Foxconn’s Pivot to America: Reverse Outsourcing With Robots

A little over a year ago, Foxconn, the notorious Taiwanese manufacturer of Apple’s iPhone, said they would replace a million Chinese workers with robots. Now, the firm says they plan to transfer capital-intensive and high-tech manufacturing to the US.
The two announcements are closely related. Just as cheap labor and competitive firms like Foxconn lured US electronics companies to outsource manufacturing to Asia, new generations of advanced robots may be set to bring it back. (Note: Though there are fewer manufacturing jobs due to automation, the US still “makes” plenty of stuff.)
China, where Foxconn operates its iPhone plant, has been vilified in recent years for “stealing” US manufacturing jobs, as have the multinationals assembling products there. Most folks (often politicians) cite the fact Chinese factories can pay lower wages than their American counterparts.
But lower wages are only part of the story. A 2012 New York Times article related an encounter between the late Steve Jobs and President Obama. Obama wanted to know what it would take to bring iPhone assembly to the US. Apple’s CEO was blunt, “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”