China Is Building a Robot Army of Model Workers

Can China reboot its manufacturing industry—and the global economy—by replacing millions of workers with machines?

Inside a large, windowless room in an electronics factory in south Shanghai, about 15 workers are eyeing a small robot arm with frustration. Near the end of the production line where optical networking equipment is being packed into boxes for shipping, the robot sits motionless.

“The system is down,” explains Nie Juan, a woman in her early 20s who is responsible for quality control. Her team has been testing the robot for the past week. The machine is meant to place stickers on the boxes containing new routers, and it seemed to have mastered the task quite nicely. But then it suddenly stopped working. “The robot does save labor,” Nie tells me, her brow furrowed, “but it is difficult to maintain.”

h/t Marvin

  • BillyHW

    Learn robot maintenance.

    • dance…dancetotheradio

      I can do that.

  • xavier

    No china can-t reboot it’s economy because the nomenclatura will still all the productivity gains and the ordinary people will be riled enough to take down the party in a Cesceau type revolt

    • Exile1981

      Well if they build robots as reliable as everything else the workers won’t have to worry about loosing their jobs.

  • simus1

    If you peruse:
    “Chinese Mystery Pistols”,
    “car Knockoffs”,

    there is a common thread of a culture that combines wildly variable craftsmanship, designing, and machining with copying appearance without understanding or wanting to understand the complete process that underpins the final quality product.

  • Dana Garcia

    When the big worldwide recession kicked in a few years ago, ChiCom elites were freaking out because they feared violent labor unrest, not without cause. There weren’t widespread riots, but in one case laid-off workers stormed a steel plant and beat the boss man to death.

    And now the government is planning to replace millions of workers with machines and everything is going to be swell? Major disconnect here.