Bloomberg Businessweek

The Asian Jobs Ladder Is Broken

An economic model that’s organized an entire hemisphere for decades could be coming to an abrupt end

Thirty minutes by car into the scrubby desert outside Korla, in China’s remote Xinjiang region, a textile manufacturer owned by Jinsheng Group is building its latest factory complex. Inside the 16 billion-yuan ($2.4 billion) facility—a collection of stark white warehouses surrounded by an enormous expanse of pristine artificial grass—are rows of huge cotton spools, more than a million bright red and blue spindles, and almost no people. A few German engineers wander around, making sure the equipment runs at peak efficiency. This is the depopulated future of an industry that’s lifted millions of Asians out of poverty.

Jinsheng’s factory covers almost 15 million square feet, more than five times the floor area of the Empire State Building, but it needs only a few hundred

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