According to a reports from the Shanghai Morning Post, the Foxconn factory that makes Apple iPhones has reduced its employee count from 110,000 to 50,000. Robots have replaced 60,000 workers in just one facility. More than 600 major companies in the same region are planning to make similar job cuts in favor of technological solutions, according to a recent government survey. (See also: How Technology Is Replacing Workers.)

Out of more than one hundred companies surveyed at one of China's largest manufacturing hubs for the electronics industry, more than half said they were already preparing robot production lines, local news sites have reported.

China has supposedly taken away manufacturing and other outsourceable jobs from the United States and Europe, which has led to frustration among workers in those areas. Adding to that frustration is the encroachment of labor-saving technology in the form of robotics and software, sometimes referred to as the Internet of Things, which proponents believe will be able to eliminate human jobs. In fact, one unintended consequence of the recent minimum wage increase to $15 for fast food workers in America has been the introduction of automated touch screen kiosks to order food to replace a human at the counter. (See also: Minimum Wages Can Raise Unemployment.)

But now, even the Chinese are feeling the pinch of competition as their burgeoning middle class demands higher wages and as the international companies that are hiring Chinese factories seek to cut costs. (For more, see: 20 Industries Threatened by Tech Disruption.)

Mechanical robots are not the only technological threat to workers in China. Thirty-five Taiwanese companies, have spent nearly $610 million over the past year on artificial intelligence (AI). AI and other software solutions promise to be able to replace the more "human-necessary" jobs by replacing cognition, and even creative pursuits. (For more, see: Is Automation Destroying Intellectual Jobs?)

All of this spells trouble for China's faltering socialist economy, whose economic values rest theoretically on the working class community. Rising unemployment in the industrial regions of China could lead to social unrest and negatively impact China's economic growth.

The Bottom Line

The rise of technology as a threat to labor is not reserved to the developed world: It is global. While workers in the United States and Europe complain about technology and outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to China, Chinese workers are now facing the same threat from robotics and artificial intelligence.

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