Fieldwork in Ningbo

It’s a Saturday night in Ningbo, China and what am I doing?  Watching the Women’s Final of the French Open and writing an update on my research.  That is how much fun this place is…

On a lighter note, my time here has been a great start for my fieldwork, and I’ve accumulated a vast amount of primary data.  I arrived in Hangzhou from Hong Kong on Monday, and we headed up to Ningbo on Tuesday.  Ningbo is a growing port city in Zhejiang province on the eastern seaboard of China.  I’m here visiting the largest factory of domestic car company Geely Automotives, and it has been a truly eye-opening experience.  To my regret, I was not able to bring a camera into the factory for any sort of physical evidence, but it was an impressive sight to see.   The factory premises are over 1,300 m², with the factory floors taking up more than 750 m² of that.  I also found out that everyday, the company is able to produce 280 ready-to-drive cars a day, meaning that every station only has 2 minutes 15 seconds to complete their task, whether it be inserting the engine or putting the doors on the side of the car.  It was an amazing, and extraordinarily loud, experience.

As for my research, I was able to talk with many of the factory workers about their jobs, interactions with each other, relationships with their superiors, and what their overall job quality was like.  This was quite difficult to do however, due to the fact that the machines never stop working, and that they all spoke in a dialect that made complete understanding of their statements very difficult.  However, after about the 6th interview, I was able to realize a pattern in their responses, and put together a general picture of how a factory worker influences, and is influenced by, a company.

Moving on, my time spent in the office was the most valuable, as it not only was quieter, but it was also where I spent most of my time.  During my week spent in the financial department of the company, I was able to get to know Lu Zhixia (*Jessie),  a woman who was instrumental in helping me with my research.  I spent my days observing peoples interactions, listening to their conversations, and engaging in some of my own.  The most helpful time was when I went out to lunch and dinner with my co-workers, where we were able to be able to freely discuss topics that pertained to the hierarchy in businesses in China, workplace customs, problems involved with foreign investment, and many other topics pertaining to my topic.  All during this time I was able to keep a field journal recording all impressions I had and any pertinent information that was relayed to me.  I have to say, it is a remarkable experience to be in the environment of a Chinese office, and I look forward to continuing this.

Tomorrow I will return to Hangzhou and continue my research at the company’s headquarters there.  I may also visit more factories in Shanghai, Chengdu, and other parts of Zhejiang province before I head back to Hong Kong, but nothing has been finalized yet.  I hope the rest of my time turns out to be as frutiful (research-wise) as it was here in Ningbo.

Until next time, take care.

Ben Gullickson

*For those of you unfamiliar with Chinese culture, there are many younger Chinese people that do not have an English name, but are eager for a foreigner to give them one.  I asked Lu Zhixia if she had one, and she said no, then her eyes lit up as she asked me to give her one.  During my time traveling abroad, there is no greater experience then giving a Chinese person a name.  It is so much fun!  Anyways, so I was thinking of what name fit her, how she looked, and what English name somewhat matched her Chinese name, so I came up with Jessica.  However, it was too difficult for her to pronounce the full name, so we shortened it to Jessie.  Needless to say, she loved it.  She made me write it for her at least 50 times.  It was hilarious, and something I’ll never forget

Comments

  1. This sounds like a great sociological survey of industrial labor, among other things, in China. I’m wondering, from a Development perspective, if you see a manufacturing “middle class” forming in China, or has it already matured?

  2. wmresearcher says:

    What an interesting research project! I too am studying Finance at the College. Was the factory you saw as sordid as Chinese factories are commonly portrayed in American media? How are the workers treated?