Nerf factory riot in China

Riots are breaking out in factories in Dongguan as bankruptcies and layoffs throw thousands out of work with wages owing. South China, "the world's factory," is in chaos, faltering. After the mid-autumn festival, enormous numbers of workers simply stayed home in the provinces, rather than returning to work in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Dongguan.

This AP story talks about a riot in the factory where Nerf toys were manufactured for Hasbro -- and no, they didn't fight with Nerf bats.

Tempers began flaring Tuesday when the plant's Hong Kong owner, Kader Holdings Company Ltd., prepared to lay off 216 migrant workers at the factory that employs 6,500. About 80 senior workers claimed they were getting shortchanged on their severance pay, and they mobilized a mob of 500 – mostly other unemployed workers and friends, Guo said.

The workers battled security guards, turned over a police car, smashed the headlights of police motorcycles and forced their way through the factory's front gate, Guo said. They went on a rampage in the plant's offices, damaging 10 computers, the company said.

The account was confirmed Wednesday by several of the 200 or so jobless laborers peacefully milling around the street in front of the four-story factory complex covered in soot-stained white and green tiles. Small groups of workers inside the factory pressed against glass windows and stared at the crowd below. When their shift ended, they flooded into the streets and mixed with the angry workers.

"The factory's management and the local officials really look down on the workers," said one laid-off worker who would only give his surname, Qiao, because he feared criticizing the company might jeopardize his chance of getting any compensation.

Workers riot at Chinese toy factory (Thanks, Jennifer!)



  1. When this hits Chinese workforce really hard, it’ll be devastating. There won’t be any guarantees of severance or redundancy schemes and I doubt the government will come running in to protect the outgoing workers’ rights.

  2. Went out this weekend. Not specifically to shop. But to go around holiday areas in NYC and just get a feel for things. Yes, there were crowds. But not as many bag laden people as I remember. Lots of window shopping. Stopping by thrift stores and local flea markets there were more buyers, but more people saying “This was worse than [xxx] week/day….”

    Considering the next big shopping season is spring and places are barely filling sales now, it’s looking to truly be globally bad.

  3. A little research and I’d bet we find out that that “severance pay” was several months of back wages.

  4. “they mobilized a mob of 500 — mostly other unemployed workers and friends,”

    That’s an extraordinary thing to read about China, where violent dissent of any kind has harsh penalties. If this is what we’re seeing, the underlying problems must be really bad.

  5. Rossindetroit:

    Actually, Southern China has seen lots of this kind of activity from workers for a number of years now, many far larger than a mere 500.

    Slowly but surely, the workers in “the world’s factory” are going to realize that their government has completely sold them out to the rich and capital-owning.

  6. A little research and I’d bet we find out that that “severance pay” was several months of back wages.

    A little more beyond that and you might find your soul.

  7. Did you notice the bosses are from HongKong.They are famous in Guandong province.For many years they were smuggling products out of this province.They put made in HongKong labels and got rich sending it all over the world.The only thing they care about is making money not how they make it.

  8. From what I understand, riots in China have been steadily growing worse over the last few years. The government, OTOH, seem to be quite good at “containing” them (usually with violence). I wonder how long they’ll be able to keep that up.


    Now on a completely different note; I have to keep reminding myself that “nerf” is an actual concrete noun, referring to strange, alien objects that don’t seem to occur outside of North America (and, apparently, China where they’re made), and that a “nerf bat” was not originally just a metaphor for devs rebalancing an MMO.

  9. “Origin of the term

    It has been mentioned that NERF stands for “non expanding recreational foam”, but it has not been verified.[1]

    The Oxford English Dictionary states that the word is “apparently an arbitrary formation”, but adds that it may be derived from the verb “nerf”, referring to the practice of bumping another vehicle in racing, which dates to no later than 1953.[2]”


    i doubt that the chinese workers will ever if at all will wake up and realize what their government is doing to them. if any of the chinese students i went to high school & college with are any indication, going overseas only makes them more nationalistic then anything, they blame westerners not their government, the status quo will not change it will remain the same if not it will only worsen. and yes i speak from personal experience its the culture & how they are indoctrinated since childhood in their schools with these beliefs to be a neat little cog of socialist society. i only wish i were wrong unfortunately i have seen that is not the case.

  11. #18: Thanks, Tak. Meh – I can only get OED when I get back to the lab, but I think I’ll give it a bit of a read. Interestingly, while the rest of the English-speaking world certainly seems to have foam bats and dart guns, the Nerf(tm) brand isn’t really known (at least not in my experience).

    #19: I’ll grant you the point that Chinese education involves a fair amount of indoctrination, and that many (especially Han) Chinese are extremely nationalistic.

    I have a few responses, however:

    1. I’d be curious to know what you mean by “their government”. China, being the world’s most populous nation, also has rather a lot of government. Parts of it are corrupt, parts of it are manipulative, and parts of it are just trying to keep the country functioning. (These are overlapping classifications.)

    2. “what their government is doing to them”, at least in terms of causing the abject poverty and poor working conditions that have lead to riots such as this, is to inflict capitalism upon them. Yet, you seem to be taking issue with socialism. Certainly, the Chinese government retains the name, but in reality the country is a strange mixture of capitalism and totalitarianism.

    3. “they blame westerners not their government, the status quo will not change it will remain the same if not it will only worsen”: I’m sure there is plenty of this kind of blame happening (and we Westerners should be thinking about the role we do play in causing China’s troubles). Nevertheless, the fact that there is growing civil unrest in China seems to suggest that people are, indeed, speaking out. Certainly things will get worse, but this will mainly be felt by the people directly involved in the unrest, on both sides, as the government cracks down harder. I’m also not sure what you mean by “the status quo”, since China has been in a state of constant change for the last twenty years or so.

  12. to #20

    by government i mean everything from schools to local police & local officials, and by status quo i mean current attitudes that their parents and grand parents hold dear & their current economic/polical state of being. true this varies from region to region some enjoy a more middle class lifestyle with shopping malls ect. whilst others have to illegaly migrate to other parts of the country looking for work (ie migrant workers) or minor dealing in the black market economy (dealing in scrap metal/ pirating). the reality of china is that there is no equal benefits or negatives across the board there is a huge diffrence between a migrant farmer who illegaly enters the city looking for work as a window washer, to the institutionalized city dweller who lives in a centraly planed apartment complex only walking distance from shopping centers. from what i have learned from 2 of my closest friends who are chinese is that since you are a child you are indoctrinated in school to be a small but efficient & hardworking part of society and not make waves by trying to stand out. not only that they are taught the “superiority” of comunism and why the capitalist system is failing (in spite of the apparent contradictions of this in their society) one of my friends graduated from cal-tech in electrical engineering he strongly believes china will surpass america in accomplishments & power. my other friend who also will remain unamed believes that handling a populous nation sometimes justifies the limits and governtment imposed controls he currently sees today that we know to be totalitarianism. its a pretty stark contrast to what we feel these people should “see” or “believe” in. of course i disagree with their views and this has been a source of contention with them so we no longer talk politics anymore but we still remain good friends. and of course i may add that their parents really pushed them to work hard and study hard. im sure they are not teh rule but so far i see two very hardworking people with naive ideals. that is why i say the status qou will not change anytime soon.

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