Well. For a long time, factory floor automation was discouraged - for reasons that should be obvious - by the Chinese government. According to some of the reading on this, an aging migrant worker population - which urban factories relied on for inexpensive labor - now makes automation less sensitive.
And this trend highlights what I first discovered about 1998, when I saw my first entirely automated finished fabric inspection station: headcount in manufacturing is falling globally, not just in the US. China's manufacturing headcount gains were more about having so much more manufacturing go there than bad (for the US worker) trade deals. Now the country is moving up the productivity curve, just as the US did 30 years ago.
So the bite for workers in China now sets in. It's unclear to me what the PRC's leadership will do to stabilize the country domestically once zero labor factories (what we call "lights out facilities" in the US) become the norm.
For decades, since worker displacement due to technological deployments became a measurable problem, economists and those in industry have said that the deployments do not happen fast enough to displace workers so quickly that they cannot retrain and move up the value chain. If the argument is familiar, it's because it's the same one that one hears when trade liberalization is debated.
What happens in China over the next ten to fifteen years will test that theory.
In the US, which is one potential model for the PRC, headcount in manufacturing decreased while per capita value output increased significantly. The US produces more for export in dollar value than it ever did before, though with fewer workers than ever before. Highly skilled workers have gone into financial and technology service industries. Low skilled workers are moving to healthcare.
But even that requires a large enough low or no cost to the student educational system to absorb and retrain those workers.
I never thought I would see factory floor automation in China in my lifetime. Perhaps I should see if they need any PLC programmers. I think I still have my ladder logic textbook around here somewhere.