Industrial policy

Inside the Apple iPad factory

May 21, 2011: 11:05 AM ET

The site of Friday's explosion was massive 8-building complex thrown together in a record 70 days

Workers on a Chungdu assembly line. Photo: M.I.C. Gadget

When a polishing workshop blew up in Foxconn's new factory complex in Chengdu, China, it was an English-language website operating, as they put it, "outside the Great Firewall of China, temporarily," that broke the news and provided U.S. media outlets with videos, photos and regular updates.

On Saturday, the website -- M.I.C. Gadget -- posted a background story on Foxconn's Chengdu facility that offers a rare glimpse not only of life inside the factories (see photo), but of the industrial policies that brought them to Chengdu in the first place.

It's a remarkable tale. According to M.I.C.'s Star Chang, the factories were constructed in record time specifically to meet demand for Apple's (AAPL) iPad 2. With its Shenzhen factory operating at full capacity churning out, according to Chang, 2.5 million first-generation iPads a month, Foxconn needed 50 new production lines capable of building up to 40 million second-generation iPad per year.

Foxconn chose Chungdu, the capital of Sichuan province, because so many of the workers in Shenzhen had come from the inland province. Foxconn hoped to tap into this source of low-cost labor without the problems -- among them a rash of high-profile suicides -- created by moving young workers from small provincial towns to a big industrial city on the coast.

The province, eager to attract industry, bent over backward to accommodate Foxconn:

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