Communist Chinese government propaganda mouthpiece Xinhua is reporting that another 20,000 industrial robots will be installed in the country’s manufacturing heartland, Guangdong Province.
Quoting Guangdong governor, Ma Xingrui, the state news agency says the robots are to be integrated into operations by the end of this year.
The move is part of a drive by the national government to modernise the country’s industrial infrastructure under the “Made in China 2025” policy.
“The province will intensify efforts to digitalize the manufacturing sector and make the industry smarter and greener,” Ma said in a speech to the local politburo.
This may seem like a great opportunity for the big robot makers from outside China who have been setting up operations in the country.
However, the Chinese government wants more of the robots to be made locally, which is another one of the aims of the Made in China 2025 strategy.
Guangdong is on the southeast coast of China, near Hong Kong, and has the largest population of any province, with more than 100 million people living there.
It also has the largest economy of all provinces, with an annual gross domestic product of more than $1 trillion – around 10 per cent of China’s total GDP.
Guangdong’s GDP is said to be comparable to, or larger than, that of Mexico.
The region has more than 20 economic and technological development zones, with the vast majority of them heavily into manufacturing.
But the central government has been pushing the business sector to develop more advanced, hi-tech and innovative enterprises, believing that only this will help maintain the country’s lead in some sectors of the global economy.
China is believed to be the world’s largest manufacturing nation, or a close second to the US.
But as the US and other Western countries look to reinvigorate their own manufacturing sectors, using automation technologies instead of cheap labour to cut costs and find efficiencies, China may be worried that it could lose some business.
Automation is sometimes said to be a way of “levelling the playing field”, as robots cost about the same the world over, after various currency and other factors are taken into account.
This means that it could make more sense for an industrial company to set up a factory in the US, using a greater level of automation to counter the advantages of cheap labour, which Asian countries like China have in abundance.
Another advantage of setting up in the US, North America or Europe is that the vast majority of many companies’ customers are in those geographies.
This would eliminate or at least minimise the logistical costs associated with manufacturing and long supply chains. Global transportation can be expensive.
But even there, Chinese companies have been venturing abroad, investing in European and North American companies, and setting up operations in those regions.