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Fuyao Glass Industry Group founder and owner Cao Dewang speaks at the SCMP China Conference in Hong Kong on November 2, 2015.

US-China tech war: Fuyao Glass owner Cao Dewang of American Factory fame to build a science and technology university

  • Cao Dewang, who rose to international fame after being featured in American Factory documentary, plans to invest US$1.5 billion in building a new university
  • Fuyao University of Science and Technology aims to bridge cooperation between applied and research science and technology

Cao Daweng, the Chinese billionaire founder of Fuyao Glass Industry Group made famous by the Oscar-winning 2019 documentary American Factory, is planning to invest 10 billion yuan (US$1.54 billion) to build a technology university in China, as the country pushes for self-reliance amid a protracted tech war with the US.

“Fuyao University of Science and Technology is being established to cultivate applied and technical talent for the country’s economy and advanced manufacturing industry,” said Cao-founded Heren Charity Foundation, which will lead the project, in a statement on Sunday.

Located in Fuzhou, the capital city of China’s southeastern Fujian province and home to Fuyao’s headquarters, the new university plans to enrol 3,000 to 5,000 students from across the country, focusing on bridging the skills gap between the laboratory and the real world, according to local media Fuzhou News.

Billing itself as a “cradle of engineers”, Fuyao University of Science and Technology intends to adopt educational best practices from Europe, the US, Japan and South Korea, and will seek to cooperate with top-tier global universities.

Cao Dewang, the founder of China’s largest car glassmaker Fuyao Glass Industry Group (fifth to left), plans to establish a technology university in his hometown of Fuzhou, China. Photo: Handout

The Chinese government has repeatedly stressed the importance of technological self-reliance, as the US and China, the world’s two largest economies, battle to lay claim on the key technologies of the future.

“The tech war is likely to evolve into one that controls technology categories more than particular companies,” wrote Dan Wang, technology analyst at consultancy Gavekal Dragonomics, in a report published on Tuesday.

During China’s key annual political meetings in March, known as the “ two sessions”, the national legislature said it would increase spending on basic research by 10.6 per cent this year. Investment in research and development would grow at an annual rate of at least 7 per cent over the next five years, according to Beijing’s policy blueprint.

Calls for self-sufficiency have become increasingly urgent after more Chinese tech companies came under US sanctions, including telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co, world-leading drone maker DJI, home-grown chip champion Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, as well as artificial intelligence start-ups SenseTime and Megvii.

Fuyao’s business has also been adversely affected by the US-China trade war.

The Hong Kong-listed car window manufacturer had paid more than US$11 million in extra duties after the US imposed punitive tariffs on vehicle parts, according to the company’s 2019 annual report.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Fuyao Glass founder eyes technology university