The Politics of China's Noodle-Shaving Robots

More

"This Japanese hero is only fit to shave noodles here in China."

The shift in the manual labor supply in China has created some interesting innovations in filling positions that used to be filled by fleshy humans. Cui Runquan, a Beijing-based Chinese restaurateur specializing in noodles, noticed that young people are increasingly less willing to work in dirty, exhausting food industry jobs. Thus he invented a noodle-shaving robot to replace its more fickle and exhaustible biological counterpart. The robot is capable of shaving enough noodles for three bowls in one minute, and the noodle's width and thickness can be adjusted to a customer's preferences.

Although the robot didn't have to look like anything, Cui decided to give it a face: that of the beloved Japanese superhero Ultraman -- perhaps because Cui wanted to humanize the robots to make them appear friendlier to their customers. Ultraman, a Japanese television series that premiered in 1966, depicts a humanoid space creature with two large eyes who defends Japan from monster attacks. Ultraman has been shown in China since the 1990s, and Chinese Weibo even has a specific emoticon for him:

Ultraman

Although Ultraman hasn't always been popular with China's political party leaders, most reactions on China's microblogging sites have been positive.

Some Chinese netizens weigh in on their new noodle-making hero:

浪漫的唯忻主义 is impressed with the noodle-shaving prowess of these robots, saying, "I've tried these noodles. They're thinner than ordinary noodles, so thin that they can only be eaten with a spoon."

悠然小语C welcomes the robots, stating, "I went to eat there a couple of days ago. The noodles were very uniform in shape, and the robot's face was very amusing. Altogether it made the wait for my food feel much shorter."

MelvinOO7 jokes, "Haha, this Japanese hero is only fit to shave noodles here in China."

Despite the angry demeanor of these noodle-bots, it seems the Chinese people have taken a liking to them. Could this be the start of a new trend in China, in which the likenesses of other beloved heroes will be used to create robots designed to take less desirable jobs? I'm personally hoping for Doraemon street-sweeper bots.

This article originally appeared at Asia Society, an Atlantic partner site.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Bo Rou Chen is an editorial intern at The Asia Society, and a contributor to the Society's Asia blog.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Is the Greatest Story Ever Told?

A panel of storytellers share their favorite tales, from the Bible to Charlotte's Web.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Global

Just In