“Some people come for a few days and leave,” said Wu Zeyun, an assembly line worker who was eating a bowl of rice and vegetables at a rundown row of restaurants near the company’s facility in Chengdu. “And then others come for a few days and leave.”
His friend Huang Li said, “It happens every day. The feeling here is not good.”
But interviews with the factory’s rank and file also pointed to a significant reason that, despite such frustrations, support for the Communist Party remains strong: Based on the nation’s past three decades of momentum, they expect something better to come.
That’s a crucial, if not existential, margin for party rulers presiding over a system beset by corruption, swelling prices and a widening gap in wealth and privilege. It might help explain why, despite a staggering average of some 10 percent annual growth for the previous 30 years, Chinese officials often seem edgy about the prospect of slowing down the economy.
As the largest private employer in the country, Foxconn certainly has generated revenue and jobs in Chengdu and elsewhere. The company says it employs more than 1 million people in mainland China – 100,000-plus in Chengdu alone – contracting with Apple and others to assemble their products.
That business, however, has come with a cost.
Less than a year after starting operations in Chengdu, an explosion at Foxconn’s facility in May 2011 killed four people and injured more than a dozen.
Last month, an incident involving seven Foxconn employees and restaurant staff near the factory led to “a disturbance” in which about 100 people at an apartment compound hurled various objects, some at security guards, according to official accounts and interviews. Nine days later, a Chengdu worker apparently jumped to his death from an 18th-floor apartment, echoing the 2010 spate of more than 12 reported suicides at company operations in other parts of the country.