back to article Chinese chipmaker workers told to sleep at their factories

Employees at Shenzhen facilities owned by Chinese chipmaking giant SMIC and other manufacturers will have to sleep at work this week due to the local government reportedly ordering the companies to enter a "closed-loop" operating mode. Citing industry sources, the South China Morning Post reported Monday the Shenzhen …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    zero, as in understanding

    "zero COVID" as a continuing strategy is a failure, as could be predicted. I am therefore amazed at the number of news articles that neglect to mention the abysmal percentage of vaccinated people in China. Or perhaps even the breakthrough rates for those vaccinated with the Chinese vaccines? Thus the continuing persistence of an extremely contagious disease.

    "zero COVID" works about as well as the Great Firewall of China - things will leak through.

    Early isolation could extinguish an outbreak, but only when lucky and vigilant. Extended isolation then buys you time to get vaccines going. Then vaccination buys you the ability to protect those who can't be vaccinated, by surrounding them with non-spreaders.

    If you don't understand public health measures, please go hug a monkeypox patient.

    1. Steve Button Silver badge

      Re: zero, as in understanding

      "Then vaccination buys you the ability to protect those who can't be vaccinated, by surrounding them with non-spreaders."

      Actually no it doesn't. It neither stops the spread or stops you from catching it. And that's our one. The Chinese one is even less effective.

      I'm all for Working from Home, but I don't think this Homing from Work (HFW) is going to catch on!? And will "just one week" spread into "oh, just one more week".

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: zero, as in understanding

        If you've ever worked at a startup then you'd understand the mindset that goes with this kind of sacrifice. Its difficult to explain to a regular employee because work is usually just an hours/labor/money transaction but there are circumstances where this just doesn't apply. Chinese companies are currently fighting a sort of war, a war that's not their making or choosing but one that was forced on them primarily by the actions of the US government. They have two options -- fold or win. They have only one path forward, and that's to win and they will take it.

        Its also an excellent example of why I thought all this 'anti-China' stuff was counter productive. Back in the good old days -- a mere five years ago or so -- the Chinese were intent on being Global Citizens, essentially copying the US lifestyle. They wanted to work as little as possible for as much as possible, to enjoy themselves and generally live the good life. The sort of competitor I prefer to have. Then came the attacks and they've got a reason to close ranks that we provided for them. It isn't exactly "Rosie the Riveter" but its that same war footing production mentality. We're not going to be able to match that so, not too put to fine a point on it, we're screwed.

        (BTW -- I notice one of the PM wannabes is pushing xenophobia -- apparently UK universities are full of spies and stuff. Funny, I thought they were much sought after overseas students who's families were prepared to pay well over the odds to get them an education.)

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: zero, as in understanding

          > If you've ever worked at a startup then you'd understand the mindset that goes with this kind of sacrifice.

          Squeeze workers as much as possible to get the product at a level that will satisfy investors and produce another round of funding, then fire the burnt staff and ensure they get their stock options void and then hire another cohort of naive workers for the next round of funding.

          > They wanted to work as little as possible for as much as possible, to enjoy themselves and generally live the good life.

          Chinese security law requires every Chinese citizen to spy on the state behalf, if they are asked to do so.

          Some do they out of their own volition, because it is "patriotic" and others out of fear - they don't want their family to be sent to labour camps or to simply disappear.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Yeah, those aren't .com era garage startups

          I've slept at work, lived on pizza, and "Saved the Company", I even got promoted for my trouble.

          That's not what this is. This is forced labor pure and simple. This is rolling the clock back to time of the shirtwaist fire. No surprise then Foxcon put out a "business as usual" notice. You and the Chinese government can try to sell that line of nationalism all you want. It's nothing but window dressing for a long simmering problem, where both Chinese companies and the government want the Chinese people to turn the other way while an increasing part of the population is forced to toil in intolerable conditions and without safety or autonomy.

          Foxcon made an empire using labor practices that have been clearly shown to be international human rights violations. It was doing it for quite a while before Xi came along as the new prime mover in China. He has only stopped those practices as a method to bring down and control businessmen that threatened his control of the party and the nation, and copied those practices and worse in the forced labor camps that became the hallmark of his administration. Camps providing slave labor to the companies of his supporters, I must point out.

          Fold or win is a false choice, the game for the laborers in these factories is lose/lose. The only choice is to delude yourself about the reason they are making you do what they say, and preventing you from doing what you want and need for yourself and your family.

          For our part, the average westerner was happy to turn a blind eye to all of this, as were many Chinese business people. But your second point fails as well, as the attack on Chinese workers rights predated Xi's nationalism, and followed his symbolic scapegoating of the Chinese robber barons who took advantage of the previous decades. Your appeal amounts to "shut up and ignore the exploitation of forced labor and military expansionism while it undercuts the global economy or we'll blame it on you for complaining"

          Lastly, the reason this is happening is that Xi realizes how hard Russia is getting bit by western sanctions, and is terrified the same will happen to his regime. Not because it will likely remove him from power, old age and cancer are still more likely there, but because they will end nationalist and expansionist dream he as been selling, and force him to defend his regime, instead of attacking other. He will be trapped in a receding and declining nation for the remainder of his days, with no place to flee to, watching his personal empire crumble dust as his nation struggles in isolation or war. A war with no winners. A war of his making, a war he chose over other alternatives.

          The one thing I agree with is the student visa problems, and only so far as it being stupid to train bright young people from around the world and then throw them out of the country because of a vague and pervasive sense they are somehow all spies, instead of just paying attention to them, and then treating the ones who actually are spies or terrorists like we have people who later turn out to be totally innocent. That shit's scary.

          1. david 12 Silver badge

            Re: Yeah, those aren't .com era garage startups

            I don't know about these companies, but in general, many of the workers in Shenzhen do not have city resident status. They are 'internal migrant' workers. Even the ones who have lived there many years, and often including people who's parents were also 'internal migrant' workers, leaving the kids with the grand-parents in the nearby country-side.

            That matters, because non-residents aren't eligible for food-relief or unemployment-relief when they are confined to the home. And when the city is locked down, they can't even leave to go back to live with their parents.

            The rest of the city just gets locked into their residential towers. For "internal migrant"/ "non-resident" workers, that would mean starvation. Relaxing the lock down, so that the lock-down area includes the factory as well as the residential tower, is the way the government is allowing these people to eat.

        3. gandalfcn Silver badge

          Re: zero, as in understanding

          You mean like "the abysmal percentage of vaccinated people in China.", which is over 87% and the opposite of abysmal.

          The USA ius 66%

      2. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: zero, as in understanding

        Vaccination makes you less likely to catch it, and thus less likely to spread it. But it doesn't eliminate that risk entirely, and the more recent variants are very good at dodging immunity (whether via vaccination or previous infection) so that "doesn't eliminate the risk entirely" has become "doesn't eliminate the risk of catching it all that much".

        True China's vaccine is not as good as the western mRNA vaccines, which even with two doses plus booster are allowing a lot of breakthrough cases with BA.5. I know one person who was infected early on (April 2020) and didn't get vaccinated because he figured he was now immune. He recently just got covid for the FOURTH time - he'd also got Delta, regular Omicron, and now Omicron BA.5! The Delta infection nearly landed him in the hospital.

        But zero covid would not be practical with BA.5 even with mRNA vaccines. China is going to be battling this for years while the rest of the world moves on. What their goal needs to be is have few enough serious cases that it doesn't affect the normal operation of hospitals, but that would require Xi's government changing course which I gather would lead to "loss of face" and is thus not a viable alternative. They're screwed.

        1. gandalfcn Silver badge

          Re: zero, as in understanding

          Indeed, Fully vaxxed in the US 66%, In China 87%

    2. gandalfcn Silver badge

      Re: zero, as in understanding

      " percentage of vaccinated people in China"

      "Jun 8, 2022. As of June 4, 2022, about 87 percent of people in China had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus COVID-19"

    3. BOFH in Training Silver badge

      Re: zero, as in understanding

      This "zero covid" strategy will go on till the China’s 20th Party Congress is held, sometime end this year.

      This is cos, at this meeting, Xi Jinping will get his rule extended / converted to a "rule till you die" system, unlike the pass couple of Chinese leaders who stood down after two terms.

      If he shows that he was wrong with his "zero covid" strategy, there will be rumbles on the ground - even if surpressed, it may still be enough for him to show weakness that he does not get what he wants at that meeting.

      Once that meeting is done, and his extended rule is cemented, I expect things which are obviously wrong to change - like this zero covid. So expect them to rejoin most of the world in terms of covid strategy in another few months.

      At least this is what I expect.

  2. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

    If you're still

    buying Chinese junk, perhaps THIS will show that you're supporting modern day slavery? The only real difference here is slave owners used to provide food and housing for their slaves, in China they give you enough cash to provide your own. Otherwise there's no difference. You'll do as you're told 24x7 or it's off to be reeducated. Most anywhere else in the world you can tell your enployer to get stuffed and go find a new job.

    Let it cost more, buy only from nations that don't employ slavery.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: If you're still

      The problem is that we are in quite the mess of our own making.

      We wanted robust employment rights, high taxes, but don't really want to pay for the cost of that. So big corporations found a way - just make things in countries where these things don't matter, ship them back to the UK and sell at extra profit, while still cheaper than domestic products.

      Then you have domestic factories unable to compete, closing down and folk being out of jobs not being able to afford stuff, and so increasing pressure to import even more cheap stuff from overseas.

      We simply can't have the cake and eat it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        I agree at least so far as the argument is that we pushed that work overseas, and invested billions to build up the industrial and commercial infrastructure there. In reality though, if you take the other fork in the road your argument presents, you end up makeing up the difference with automation and job cuts.

        Where goods are produced is less important than maintaining parity and competition amongst trade partners if you don't wan't pure economics to show it's horns. The second part of your argument is where the cracks show, as the path of layoffs is just one choice among possible labor death spirals. In the end those become competing fig leafs for systems where scarcity is mostly artificial, and exploitation widely tolerated.

        Weirdly, we have the solid economic data to show there is little upside to making people too poor to be comfortable, and the desperate are more likely to slack off, turn to crime, or cause mass unrest. So there is little sense in making people poor enough to be miserable, just leave them a self interested reason to keep working. Slightly more and nicer stuff seems to work in the most part, no need to get Bolshy. Still, as a species we constantly strive to create systems rife with mass exploitation, which can support LESS rich people, and make them less rich.

        I don't think it's about the money, I think these fools are either stupid or just giant dicks...

      2. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

        Re: If you're still

        Actually you can, wirh a parity labor cost tax on inports from nations known to use slave labor. If the tax forces the product cost to be the same as made locally, then the import becomes more expensive with shipping added in.

        Or, everyone makes the decision to not buy made in China goods. The most expensive product in the world is the one nobody will buy.. I already do my level best to avoid Chinese imports. If everyone did the same there would be a short, painful period while corps try to sell, then when they lose money on Chinese imports they'll move. It depends on everyone holding firm though.

        Automation can only go so far as well, and is not a good move by corporations. Going full automation gets you factories that churn out goods until they run out of raw materials, that then collect dust because there are no customers. If comsumers aren't earning, corporations aren't selling.

    2. sanmigueelbeer

      Re: If you're still

      If you're still buying Chinese junk

      Surely, you jest.

      Chinese "junk" products are not the only ones supporting "modern day slavery".

      Look back a few years and there were a lot of top-end fashion brands that were caught using "questionable" labor practices. And these practices are still in "high demand" in countries other than PRoC, like Bangladesh or India.

    3. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: If you're still

      A few years ago I worked closely with a Chinese colleague who had recently got married. To his Chinese in-laws he was the poor relation.

      I daresay that being at the bottom of the employment heap is as bad in China as it is in the UK or US. But at the professional level the pay is similar to US salaries and the cost of living -- taxes, housing and so on -- is a whole lot cheaper. My colleague's problem with the visiting parents in law was having a father in law who didn't know any English, tended to wander around and thought that $100 notes were pocket change.

      )Pre-Covid I was out and about with the missus and we would keep running into the dreaded Chinese tourists. They're a bit like how US tourists used to be in the bad old days, before we became relatively poor. The Chinese government to its credit tries to lecture its tourists on how to behave....but as anyone who's seen Budget British Tourists at their worst on the Costa Whatever knows its a real waste of time!)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CCP Slavery

    China isn't even bothering to hide the slavery of their own people to the CCP anymore.

  4. gandalfcn Silver badge

    "Chinese ... workers told to sleep at their factories" Didn't Elon invent that one?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sleeping under one’s desk

    I’ve worked on projects where that was highly encouraged if not expected.

    I’m old fashioned, I still think 8 hours of focussed hard graft beats a 14 hour day of swanning about.

    Retired now, so no longer interested in what the cool kids are doing.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Sleeping under one’s desk

      There were plenty of NHS staff who would have been grateful to be allowed to sleep at work than have to move out of their homes to keep themselves, their families, patients and colleagues, safe from becoming infected.

      Many of those society was most dependent on ended up sleeping in tents, sheds and caravans, endured months of hardship in return for a once a week round of applause.

      There's a lot to be said for campus and communal living, company canteens, on-site facilities. It's not all about enslaving the workforce.

  6. Tron Silver badge

    No bad thing.

    China is expecting a heat wave. Sleeping at work with industrial air con would be an option I'd choose after last week.

    Covid zero, if they keep at it, will be as damaging to the Chinese economy as Brexit is continuing to be to the UK economy. There sure is a lot of economic self harm going on out there.

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