Made in China, by robots - China business and technology news from April 25, 2017 - SupChina

Made in China, by robots – China business and technology news from April 25, 2017


First labor, now robot labor: The hands that make and move goods in the world’s largest market may soon get a mechanical replacement. Bloomberg reports that “in 2016, China installed 90,000 new robots,” or one-third of the world’s total, and “30 percent more than the year before.” This makes China the world’s fastest-growing robotics market, as giant manufacturers and logistics firms compete and drive demand from around 800 Chinese robotics companies to develop machines that sort, weld, bolt, deliver, or even monitor pollution. If China succeeds in upgrading its manufacturing economy, which is currently still relatively labor-dependent compared with advanced manufacturing economies such as those of Germany or South Korea, it “may be able to stanch the flow of factories moving overseas.”

In some ways, the industry is still in its early stages of development. One engineer at Tsinghua University indicated that “some startups buy key components from Siemens or Fanuc, put them in a robot shell with an arm, and then slap on a Chinese brand name.” Still, the large players in the industry are not just messing around. Online retailer JD.com, for example, is rushing to automate its warehouses, and expects drones, driverless vehicles, and other specialized robots to deliver its packages in the not-too-distant future. It has already conducted experimental deliveries with drones in remote locations and robots on college campuses, and expects to quickly develop the technology.


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Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company’s newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.