Beijing continues to play down ‘Made in China 2025’, saying world should take ‘objective’ view

Country has conducted a strict compliance assessment of the programme according to the rules of the World Trade Organisation, ministry says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 July, 2018, 10:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2018, 3:58pm

Beijing continued to play down its technological ambitions on Tuesday, in an apparent effort to avoid antagonising the US, saying that its plan for industrial and technological upgrading should be viewed “objectively” by the international community.

At a half-yearly briefing on the country’s industrial developments, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology made only muted references to “Made in China 2025”, despite describing it just six months earlier as having witnessed a raft of “significant and symbolic achievements”.

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When asked by the South China Morning Post whether the programme was still on track, ministry spokesman Huang Libin said it was a long-term strategy that needed to be treated objectively and without bias by the global community.

“[China] has conducted a strict compliance assessment [of the plan] according to the rules of the World Trade Organisation and China’s pledge on joining the WTO,” he said, adding that many countries, including the US, had developed similar programmes.

The tone of the briefing was very much in keeping with suggestions made recently by Zhong Wei, a professor at Beijing Normal University.

In a report published by the Post in June, he said that if Beijing wanted to ease concerns about its global ambitions, it should stop touting the Made in China initiative as a development strategy and instead present it simply as a guideline for upgrading its manufacturing sector.

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The plan, which was unveiled by Premier Li Keqiang in 2015, is intended to guide the country’s industrial modernisation, including replacing foreign technologies with home-grown alternatives in areas such as robotics and electric cars.

It has certainly been a thorny issue between Beijing and Washington. When the White House threatened to impose 25 per cent tariffs on US$50 billion of goods imported from China – the bulk of which went into force on July 6 – it said they would apply to products “containing industrially significant technology, including those related to ‘Made in China 2025’”.

Is it time Beijing ditched ‘Made in China 2025’ and stopped upsetting the rest of the world?

Meanwhile, Huang said that China’s trade dispute with the US had yet to have a significant effect on the economy.

“We hear complaints from [Chinese] companies that US clients have requested a suspension of orders and deliveries, but so far it has had only a limited impact on the industrial sector,” he said.