This is facile. Yes, there are communities of practice in China around electronics manufacture that would be very difficult, now, to develop in the US. There is an ecosystem of companies, people, training, etc. But that’s a first-order answer. Why do those things exist, in 2015, in China but not in the US? In 1955 the situation was reversed. The US had the world’s strongest electronics-manufacturing capacity, and China had very little. China was able to build this capacity because companies like Apple (and many, many others) systematically withdrew investment in manufacturing from high-wage countries and moved it to low-wage countries. They did this because low wages with poor working conditions allow for higher profits.
Of course Tim Cook would like to pretend that the electronics manufacturing ecosystem in China was created by an act of God, and its co-occurence with low wages and poor working conditions is merely happenstance. It is convenient for him to do so. But it’s ahistorical nonsense.
One does wonder what the role of NIMBYism (and I mean that in a positive way, here!) is in the US, though, in contributing to that dynamic. There were numerous issues with toxic spillage and whatnot due to electronics manufacture in the US, PCBs and whatnot for capacitor plants as an example. I am curious (and ignorant) as to what extent that helped raise cost of manufacture here.
If one goes by news coverage, China is apparently coming up on Judge Dredd levels of pollution and environmental damage–and seems perfectly willing to allow that to continue so they can retain their manufacturing base. Then again, I don’t really trust the accuracy of news coverage. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
\\ to make ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ properly.
Mine was…erm…made in America? :P
Not directly related but interesting in context: 2 graphs from Dec ‘15 on http://www.nippon.com/en/features/h00127/ show China’s number and share of the global output of scientific papers published as having risen roughly 5x since 2000. Hockey-stick stuff. “Share” is the most interesting here, I think. Also, the naïve optimist in me would love to think that at least some of that is work which might help stabilising that manufacturing base & growth with alternative energy sources before the sky above Beijing starts actually raining fire, but, well, I guess time will tell.
I’d prefer to see those data normalized by h-index or something. Mere volume of papers doesn’t necessarily tell you much about how much useful research is being done.
Fair point. I was just thinking about the amount of presumably financial backing for research getting done, which seems like it must be shooting right up, but you’re dead right, if it’s low quality then it’s not much use :-D
It’s too bad Cook couldn’t be more honest here, but the fact is that people (and therefore companies) do what’s best based on incentives: go where the cheap labor is. For products that can be made anywhere (clothing), companies will move to the least expensive location (which may be greatly affected by tariffs) – possibly literally moving the factory itself.
Given the vast and complex supply chain for electronics, it’s a bit harder to move from China (which has become more expensive) to somewhere else, but don’t doubt that companies are looking at their spreadsheets to see when it becomes cheaper to make things elsewhere.
Case in point: Samsung assembles in Vietnam.