Two years ago, China laid out its ambitious “Made in China 2025” plan to shift from low-value to high-value manufacturing, including electric cars, robotics and artificial intelligence.
To compete globally, says a recent report from Berlin-based Mercator Institute for China Studies, the country needs to replace its aging, labor-intensive factories with modern industrial production. “Progress and prosperity cannot be based on rusting factories and manual labor,” the report says.
To that end, and to respond to soaring factory wages, China is ramping up efforts to expand production of industrial robots and to set up smart factories that operate without human intervention.
So China needs robots. Lots of robots. Robots to build other robots (and more to care for elderly humans). The country is already the world’s largest buyer of industrial robots, but trails other advanced nations in the number of robots per human employee.
The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) forecasts sales of robots in China could increase by more than 15% a year from 2018 to 2020. A good number of these will be home-grown: China aims to manufacture at least 100,000 industrial robots a year by 2020, overtaking Japan, Germany, and the U.S.
“China is by far the biggest robot market in the world regarding annual sales and regarding the operational stock,” said Joe Gemma, IFR’s president. “It is the fastest growing market worldwide. There has never been such a dynamic rise in such a short period of time in any other market.”
The World Robotics Report 2017 will be released on September 27th.