It remains to be seen how much actual work will result from Apple's plan to bring back some production to the U.S. from China. So how do we get from goodwill to jobs?
China’s largest PC vendor, Lenovo Group, has already announced it will establish assembly lines to produce desktops and notebooks in "small volume” in North Carolina in anticipation of enterprise and government orders.The move appears to be in line with Lenovo’s strategy to increase the proportion of in-house production, from about 20 percent in 2012 to 50 percent in 2013, according to Taiwan sources, Digitimes has reported.
If Apple's motivation — like Lenovo's — is “to be closer to the market,” Apple’s plan to move “some production" back to the U.S. does make sense. (After all, that’s why automakers build cars close to local markets where they’re sold.) Making stuff where it’s consumed is not just common sense, it makes economic sense.
A second data point worth examining is the changing labor market in China. The Washington Post, reporting from Donggun, China, found that "the city on China’s Pearl River Delta, once known as ‘the world’s factory,’ is now losing jobs and eyeing the United States with some envy."
While it’s hard to believe that there’s anyplace in China where factories are closing, it should be noted that lower cost regions like Vietnam and Indonesia are taking manufacturing jobs from China.
The Post article quoted Zhang Monan of the State Information Center, a government think tank, describing the phenomenon he called "a sandwich trap," as in, China being squeezed between cheaper labor in neighboring countries and competition from developed nations such as Germany and the U.S. Zhang stressed, “China’s manufacturers are in an extremely hard situation.”
Before hailing Apple’s decision as “the right thing to do,” we might consider a more pragmatic interpretation: Maybe there is a business case for manufacturing Apple products right here in America.