China’s was once known as cheapest factory floor on the planet, but in the last two decades its economy has transitioned to become one of the world’s most advanced industrial powers. That means someone else needs to start making all those shoes and sweatshirts, hence all those apparel companies in recent years moving their factories to Vietnam and other cheap spots throughout Asia.
And it’s not just Asia. China’s Huajian Group plans to invest up to $2 billion in Ethiopia in the next decade, turning the country into a shoe manufacturing base for exports to the U.S. and Europe. As the WSJ’s Peter Wonacott reports:
Chinese factory wages have been rising an average of 20% a year for the last decade, pushing low-cost manufacturers toward places where salaries are stagnant. Here’s a chart the WSJ put together last year:
And as China steps more prominently into Africa, what do its officials say in response to suggestions the country could act as a new form of colonial power? In an interview with the WSJ, Chinese ambassador to South Africa Tian Xuejun had little time for such claims: