In the southern province of Guangdong, one can drive for hours along numerous highways that reveal a virtually unbroken landscape of factories and workers’ dormitories.
These new ‘manufacturing landscapes’ in the southern and eastern parts of China produce more and more of the world’s goods and have become the habitat for a diverse group of companies and millions of busy workers. Pick up almost any commonly used product and you won’t be surprised to find that it was made in China. It is here that 90 percent of your Christmas decorations are made, 29 percent of color television sets, 75 percent of the world’s toys, 70 percent of all cigarette lighters, and probably every T-shirt in your closet. The hard drive for your iPod mini was made in the city of Guiyang (Guizhou). Located in China’s poorest province, Guiyang is more noted for its poverty than for making state-of-the-art one-inch hard drives. Working the assembly lines, China’s youthful peasant population is quickly abandoning traditional extended-family village life, leaving the monotony of agricultural work and subsistence income behind for a chance at independence.
Inexpensive labor from the countryside, important as it is to China’s growth as a trading nation, is one major facet of its success. Just as important is a rising industrial production capability. China now plays a central role in the global supply chain for the world’s multinational corporations. Wal-Mart alone outsourced $15 billion US in manufacturing, making the company (if it were a country) China’s eighth-largest trading partner. Altogether, nearly half of China’s foreign trade is tied to foreign-invested enterprises in China. This investment stimulated managerial, organizational, and technical expertise that China has fully integrated into its business model. Since the early 1990s, more than one-half trillion U.S. dollars have flowed into this country’s manufacturing sector, mainly from its Asian neighbors; Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Singapore, and then additionally from North America and Europe. China has moved up the manufacturing ladder and today exports an increasingly sophisticated array of products. Its manufacturing future rests not just in being able to absorb technology but also in becoming an innovator and a source for new technology.
Nature transformed through industry is a predominant theme in Edward Burtynsky’s work. Recycling yards, mine tailings, quarries, and refineries are all places that are outside of our normal experience, yet we partake of their output on a daily basis. These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction, and fear. Edward Burtynsky has an impressive cv. He won many awards and honors (Planet in Focus Media/Industry Eco-Hero Award; ICP Infinity Award, Art category, International Center of Photography, New York; Prix Pictet, London, U.K., Nomination & Short Listed, 3 honorary degrees, Officer of the Order of Canada, TED prize, etc). Edward Burtynsky is known as one of Canada’s most respected photographers. His remarkable photographic depictions of global industrial landscapes are included in the collections of over fifty major museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Bibliotèque Nationale in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
EVICTION PROCESS in China – “What’s the point if a few of us live well and shut our mouths but the government continues to abuse other citizens, creating more broken families and poverty and pushing people outside the city to give their land to the richest businessmen. Many who seek justice through law face detention and torture in custody. What we ask for is not a personal settlement, but public justice.” Housing rights advocate Mao Hengfeng
Even before it took power, the Chinese Communist Party under Mao Zedong established its legitimacy in the countryside through land-to-tiller, mass-mobilization policies intended to break the economic and social control enjoyed by rural elites. The Party redistributed farmland from landlords to peasants in a process frequently marked by violence.
VIOLENT EVICTION IN CHINA – “Consultation, negotiation and litigation help little for land issues. Officials collude with businessmen to seize the land in the name of economic development and use land as a mortgage to harm the interests of villagers.” Lin Zuluan, newly elected leader for Wukan village, Guangdong province