“Let a robot chef cook for you”— it is not impossible anymore. In densely populated China, robots are gradually taking over labor-intensive jobs.

“Let a robot chef cook for you”— it is not impossible anymore. In densely populated China, robots are gradually taking over labor-intensive jobs.

China used to be the labor-intensive country. The advantage of cheap labor attracted a great amount of foreign investment and business to boost China’s domestic economy and development.

However, in line with the economic bourgeon, the cost of labor increased at an impressive speed. The increasing labor cost tilted the balance in favor of machines, unavoidably forced business owners and investors to seek for solutions, or “replacement”, to alleviate the financial pressures.

Therefore, employing robots is no longer a privilege within heavy industries.
For example, Taiwanese tycoon Terry Gou’s Foxconn Technology Group invested billions of dollars to produce three hundred thousand robots, all to increase manufacturing efficiency of Apple products. Other than tech companies, several restaurants have also caught on to the trend, employing robotic chefs to increase their working efficiency.

The labor force is no longer the factor sustaining China’s international competitiveness. The automation era has come in China.

Is it a good sign? It depends.

China would probably be able to manufacture cheaper goods with better quality, gaining its exporting competitiveness against other competitors.

Chances are, domestically, a lot of low-skilled laborers will have difficulty finding a job. The unemployment rate could increase, leading to political and social instability. The trend could also cause a negative feedback loop, which could severely harm economic growth.

Just like the Industrial Revolution in 17th century, the change brought a tremendous convenience to the society, while causing a lot of social problems. Nevertheless, the benefits derived from productivity gain eventually outweighed the disadvantages. As what China has been undergoing now, sooner or later the change will offset the social costs.


Emily Hsu holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science from University of California, Santa Barbara. She is interested in interaction between nations, organizations, and people within the political arena.

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