Exploiting cheap labor isn’t why Apple makes its products in China

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We all know the reason why so many technology companies manufacture their consumer electronics in China: labor costs in the country are simply far lower than in developed nations. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, however, this is actually just a misconception, and the real reason that his company chooses to manufacture the vast majority of its products there is because China has more skilled laborers than any other country, including the United States. That sounds more like a way to cover up the fact that it exploits China’s cheap labor than an actual reason, but that’s just me.

Skilled workers, not lower salaries, were the lure that brought Apple to China, according to Tim Cook. In a soft-ball interview with US news magazine 60 Minutes, Cook said “China put an enormous focus on manufacturing. In what we would call … vocational kind of skills.” That focus paid off: the CEO said “you can take every tool and die maker in the United States and probably put them in a room that we’re currently sitting in. In China, you would have to have multiple football fields.” Tool and die makers almost certainly make up a tiny proportion of Apple’s million-strong Chinese workforce, but 60 Minutes chose not to probe the matter further. The program did at least ask Cook about encryption, a topic on which the CEO opined that “I don’t believe that the tradeoff here is privacy versus national security.” Asked if the tradeoff is “versus security” Cook replied “I think that’s an overly simplistic view. We’re America. We should have both.” The CEO also re-iterated his stance that Apple will always comply with warrants but is happy for those requests to be futile if it protects customers’ health, financial and other personal information.

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