China's strategy of quickening the development of smart manufacturing will lend support to its goal of climbing up the global value chain, unleash market vitality and spur massive investment in the sector.
China will focus on smart manufacturing by integrating the "Made in China 2025" strategy with the Internet Plus Initiative as well as entrepreneurship and innovation to upgrade traditional industries and foster economic restructuring, according to a decision made at a State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Li Keqiang Wednesday.
The meeting decided to focus on smart manufacturing and further deploy new technologies such as the industrial Internet to make manufacturing a smarter and greener sector that offers better services and products.
"Made in China 2025" was first unveiled in the government work report in March 2015. Two months later, the State Council, China's Cabinet, released a guideline, which focused on five key projects, including smart manufacturing, and 10 key fields such as new materials.
Smart manufacturing, advanced manufacturing with the help of computer control and industrial robots, features applications including the Internet of Things and big data processing.
Chinese manufacturers face a downshift in growth, structural adjustment and a shift in growth engines, said Miao Wei, minister of industry and information technology.
China is moving toward an economy boosted by consumer spending, innovation and services, reducing reliance on investment and exports of low value-added goods, boosted by strengthened efforts in innovation and research.
China's research and development expenditure rose 9.4 percent in 2016 year on year to 1.55 trillion yuan (about 226 billion U.S. dollars), accounting for 2.08 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed.
"China is an important player not only in manufacturing but also in the Internet industry, so giving full play to both strengths will speed up China's industrialization process," Miao stressed.
Miao's view is echoed by Bai Ming, from the Ministry of Commerce, who said that manufacturing upgrades are closely linked with China's ongoing supply-side structural reform and can unleash market potential to bolster economic growth.
China is pressing ahead with supply-side structural reform, which features cutting overcapacity, deleveraging, lowering costs, reducing inventories and strengthening weak business links to generate sustainable long-term growth.
Key technologies will be on top of the agenda, including independent research and development. Innovative development in fields such as new materials and robots will be accelerated, with more effort to be placed on establishing demonstration areas, where small and medium-sized enterprises can develop with large companies for collaborated growth and greater global competitiveness, noted the decision.
"This move aimed at promoting the experience of demonstration areas nationwide, unleashing investors' innovation enthusiasm and enhancing different regions' unique manufacturing competitiveness on the basis of their local conditions," said Li Beiguang, a senior official with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Smart manufacturing and emerging sectors like the next-generation IT technology will embrace stellar growth in China over the next decade. These sectors will all have complete supply chains around them, which will attract massive investment, Guotai Junan Securities said in a report.
Smart manufacturing equipment will grow at a brisk pace in coming years, with the annual sales revenue to reach around 3 trillion yuan in 2020, predicted a recent industry report.
However, some industry observers cautioned that the process of sharpening manufacturing competitiveness and transferring technology innovation into successful products will be a bumpy road, with some advanced economies all striving to be the front runners.
"Industrial upgrading and increasing productivity will take many years of reforms, instead of being achieved overnight," said Zhao Yuncheng, a senior official at the NBS.