As Business Insider reports, for decades, manufacturers employed waves of young migrant workers from China's countryside to work at countless factories in coastal provinces, churning out cheap toys, clothing and electronics that helped power the country's economic ascent.
Now, factories are rapidly replacing those workers with automation, a pivot that's encouraged by rising wages and new official directives aimed at helping the country move away from low-cost manufacturing as the supply of young, pliant workers shrinks.
It's part of a broader overhaul of the economy as China seeks to vault into the ranks of wealthy nations. But it comes as the country's growth slows amid tepid global demand that's adding pressure on tens of thousands of manufacturers.
With costs rising and profits shrinking, Chinese manufacturers "will all need to face the fact that only by successfully transitioning from the current labor-oriented mode to more automated manufacturing will they be able to survive in the next few years," said Jan Zhang, an automation expert at IHS Technology in Shanghai.