Chinese netizens fear job losses as global manufacturers move to Vietnam

By Kim Cuong   March 29, 2021 | 10:00 pm PT
The switch from China to Vietnam by Apple supplier Foxconn has sparked a fear of job losses in many Chinese people.
The Vietnameses applying to be Luxshare’s workers in the northern province of Bac Giang, June 2020. Photo courtesy of Luxshare Precision Industry.

Vietnamese workers apply for jobs at Luxshare, an Apple partner, in the northern province of Bac Giang in June 2020. Photo courtesy of Luxshare Precision Industry.

The news that Foxconn received a license in January to build a plant to manufacture laptops and tablets in Vietnam’s northern province of Bac Giang starting in the first half of this year has got hundreds of millions of views and thousands of comments on China’s largest social media site Weibo.

There had been 502 threads with 5.6 million views under the hastag ‘Apple moving part of its production to Vietnam’ on Weibo as of January 30.

"Apple, the world’s biggest tablet maker, could start manufacturing iPads in Vietnam by the middle of this year, marking the first time it produces a significant number of tablets outside of China," Chinese technology company Sina said.

Many Chinese said initially Vietnam lacks the capability to make Apple’s high-quality products, but reports that Apple has started iPhone, MacBook and HomePod mini manufacturing in Vietnam have apparently got many Chinese worried.

A user with the name Zhang Qin Qin wrote: "We were wrong [about Vietnam not being able to produce Apple products]. Now even the earphones are produced in Vietnam. Soon enough millions of Chinese workers will lose their jobs."

Others feared that other foreign technology companies would also pull out of China.

"Samsung has left [Samsung shut down its last factory in China’s Huizhou city in 2019], and also Apple."

Another user, Xing Wang, said: "Production shifting to countries outside of China is a threat to not only the technology industry but also the whole economy. What will the future of unemployed Chinese workers be?"

However, some believe there are still limitations to Vietnamese production compared to China. According to the Chinese newspaper Global Times, China has developed the most complete industrial and supply chains in the world, with thousands or even tens of thousands of suppliers available for manufacturing sophisticated products, and Vietnam is still far from having such a foundation of suppliers.

Besides, China's infrastructure, including roads, ports and other logistical support, also outperforms Vietnam's infrastructure. "There is no need to panic about the current manufacturing shift to Vietnam, which is totally normal, and inevitable, in the market economy," said the Global Times.

Japanese newspaper Nikkei said Apple’s ramping up production outside China has benefited Vietnam. Foxconn has invested $270 million in a plant to manufacture laptops and tablets in Vietnam.

Apple’s Chinese supplier Luxshare Precision Industry is expanding its HomePod mini production capacity in Bac Giang.

Chinese company GoerTek, a key contract manufacturer for Apple, began manufacturing AirPods Pro, AirPods Max and HomePod mini in Vietnam in 2020.

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