A year of first experience with China
Twice Chinese mainland for lectures and interviews in Beijing, Jinan and Sanya, once Taipei, Taiwan, for lecture and workshop - 2015 for me was a year of intensive familiarization and immersion into an unknown world. What is of interest for the Chinese government and industry in our campaign "Industrie 4.0"? What means "Made in China 2025"? Are there potential synergies in the cooperation of the two initiatives? And how could that look like? I am far from having the answers. But a first idea I have.
Since it became clear in recent years that the unrestrained expansion based on cheap mass production for export has come to its end, the Chinese government has decided to change direction. With the next five-year plan starting 2016 and with the campaign "Made in China 2025", which is the first of three adopted ten-year plans, a new stage of industrialization is to be tackled. The State Council declared in May 2015, the goal is to be the number 1 industry nation in the world in 2049, when China celebrates the centenary of the birth of the People's Republic. Therefore the Chinese industry is to develop from quantity to quality, from simple low cost production to some high-tech German-style industry.
Is this realistic? I think it is a very ambitious project. But I do not consider impossible that it succeeds. The Chinese industry is in very different stages of development. In some areas, it is at least as far as the German. In high speed train Chinese type, with which I drove from Beijing to Jinan, I did not feel to be driving with more than 300 kilometers per hour. At the same time, other sectors - probably most – are likely at the stage of industrialization, which we reached at the beginning of the last century.
Even where the industry is at a high level, it is dependent on many components from suppliers from the classical industry nations. By 2020, 40% of all parts and all material shall come from China, by 2025 70%. This is also part of "Made in China 2025".
In interviews by television and Xinhuanet I was asked whether a new stage of industrialization brings additional environmental pollution and smog worse than that I have seen in Beijing and Jinan in December. I think there is a great opportunity to combine industry 4.0 with a significant reduction of resource and energy waste. And if that is the basis for further industrialization in China, not only the Chinese have some benefit.
In my talks in December, I have formulated two suggestions relating to the cooperation between Germany and China. On the one hand a visa agreement should allow a long-term presence of Chinese professionals in Germany. The interest of hundreds of thousands of Chinese people in Industrie 4.0, as it is reflected in the sales figures of my book, would apply on a massive lack of relevant professionals in Germany. On the other hand, the partially pre-industrial situation in China could be seen as a green field on which the future of the digital factory could properly be planned and built from the scratch. For our technology it would be an invaluable test and piloting field. For China it would mean the opportunity to skip our learning phase of the last hundred years.
In Germany, unfortunately, the discussion about Industrie 4.0 is increasingly drifting towards "even more effective automation". And the Internet of Things as the future operating area of innovative products and services, at the strategic level it is often rather left to the big US corporations. Maybe a closer cooperation with the Chinese industry and its government will help to correct this course a little bit. In this case the industry location Germany could become a first class technology supplier.