The era of China being the low-cost factory of the world is coming to a close, as the country makes way for an environment for more sustainable growth following its 12th five-year plan.
Keys to realising such a vision are strategic industries such as automotive and electronics, combined with foreign investment in modern technologies and environment protection.
This evolution of the mainland's foreign trade structure and economic development model is reverberating globally - wherein the movers and shakers are gearing up to respond to such megatrends.
Among keen players is drive engineering specialist SEW-Eurodrive, which has been setting things in motion for more than 80 years. It is one of the pioneers in the field that made it possible to move luggage within an airport, fill bottles in a beverage plant and transport parts across a vast car factory in seconds instead of hours.
With a clear China penetration plan as early as 1997 when it built a plant in Tianjin, SEW-Eurodrive is also among the first European companies to recognise that the country is moving from low-end manufacturing to higher-value technologies. Its local presence has since grown with six assembly plants and 50 sales offices.
Having earned the trust of public and private sectors, SEW-Eurodrive became the exclusive supplier of drive technology applications used in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing 2008 Olympics. It was also responsible for stage and pavilion applications at Expo 2010 Shanghai.
"SEW-Eurodrive is motivated by the fast-evolving industry in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly China," says managing director Hans Sondermann. "We invested in China not to have the cheapest manufacturing cost but to participate in the market, which soon became our biggest single market globally."
Since it made the first countershaft motor in the 1930s and introduced modular systems for gearmotors in the 1960s, SEW-Eurodrive has been setting the bar in material handling solutions. It continues to usher in revolutionary products such as decentralised drive systems, which add cost efficiency to the company's signature modular and flexible features.
As energy efficiency becomes a new global benchmark in drive systems, SEW-Eurodrive is also helping private and government institutions become more competitive in their own industries by enabling them to construct complex drive architectures with maximum performance using less energy.
London Heathrow and Gatwick airports' baggage handling areas, for instance, have been saving as much as 50 per cent energy in the sector where the new SEW-Eurodrive products have been installed.
"Innovations and the capability to lead megatrends have enabled SEW-Eurodrive to flourish in the past eight decades," Sondermann says.
"This is why we are pursuing sustainable long-term growth by developing ourselves from a pure component supplier to a systems solutions provider."
Focusing on even more cutting-edge technologies, SEW-Eurodrive's Bruchsal-based Ernst Blickle Innovation Center is exploring the field of electromobility, which is projected to make electric vehicles a practical and efficient means of transportation, particularly in the area of urban logistics.
This project will also be driven by SEW-Eurodrive's continuing innovations in inductive charging, which will enable electric vehicles to recharge without the use of cables. In this connection, it is for SEW-Eurodrive a matter of principle that its product and service portfolio follows the objective of ecological sustainability.
"We continuously adapt to the market - in the same way that as the global shift in demand sees various industries moving to Asia, we try to be steps ahead by expanding our capacity in the region," Sondermann says.
"This brings to the fore another reason to reinforce our China team: to play a more important role in global export as a platform to supply other markets, where we aim to grow our presence and partnerships."