Beijing industry minister says no discrimination against foreign companies

China brushes away concerns of foreign firms that manufacturing blueprint will leave them at a disadvantage

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 March, 2017, 1:49pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 March, 2017, 11:58pm

China’s Industry Minister Miao Wei brushed aside foreign firms’ concerns on Saturday that Beijing’s programme to upgrade its industry would become a market barrier.

He made the remarks in response to a detailed analysis by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, which lashed out against “the problematic” Made in China 2025 initiative to move up China’s industry base, saying it hurt foreign companies.

China rolled out Made in China 2025 two years ago, aiming to develop home-grown high-tech expertise in 10 key industries and become a tech superpower by 2025. The EU chamber voiced worries about the government subsidies for local companies and forced technology transfers in exchange for market access.

“The [chamber’s] report is very long, 58 pages with the Chinese version, and I spent three days reading it,” said Miao, head of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

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“Generally speaking, the proposals it raised are helpful for our work, but there are some misinterpretations on Made in China 2025,” he said.

Miao said the initiative would continue its market orientation but “government guidance” was also needed, a common practice worldwide.

“We did not deliberately pursue market share when we drew up the document,” Miao said. He said the market shares cited in the chamber report were from a green paper from the National Manufacturing Strategy Advisory Committee, a government-backed think tank, which specified that those indicators are only estimates, not mandated targets.

“Made in China 2025 is open to all firms operating in China and treats domestic and foreign firms on a fair basis,” Miao said.

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“I hope the EU chamber correctly interprets the report,” Miao said. He also said the government does not force foreign companies to transfer their technology.

Foreign business lobby groups have complained about the increasing unfriendly business climate in China, such as rising protectionism and regulatory ambiguity.

“Foreign-funded firms are also an important component of the Chinese economy and they should also enjoy equal treatment. I want to reiterate once again, there is no discriminative policy against foreign firms,” Miao said.

He encouraged foreign firms to expand their investment in high-end manufacturing and environment-friendly manufacturing sectors.

A document released by China’s State Council in January, soon after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, said the nation would continue its opening up. Foreign business communities called on Beijing to “walk the talk”, rather than just making pledges on paper.

Despite its rising economic power, Beijing still faces an awkward situation in which its citizens prefer products from overseas, ranging from diapers to toilet seats.

Miao said China should develop strong domestic brands and boost its exports.