After almost a month of harsh regulations designed to contain the Covid epidemic, tensions at shopping mode Apple’s primary iPhone manufacturing factory in China erupted into violence between hundreds of workers and security officers. Workers at the Foxconn Technology Group complex reportedly rushed out of dorms early on Wednesday, pushing and shoving past the white-clad guards they much outnumbered, according to recordings provided by a witness to portions of the rally. In another video, a victim who was lying on the ground was beaten with sticks by many actors dressed in white suits.
Onlookers chanted, “Fight, fight!” as masses of people rushed over barricades. A number of individuals came up to a moving police car at one point and began shaking it and shouting nonsense. Early on Wednesday, a confrontation between Foxconn workers and police officers was caught on camera outside the dormitory complex.
The protest started overnight because of unpaid pay and worries about the spread of disease, according to the witness, who requested anonymity out of worry for the repercussions. After numerous employees suffered injuries, anti-riot police were dispatched to the area on Wednesday to reestablish order.
In one video, furious workers swarmed a silent, dejected boss in a conference room to vent their frustrations and inquire about the outcomes of their Covid tests. The exact time of the encounter remained unknown. “I’m genuinely frightened about this place; we may all be Covid positive now,” a male employee stated. Someone remarked, “You are killing us.” Foxconn representatives declined to comment on the circumstance.
The few violent incidents at the facility in Zhengzhou, a significant city in central China, are a result of the increased stress that has existed since the lockdown began in October. Many of the more than 200,000 workers at “IPhone City” have been forced to work in seclusion, eat meagre meals, and look for medicine.
Many ultimately fled the factory on foot last month. Foxconn and the regional government appeared to have the problem under control in recent weeks, promising better working conditions and offering outlandishly high compensation to entice new hires. The protests on Wednesday morning prove that this is no longer the case. It reveals how Xi Jinping’s Covid Zero policy—which depends on swift lockdowns to eliminate the disease wherever it manifests—is taxing the economy and upending significant sectors of the global supply chain.
Beijing recently issued new guidelines ordering officials to minimize disruption and employ more focused COVID controls, but escalating outbreaks in major cities have compelled local authorities to once again reach for strict curbs. China has experienced rare outbreaks of violence due to Covid restrictions. After being denied contact with the outside world for months, hundreds of employees at the Shanghai factory of Quanta Computer Inc. engaged in violence with security personnel in May. Meanwhile, protests have also been reported in Guangdong, the southern manufacturing hub.
The Foxconn situation serves as yet another warning for shopping mode Apple about the risks of relying on a sizable production facility centered in China at a time of erratic policy and tumultuous trade relations. Shopping may be done in Zhengzhou. The majority of the highest-end iPhone 14 Pro units and an estimated four out of every five of Apple’s most recent generation handsets are produced by this crucial production line. This month, Apple issued a warning that shipments of its newest premium iPhones would be lower than initially anticipated — just in time for the busiest shopping period of the year.
For some weeks, the vast property has been operating in a “closed loop,” or a secluded bubble with little access to the outside world. That maintains some level of output. Both Apple and Foxconn have stated that they are striving to replace departing employees and quickly restart full production.
India intends to become a major producer of iPhones.
Since 2017, Foxconn has been producing Apple iPhones at its Sriperumbudur facility outside of Chennai. India, the second-largest smartphone market in the world, has seen a lot of interest lately, particularly from mobile makers. By 2025, according to industry observers, Apple may establish India as the world’s primary location for iPhone production as the firm gradually reduces its reliance on China for a variety of reasons, including China’s strict Covid-related regulations. By 2025, Foxconn plans to double the number of iPhones it can make in India, reaching a capacity of 25%.
29,157 new cases of infections were recorded in China
The second-largest economy in the world, China, is coping with a rise in new cases of COVID in various regions of the country, which suggests further economic hardship for the global economy in this system of globalized economic activity. China’s National Health Commission recorded 29,157 illnesses nationwide on Wednesday for the day before, which is not much below April’s peak.
Hopes for swift departures from the nation’s strict zero-Covid rules have already vanished due to the escalating Covid instances in numerous regions of the country. Additionally, new limits have been imposed many times throughout October. In the middle of that increase in instances, China has also implemented new lockdowns and travel restrictions.
China announced the discovery of two novels of Omicron subvariants in October. These subvariants are more transmissible and highly contagious. The BF.7 was discovered on October 4 in Yantai and Shaoguan city, according to local media. For the first time, the subvariant BA.5.1.7 was found on the Chinese mainland. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already issued a warning on the very contagious BF.7 subvariant.
Shanghai was placed under a harsh lockdown in April as a result of the mounting Covid cases, which led to food shortages in the city. These limitations have also led to sporadic social protests in the city and abroad, and recordings of such demonstrations spread like wildfire throughout the world. A video posted online shows protesters breaking windows and surveillance cameras, tearing down obstacles, and yelling at security and other authorities during this ongoing demonstration in Zhengzhou. Additionally, Foxconn employees have previously voiced concerns about food shortages and strict quarantine policies at work.
Possible delay for the next iPhone 14 model
Apple Inc. had already issued a warning that delivery of its new iPhone 14 model might be delayed as a result of the Covid-related limitations put on this facility, before these recent violent protests in the central city of Zhengzhou. There are allegedly 200,000 workers employed by Foxconn in this area. The local administration has restricted access to the industrial area that surrounds the factory to stop the spread of Covid, which has infuriated the workers even more.
Chinese President Xi Jinping desires more technocrats.
To further his technical goals, President Xi Jinping is expected to elevate more technocrats to important posts inside the Chinese Communist Party. It’s unclear whether they will be able to accomplish his objectives, but analysts predicted that their rise will change the party’s politics for years to come. Furthermore, they claimed that a significant number of technocrats—those with backgrounds in STEM—already held important ministerial and provincial positions.
At the party congress later this year, the party will experience a significant change in its top leadership, and more technocrats are anticipated to be promoted to the 200-member Central Committee, which is in charge of all of the important programs of the ruling party. The focus of the new committee, according to the experts, will be on technical independence over the next five years, particularly in light of the growing reality of technology decoupling and rivalry between China and the US.
Xi has made the current Central Committee the most educated in the history of the party, with 28% of its full members holding doctorates and 12% having studied abroad, according to research published this month by the Paulson Institute’s MacroPolo think tank. According to the study, the promotion of technocrats has accelerated since Xi began serving his second five-year term as general secretary in 2017. STEM-trained cadres now receive 17 out of 30 top provincial promotions, up from six out of a total of 23 during his first tenure.
According to the article, this represents a “dramatic reversal” of fortune. Under Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, technocrats held just approximately 30% of the senior positions in the provinces. According to the research, the number dropped to just 14% during Hu’s second term, which lasted from 2007 to 2012. But Jiang Zemin, who held the presidency from 1992 to 2002 and who saw nearly 80% of provincial promotions go to technocrats, is still ahead of Xi. Certain subject matter specialists, like those in aerospace technology, semiconductors, environmental sciences, and biotechnology, are in high demand among the technocrats Xi is promoting.
Before being promoted to the Politburo, Ma Xingrui, the current head of the party’s Xinjiang branch, served as chief commander in China’s space program. Governor of Guangdong Province before his promotion. Yuan Jiajun, the Zhejiang province party secretary and a participant in China’s space program, has been promoted to the Politburo.
Because of their involvement in China’s space program, Ma and Yuan are occasionally referred to as members of the “aerospace clique.” It is impossible to ignore the ascension of the so-called “aerospace clique” or “cosmos club.” According to a Brookings Institution analysis, the 20th Central Committee has about 20 seats with a background in aerospace technologies.
A background of decline and growth
The conflict between political theorists and party officials with technocratic training has a long history dating back to former Chinese President Jiang Zemin. The percentage of ministers with technical training, including engineering, was as high as 70% in 1997, while Jiang was the General Secretary. When even a huge majority of the members had degrees in science and technology in the late 1990s, the phenomenon was evident in numerous facets of Chinese politics.
However, under Hu Jintao in 2007, the percentage of technocrats who were full members of the CCP’s Central Committee dropped to 31.3%, and under Xi Jinping during the 19th Party Congress, the percentage fell even further to 17.6%. The data may suggest that Beijing is becoming more concerned with encouraging domestic innovation, but the reality is more nuanced.
A decade-long rivalry between Beijing and Washington for cutting-edge technology, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and semiconductors, has grown more intense in the last two years with the return of the technocrats since 1997. The Chips and Science Act from August and the export restrictions on semiconductors from October indicate that Washington is eager to hit Beijing where it hurts. The two strategies that aim to ensure that the US can keep its advantage are semiconductor technology versus Beijing and preventing China’s attempts to illegally acquire intellectual property connected to semiconductors.
If these declarations weren’t sufficient, the US National Security Advisor stated that Washington has to keep as much of a lead over its rivals in basic technologies. “There is growing competition to create and implement the fundamental technologies that will revolutionize our economy and security. Even as the necessity for global collaboration on common interests becomes of existential importance, it has weakened. The risks of inactivity increase yearly, and so do the size of these changes, according to the US National Security Strategy of 2022.
According to the MacroPolo report, Beijing carefully chooses technocrats with the necessary expertise to lead its regional development plans, particularly in important technological development zones like Hunan, which serves as both the base for the Beidou Satellite Navigation program and a major R&D hub for aircraft engines and landing systems. The BDS was invented in 1995 by Hunan’s National University of Defence Technology to compete with the US GPS and the EU’s Galileo systems.
The secret to Xi’s success is his ability to use political theory to further his vision of a “national security State,” supported by his ideological Tsar Wang Huning. However, the primary goal of fusing political theory with science and technology is to promote domestic economic growth, which will eventually promote regime stability.
The new Politburo members with backgrounds in science and technology will probably vie for seats on the 2027 Politburo Standing Committee. These new cadres won’t possess the same level of political acumen as Xi’s most recent rivals, Li Keqiang and Hu Chunhua. Promoting those who have completed significant military and scientific initiatives appears to be Xi’s main goal. Huang Qiang, the governor of Sichuan province, is one of them. He helped with the Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter’s design. But it cannot be assumed that Xi is putting his political interests before his moral obligations.
Edited by Prakriti Arora