Attendees at Boao Forum for Asia see China making 'significant headway'

Updated 2018-04-09 10:16:24

A top Chinese manufacturer is confident of "catching up with Western rivals and winning the global competition" in the high-end sector despite U.S. President Donald Trump's recent moves targeting Chinese tech products.

"Some Chinese manufacturers are worried about the impact of the tariffs , but I think the effects will only be short- term, because China is transforming from big manufacturing to strong manufacturing," Dong Mingzhu, chair of Gree Electric Appliances, told the Global Times Sunday on the sidelines of 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA).[Special coverage]

"We must have the confidence to cope with Trump's bluster and to bring Made-in-China products to the world. We will never compromise," Dong added.

Dong noted that in the past five years, she had seen Chinese companies make "significant headway," and now some advanced manufactures had even outpaced their Western rivals in terms of key products features such as energy efficiency and quality.

Dong gives the example of Gree air conditioners installed in the Great Hall of the People, which, according to her, could save 37 percent of electricity compared with "some well-known international brands," and are guaranteed for eight years.

Florence Verzelen, executive president of Marcel Dassault, also told the Global Times on Sunday at the sidelines of BFA that State-owned enterprises are upgrading their product lines.

"In the past, SOEs were using tools of software, but now they are carrying out a more systematic approach, like performing multi-task on platforms to improve the efficiency… It's moving from dot-to-dot to platform-to-platform," Verzelen said.

She also noted that European society has become interested in high-end Made-in-China products. For example, telecom maker Huawei was one of the most popular and crowded booths at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Rudolf Staudigl, president and CEO of Wacker Chemie AG, also praised Chinese manufacturers for the way they have caught up with their European rivals in electronic products and artificial intelligence on the sidelines of BFA.

A matter of opinion

Commenting on U.S.' tariff list, Dong said that it's just another example of how China has been treated unfairly in recent years.

"This is like what the West said in terms of the Belt and Road initiative. They allege the initiative is just a device to export China's outdated capacity," Dong said.

Industry insiders said that the tariffs show U.S. fear of China and its growing tech know-how. It is a fear shared by some European political figures, according to media reports, but some executives from leading European firms have expressed different opinions.

"We are not afraid of Chinese companies acquiring tech know-how from European firms because technology is a process of development. We welcome Chinese investment as long as there is a level playing field," Staudigl commented.

Competition reduces costs and drives innovation, he added.

The big difference

"The biggest obstacle for China now is to develop technology, because technology should not be copied. Chinese companies must develop technology of their own," Staudigl noted.

Dong stressed that in the machine-tool industry, a key area of high-end manufacturing, some "key skills of high-grade high-precision technology" are still in the hands of foreign firms.

And there is one big difference between Chinese and European companies, which may limit Chinese companies' competitiveness in advanced specialized manufacturing technology.

"Germany is home to many small and medium-sized companies, which provide specialized technology to car-makers such as BMW and Mercedez," Staudigl noted, indicating that small and medium-sized companies would greatly strengthen Chinese companies' global competitiveness.

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