The Chinese robots are coming


A selection of the top China news for June 14, 2017, by Jeremy Goldkorn. Part of the SupChina newsletter, which packages the top business, political, and cultural news about China into a 360-degree view of the country that you can read in just a few minutes a day. Subscribe here.

China on track to dominate robotics

In a five-year plan announced last year, the government said it aims to increase its annual production of industrial robots to 100,000 by 2020. A report released in March by China’s National Statistics Bureau said the output growth of China’s industrial robots outperformed all other categories such as motor vehicles and mobile phones over the past year, reaching a total production amount of more than 72,000 units, an increase of 30.4 percent from 2015.

Now the Robot Report, an industry news website, says “China’s strategic plan for a robotic future is working,” citing the growth in numbers of Chinese robot companies from 194 in 2015 to more than 500 today. It adds that state support has been a key factor: “China’s government, through successive 5-year plans and a longer-term Made in China 2025 program, all funded with subsidies, low-interest loans, tax credits and other incentives, has jump-started the use — and building — of robots in China.” Robot Report also has a useful global map of robot makers.


Anbanged up

There’s not much further information about the detention of Wu Xiaohui 吴小晖, the billionaire chairman of Anbang Group, news that was made public on June 12. The statement we translated yesterday from Anbang that said that Wu “cannot perform his duties because of personal reasons” has been widely circulated in Chinese news and social media, but comments on it are being censored, and there has been no government confirmation of Wu’s whereabouts. There is, however, a lot of further reporting and speculation:

  • New York Times reporter Mike Forsythe worked on two investigative pieces (1, 2 – paywall) into Anbang’s ownership structure published in September 2016 that found a paper trail showing the company had “an impressive list of politically connected directors” when it was founded in 2004. He has put some of his notes from the story on his Facebook page in three parts: 1, 2, 3.
    Ironically, Forsythe says that it was China’s “very good system of corporate disclosure” that allowed them to document the “opaque shareholding structure,” and “if Anbang had been registered in Delaware, the stories…would have been tough to write.”
  • The Straits Times has a roundup of Chinese tycoons in trouble, subtitled “businessmen who have run afoul of President Xi Jinping’s corruption crackdown.”
  • Bloomberg has a “quick take Q&A,” which is a useful primer on Anbang and Wu.
  • The New York Times headlined its latest story on Wu “Why did China detain Anbang’s chairman? He tested a lot of limits.”
  • Reuters has an opinion piece that asks if Wu’s detention signals the end of China’s outward-bound investment boom. Yet it points out that the affair “could still prove a blip,” citing Fosun chairman Guo Guangchang’s 郭广昌 case: Guo disappeared in late 2015 and later reappeared, apparently having “assisted an investigation.”
  • The South China Morning Post quotes Hu Xingdou 胡星斗, a professor of economics at the Beijing Institute of Technology: “The probe into Wu indicates that this anti-corruption drive isn’t just targeting those coming up from the grassroots, but also the princelings… This is a milestone showing that the campaign, especially in the financial sector, has entered a new stage.”
  • Another South China Morning Post story reports that “a source familiar with the matter” says “Wu had been ‘assisting relevant investigation’ for a while, but had always managed to return to his office or home after a few hours of questioning,” yet this time did not return.

Shanghai eye candy

The striking new arts and culture complex of the Bund Finance Centre is open: Shanghaiist had a time-lapse video and photo gallery of the moving facade of the building.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

Sent June 14, 6 p.m. New York time, June 15, 6 a.m. Beijing time