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China is likely to develop a major overcapacity in production of industrial robots. This will tend to result in building too many factories, and that in turn means price-dumping on global markets.
China is likely to develop a major overcapacity in production of industrial robots. This will tend to result in building too many factories, and that in turn means price-dumping on global markets.

China Soon to Become Germany’s Economic Rival

China is taking aim directly at sectors which are core strengths of the German economy which could prove very dangerous

China Soon to Become Germany’s Economic Rival

The Chinese government has adopted a 'Made in China 2025' economic development strategy which is emerging as a huge risk to Germany's economic base, says economist Christian Rusche from the IW think tank in Cologne.
With this program, China's economic development strategy for the manufacturing sector, the Chinese government has initiated something that could prove very dangerous for Germany's economy, Rusche said in an interview with DW.
Launched in mid-2015, Made in China 2025 is a Chinese government program for generating major and sustained investment in various future-oriented sectors, and especially in automated industrial manufacturing processes, often referred to as Industry 4.0 technologies. This includes developing expertise at developing and building production machinery. This means China is taking aim directly at sectors which are core strengths of the German economy.
The Chinese want to go up the manufacturing value chain, and massively accelerate the modernization of Chinese industry. Industry 3.0 is automated manufacturing, so for example, robots in car factories can assemble cars automatically once the steps for doing so have been programmed into them.
Industry 4.0 is a set of technologies for creating 'smart factories' in which the parts that need to be assembled and the assembly robots can independently communicate with each other, allowing things like automated just-in-time on-demand customized manufacturing and integrated, responsive, real-time automated supply chain management.
The Chinese government has a draft regulation requiring that no less than 8% of cars sold in 2018 must be electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles, and 12% by 2020. This mean China presents a global market threat to German car-makers, Rusche said.
Electromobility is not in itself central to the Made in China 2025 strategy, but Industry 4.0 technologies are highly relevant to car factories of the future, and the Chinese quota for EVs will force rapid development of the country's EV production capacity. German car-makers should bear this in mind as they consider their e-mobility investment strategies.

Overcapacity in Production
The top-down authoritarian structure of economic policy in China, and the massive use of subsidies for key industries, means that China is likely to develop a major overcapacity in production of industrial robots. This will tend to result in building too many factories, and that in turn means price-dumping on global markets will likely result. This may well affect global electric vehicle markets, among others.
It seems like China is taking aim squarely at the most important industrial sectors underpinning Germany's economic success. Germany has already lost its photovoltaic panel manufacturing sector to cheap Chinese mass produced panels. The question is, will car-making and machinery-building sectors go the same way?
That is indeed a serious risk. But it's not that the Chinese have decided they want to eliminate Germany as a competitor. It's more a matter of empowering China.

One Step Ahead
"We can't stop China doing what it's going to do. Among the things the German government or western governments in general could do in response would be impose punitive tariffs against dumping, but this always involves a risk of retaliation. Closing off European markets to Chinese goods is unlikely to work well, because sheltering European companies from Chinese price pressure would only improve the latter's price advantages on global markets in the medium term."
The main strategy German industry has applied so far, vis-a-vis Chinese competition, is to stay a step ahead in terms of technology and quality. It should continue to try to do that, but it may get more difficult in the future.
Another comparative advantage Germany could try to maintain is superior infrastructure. The German government should invest heavily in updating and improving Germany's infrastructure, to make made-in-Germany production lines more attractive.
A third strategic element is for German makers of machines and production systems to offer premium-quality comprehensive packages comprising not only automated machines, but also remote operation and servicing of those machines.
"In general, it will be difficult for Germany to compete with sectors in which China invests heavily. China has much lower labor costs and a much bigger workforce, and it has the ability to flood money into a sector using direct or indirect government subsidies until it dominates the sector, like it did with photovoltaic panel production," Rusche said.

 

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