In 2014, Chinese billionaire Cao Dewang bought the General Motors factory in Dayton, Ohio and turned it into the American outlet of Fuyao – expanding his windscreen and automobile glass empire to the United States.
The first film distributed by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground, Netflix’s documentary ‘American Factory’ takes you inside the factory of Fuyao in Dayton, Ohio, where workers from China and the United States come and work together in a unique microcosm of globalization. The filmmakers, Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, dive into the complex, intercultural relationships between the employees and highlight the intensive process of managing a foreign company in the United States.
The film vividly depicts the various hurdles the factory workers face, from union disputes and efficiency issues. American Factory humanizes the broader capitalistic global society and effectively shows the conflict of the two predominant schools of thought: a) efficiency and hard work are paramount to success; and b) labor protection rights remain at the fore of economic prosperity. The Chinese glass manufacturer is still struggling to find the perfect equilibrium for its long-term survival in the ever-changing global landscape.
American Factory allows us to experience globalization in a more intimate way, helping viewers to understand the dynamism of cross-cultural integration. It reinforces the significance of mutual understanding and illustrates how working together may be contentious, but there is something to be learned from one another despite the cultural or national differences.
“We are one big planet. A world somewhat divided, but we are one. Tonight is an example of that,” one American Fuyao supervisor said in tears after attending his company’s massive celebration in China.
This emotional moment illustrates a happiness and commonality of cultures that can sometimes become lost in the everyday rhetoric we use to describe each other. It emphasizes that though we may have different traditions and values, there is always a common ground to be found. Knowing this, we must try to move forward together. American Factory reminds us of the progress we have all achieved and what we can do to make the China-U.S relationship flourish.