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

Business & Technology

A summary of today’s top news in Chinese business and technology. Part of the daily SupChina news roundup "The robot Chinese journalists are coming."


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, 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.