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London School of Economics and Political Science
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Professor Stephan Feuchtwang
s.feuchtwang@lse.ac.uk

Dr Fang-Long Shih
f.shih@lse.ac.uk

Distribution of Surplus Value: "Made in Taiwan" and "Made in China" in dialogue

Seminar on Taiwan and China in Comparative Perspective

Series:  Seminar on Taiwan in Comparative Perspective

Title: Distribution of Surplus Value: "Made in Taiwan" and "Made in China" in Dialogue 

Date:  Monday 29th February 2016, 5:30–8pm 

Venue: Seligman Library, 6th Floor, Old Building, LSE 

Chair: Dr Fang-long Shih (LSE)

Discussants: Zhang Wei (director), Dr Chunyun Li (LSE), Dr Derek Hird (University of Westminster), Dr Michael Clark (King's College), Stuart Thompson (SAOS)

Synopsis 

After successfully running a toy factory in Shenzhen for 20 years, Lin Dalin has to face the economic squeeze; starved for orders after the global economic crisis, the boss is in ruthless competition with other Chinese factory owners who have relocated to cheaper Southeast Asia. Though the profit margin is razor-thin, the boss Lin takes a large order for Barbie-type dolls with a massive American corporate client. Doing so, he hopes to put his employees back to work and to move a step closer to his dream of creating his own line of dolls.

The boss speeds up production, increases working hours, delays staff wages and waives safety regulations in an attempt to keep his enterprise afloat, severely compromising the morale and health of his employees. Meanwhile, Ai Jing, an idealistic young journalist, is sent undercover to investigate in the factory, penning an expose on unhealthy conditions that prompts a revolt and delays production. As the boss pushes employees to make up for lost time and meet deadline, the situation only gets worse, and he becomes both a victimizer and a victim. A strike, a court case and bankruptcy follow. Lin Dalin struggles to hold his business and himself together as he comes under intense pressure from local competitors, his foreign client, his workers, his daughter, the media, the lawyers, governmental officials and even the global economic crisis. The confrontation that results will bring the entire industry to the brink of collapse. 

About the Director 

Zhang Wei, a new Chinese director, turned to filmmaking in middle age after a successful career in other industries. Originally a migrant worker from Hunan provinc, he achieved wealth by making video intercom doorbell systems in the southern city of Shenzhen. Although he has enjoyed the trappings of prosperity, he is also the creative force behind the unusual film Factory Boss, about Chinese 'blood and sweat' factories. According to Zhang: 'If workers are killing themselves, bosses one day will too.'

Zhang first conceived of the movie in 2006, the year he sold his company and started studying filmmaking at the Beijing Film Academy. Factory Boss is his third movie as a director. and continues a concern for social issues seen in his first two works. Beijing Dream (2010) focused on a Nigerian student who, despite speaking Mandarin, struggles to find his place in China's capital after graduating from college. Shadow Monologue (2011) told the story of a practitioner of traditional puppetry trying to keep the art form alive.

Director Zhang has a real passion for film and his ideas. He says: "Once I'm done with a film, I want to move on to the next one. I've started working on films only in middle age and I want to make as many as I can." He has plans for his next film, about a man who feels that maybe he should have been born a woman. "My films have many characters who seem trivial, but I try to reflect the humanity in everyone," says Zhang. He is a fifth-generation Christian and his faith has a significant influence on his movie making.

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Zhang Wei