Industrial upgrading will continue

Ministry says despite recent challenges, manufacturing sector has made strides

China will maintain its determination to accelerate industrial upgrading, despite short-term challenges in the sprawling manufacturing sector, the nation’s top industry regulator said on Friday.

Huang Libin, spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said China has sound manufacturing fundamentals, and in the face of short-term challenges the country will not scale back its efforts to achieve industrial restructuring.

His comments came after China’s official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, or PMI, remained below 50 for the fourth consecutive month. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below reflects contraction.

“The manufacturing industry is at the crucial stage of an uphill battle. We will be persistent in our efforts to push forward industrial upgrades,” Huang said.

One of the sound foundations for smart manufacturing is the strides China has made in the past 70 years. In 2018, the country’s industrial output topped 30 trillion yuan ($4.2 trillion), a dramatic shift from the 12 billion yuan output in 1952, data from the ministry show.

More importantly, China has built up a modern industrial system. Boasting 41 industrial divisions, 207 groups and 666 classes of products and services, China is the only country in the world that ticks all the industrial category boxes under the United Nations’ industrial classification standard.

With rising spending on research and development, domestic enterprises have also made a string of breakthroughs in key technologies.

“The country’s high-speed railways have wowed the world, and its telecom sector has evolved from a follower in 2G into a pioneer in the era of 5G,” said Miao Wei, who heads the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Official data show that China has so far contributed the largest number of patents essential to 5G standards in the world. The progress came after the country’s mobile service subscribers hit 1.57 billion in 2018.

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Qin Hailin, a senior industrial economy researcher at the China Center for Information Industry Development, said that the global economy has slowed and the global PMI has also stayed below 50 for several months. It is important to put China’s short-term difficulties in a global context.

“Despite these challenges, China’s industrial growth rate remains within this year’s target range of 5.5 to 6 percent. That is faster than most developed and developing countries,” Qin said.

According to Qin, China’s rapid advancements in digital economy and local companies’ readiness to embrace cutting-edge internet, artificial intelligence, big data and cloud technologies will help expedite industrial upgrades.

In 2018, the market size of China’s digital economy hit 31 trillion yuan.

Liu Duo, president of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, said the commercialization of 5G will inject a fresh impetus to manufacturing companies’ efforts to digitalize their plants and corporate managements.

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