JIAXING, CHINA — President Donald Trump and his supporters have been critical of China for supposedly stealing American jobs, but those alleged thieves say he has the story all wrong.
Grappling with Trump's rhetoric, Chinese workers told CNBC that a pact has been clear to them for decades: U.S. companies come into industrial parks in China and set up factories, hiring Chinese workers for a fraction of the cost of an American worker. These U.S. companies could then sell products more competitively to American consumers, who get to purchase cheaper goods, and Chinese employees can earn wages that would push them out of poverty.
Now, it appears that Trump is seeking to change that equation, so CNBC spoke with workers at American-owned firms in the factory town of Jiaxing — a two-hour drive from Shanghai — about the changing rhetoric on their employment.
"I don't think Trump is correct. American companies come to invest here. They reap rewards and we do, too. It's a win-win," said Zhao Junlin, who said he worked for an American company.
Several in Jiaxing said they were concerned about what would happen if Trump successfully moved manufacturing to the U.S.
"Many business people have opened factories here and are thriving. If Trump demands that the factories go back, that could hurt them," said a man who asked to be identified as Guo.
Guo told CNBC he has worked for the last three years at an American company, sewing fabric.
American managers, he said, are more experienced than Chinese ones, so the American factories have a superior working environment and maintain their equipment well. Now, Guo said he is slightly worried about these kinds of jobs leaving China.
For the Chinese, a lot of jobs that have shifted from the U.S. have lifted people out of poverty — a reason why the country has gained wealth.
But several emphasized that their success doesn't mean Americans have lost out.
"Chinese people work very hard. What we do at the factories takes long hours and other people despise doing it. So I don't think we are stealing anyone's jobs," said a local worker who gave his name as Chen.
If anything, Chinese workers said they worry global backlash to their economic success will move jobs to even lower cost countries.
Chen, for one, told CNBC he is worried about jobs shifting to countries with a cheaper labor force. The solution, he said, was for fellow workers to gain experience and skills, allowing for a move into more specialized roles.
—CNBC's Barry Huang contributed to this report