China Attacks Ricky Gervais for ‘Sweatshop’ Accusations

In this handout photo provided by NBCUniversal Media, LLC, host Ricky Gervais speaks onstage during the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 5, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal Media, LLC via Getty Images)
Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal Media, LLC via Getty Images

China’s state-run Global Times took great exception to Golden Globe Awards host Ricky Gervais’ slam at the Apple corporation for using “sweatshops in China,” publishing an editorial response on Monday that criticized Westerners for “refusing to work hard and pinning their hopes on public welfare.”

“Apple roared into the TV game with The Morning Show, a superb drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing, made by a company that runs sweatshops in China,” Gervais quipped during the Golden Globe program on Sunday night. Apple chief executive Tim Cook was in the audience at the time.

“You say you’re woke but the companies you work for, I mean, unbelievable – Apple, Amazon, Disney – if ISIS started a streaming service, you’d call your agent,” Gervais continued, making a comparison bound to displease Beijing.

Apple’s The Morning Show ended up losing the Golden Globe for Best Television Drama to HBO’s series Succession.

The Global Times dismissed Western concerns about the treatment of Chinese workers as insincere and claimed the sweatshop problems were resolved years ago:

As Western manufacturing failed to advance and its unemployment increased, a large number of factories moved to China for its cheap labor. But the Chinese government has never ignored laborers’ rights. After the exposure of the labor issues, China soon investigated the situation and has refuted false Western reports. 

With years of development of the country, Chinese workers’ conditions have improved. Although there is still a gap between the level of social security and welfare in China and in the developed world, the East Asian country with huge labor resources has made great progress in improving workers’ benefits. For example, the government has constantly raised workers’ minimum wages. In December 2019, the minimum monthly wage in East China’s Shanghai Municipality reached 2,480 yuan ($356). 

It is due to the Chinese government’s support and Chinese people’s hard work that even the poor in the West can afford products made in China. This is a process of China’s development and also where the country’s system advantages lie in. 

Contrary to the Global Times’ breezy dismissal, concerns about the fate of workers in China are not old news. Apple was criticized in September for building iPhones at a Chinese factory run by Foxconn where workers were underpaid, forced to work excessive hours, and treated as temporary staff in defiance of Chinese labor laws. Another report on the factory claimed its operations relied excessively on underpaid teenage interns. Apple conceded that the operation employed too much temporary labor but denied the other claims.

Groups such as New York-based China Labor Watch are full-time critics of harsh conditions, long hours, and low pay for Chinese workers. Much of the abuse is seemingly intended to undercut labor prices in the Western world and bring American and European manufacturing to China. Labor advocates often criticize Western corporations for enabling and encouraging abusive Chinese labor practices to keep production costs down.

Abusive labor policies have also sparked protests in China, which in recent years has managed the neat trick of being a Communist country with Marxist dissidents. Marxists, especially students, who organize labor protests have a habit of disappearing during periodic government crackdowns.

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