struggles of Chinese workers who produce our iPhones.
Period22 Mar 2022
Event titleBook Talk: Dying for an iPhone
Event typeConference
LocationHong KongShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • China
  • Rural migrant workers
  • Foxconn
  • Apple
  • iPhone
  • high-tech electronics
  • student interns
  • global supply chains
  • globalization
  • the state