Sure, China's Manufacturing Grasp May Be Slipping, But What About the United States?

As an American, I am constantly concerned with the state of our economy and its people.  I believe that, although our country has been knocked from its seat as the king of industry,  it will some day reclaim that title.

Well, that is, if we can convince corporations to return their operations to U.S. soil, and that will not be an easy thing–not with labor pools that are so much cheaper in places like China and Taiwan.  With those thoughts in mind, I turned to an online article by Vivek Wadhwa on the Forbes website.

Titled “The End of Chinese Manufacturing and Rebirth of U.S. Industry,” Wadhwa’s article optimistically credits modern technological breakthroughs, like AI and robotics, with creating a new manufacturing paradigm that will ultimately spell ruin to China’s dominance in industry, and he points to the United States as the place to which industry will return, noting our wealth in natural resources, raw materials, and tech-savvy workers.

I applaud Mr. Wadhwa’s enthusiasm and optimism, but I think he is putting his cart before the robotic horse.  Why, exactly, would industry’s return under the examples he cites be good for us?  It would maybe keep some jobs in transportation of raw materials to U.S. factories, and we might get increased taxes from factories producing on our soil (that’s if they don’t get the typical huge tax breaks from our politicians), and I guess prices for those goods would be cheaper for our citizens becuase the cost to ship would be lower–but who would be employed at the factories–other than robots?  Robots don’t need money for food, house payments, or medical benefits. People do.

So, why would a renaissance of U.S. Manufacturing run by robots be a good thing for us?

Wadhwa surmises that, although jobs that existed before all this projected autonomation won’t exist in the future, there will be even better jobs:

“So China has many reasons to worry, and manufacturing will undoubtedly return to the U.S.—if not in this decade then early in the next. But the same jobs that left the U.S. won’t come back: they won’t exist.  What will the new jobs be? We can only guess. Autodesk CEO Carl Bass says that just as we have created new, higher-paying jobs in every other industrial transition, we will create a new set of industries and professions in this one. Look at the new types of jobs and multi-billion dollar businesses that the Internet and mobile industries created—these came out of nowhere and changed our lives, Bass says.”

I don’t know exactly how this will be better, but at least the industry will be based here, and there will be some more jobs than there are at present.