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Jonathan Kaiman, Agencies
Beijing, November 14, 2012
Beijing: In China, there’s no better time to be a robot. Pictures from last week's International Industry Fair in Shanghai show them duelling with lightsabers, playing ping pong and dancing in lion costumes. According to the International Federation of Robotics, China could become the world’s biggest consumer of industrial robots by 2014, with demand reaching 32,000 units.

China has many reasons to embrace industrial robotics. Robots can improve energy efficiency; China’s working-age population is also shrinking, sending labour costs up.

“There aren’t many young workers coming off streets to fill jobs at factories,” said Geoff Crothall, a spokesman for China Labour Bulletin.

Taiwan’s Foxconn plans to boost its fleet of industrial robots from 10,000 to 1 million within three years. Robots will replace workers for tasks such as spraying and welding, said CEO Terry Gou.The Guardian