Asian Americans and the SAT; Labor Struggles in Hong Kong and China, with guest Jenny Chan



In this episode, we chat about relocating during the pandemic, reading (or, in Jay’s case, not reading) physical books, and the University of California system’s recent decision to suspend use of the SAT in admissions.

We then give a transnational welcome to Jenny Chan, professor of sociology and China studies at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and co-author of the forthcoming book, Dying for an iPhone. Jenny has devoted the last decade to researching labor conditions and activism in China, especially at Foxconn plants, where migrants and student “interns” build Apple gadgets for export. She speaks with us about the global struggle for workers’ rights and what Beijing’s recent crackdown on Hong Kong means for her community.   

1:03 - Andy outs himself as someone who(se employer) hires people to pack his belongings.  

5:45 -  Is the UC’s rejection of the SAT “anti-Asian”? How do we change the zero-sum game of higher education and prevent Asian American students from getting red-pilled? For background, read Jay’s story on Asian Americans and affirmative action.

20:39 -  Does the mainstream debate over affirmative action force progressive Asian Americans to act against their own self-interest? Bonus: a ZIP code thought experiment, and why freshman Bill Chang does not want to room with his best friend Bill Chang.

30:16 - Jenny explains how Hong Kongers are dealing with the coronavirus and reacting to a new national security law proposed by the central government in Beijing, bypassing Hong Kong. She is hopeful that Hong Kongers will continue to fight for their democratic values.

38:16 - Jenny discusses her work on labor issues in the region. In Hong Kong, democracy protests have spurred a historic rise of unionization; in China, labor activists have battled employers and the state, even in the face of repressive tactics. She tells us why people around the world should care about China’s working class.

51:06 - Is China the next logical site of a mass labor movement? With a workforce of nearly one billion people, it seems to offer the greatest potential. Elite Chinese university students have taken notice, too, and are organizing in solidarity with workers. Jenny discusses how their generation has been shaped by the negative consequences of globalization. 


Time to Say Goodbye is a podcast—with your hosts, Jay Caspian Kang, Tammy Kim, and Andy Liu. We launched this thing because, like you, we’ve been sheltering in place and wanted an outlet for our thoughts on the coronavirus, Asia, geopolitics, and Asian Americans.

A short introduction to your hosts:

Jay Caspian Kang is a writer-at-large for the New York Times Magazine and the author of the forthcoming book The Loneliest Americans.

E. Tammy Kim is a magazine reporter, a contributing opinion writer at the New York Times, and a retired lawyer. She co-edited the book Punk Ethnography.

Andrew Liu is a historian of modern China. He wrote a book called Tea War, about the history of capitalism in Asia. He remains a huge Supersonics fan.