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China’s masses of production

Photograph: Michael Wolf

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Chinese factory workers

“Since 1979, when Deng Xiaoping unleashed capitalism on his vast but introverted nation,” the Financial Times noted recently, “China has conquered the world not with its armies but with its factories.” A legion of low-cost workers is driving the country’s staggering economic growth and transforming the global economy.

Hong Kong-based photographer Michael Wolf has spent the last 10 years documenting mainland China and its workers. Wolf aims to show the human presence behind the masses of Barbies, bobbleheads, and other made-in-China bric-a-brac that the world consumes each day–and to shine a light on the practices of the country’s industrial workplaces. Those factories are notorious for Dickensian conditions. But Wolf’s photos expose China’s other secrets of productivity, such as the heavy regimentation that marches employees onto the factory floor like an invading army with each new shift.

The facility pictured here manufactures industrial air conditioners. “I was trying to capture the feeling of discipline and mass,” Wolf says. “This is a very successful, privately run company, and the CEO places great value on discipline and order.”

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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