The Yaopi float glass factory hovers at memory’s edge, abandoned to ideology and chance encounters.
In 1987, the Shekou factory represented the highest level of float glass technology production in China. Today, it evokes nostalgia for the heroic romance of early industrial manufacturing. And that’s the rub. Even before it was built, the technology and mode of production used at the factory had been downgraded in terms of added value. In terms of global competitive advantage, Yaopi had been outdated even before it was built. Perhaps more telling of the ideological structure that ranks advanced and backward nations with respect to production capacity, the Yaopi factory elicits comparison with the Terracotta soldiers in Xi’an. This unhappy comparison relegates Shenzhen’s modernization efforts to the ancient past, even as it confers uncanny modernity on the First Qin Emperor’s army, which of course was mass produced on low-tech, but large-scale assembly lines.
Interesting comparison between 兵馬俑 and the Yaopi factory. Makes you wonder whether anything we create today, massed produced/high tech or not, will be around in 2,200 years – let alone highly revered.
Hi Mike, yes, how permanent are the artifacts of industrial manufacturing? It’s also important to remember that so-called civilization has only been around since the domestication of agriculture, which occurred roughly 10,000 years ago. In other words, the point of creativity isn’t how long our stuff endures, but rather creative activity itself.
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