A story in today’s Wall Street Journal rehearses some facts that have been reported elsewhere (including in this essay on its own Op Ed page). But the key points of the article hold such important implications for China that they are worth considering carefully:
- In 2013, China overtook the United States to become the world’s largest market for industrial robots, according to the International Federation of Robotics.
- In 2015, Chinese manufacturers bought 67,000 robots, about a quarter of global robot sales.
- China’s demand for industrial robots is projected to more than double to 150,000 robots per year by 2018.
- In May, Chinese home-appliance maker Midea Group launched a $5 billion takeover bid for Kuka, Germany’s most innovative engineering firm, and now owns about 86% of the company.
There’s a big debate raging among experts now about how artificial intelligence and advanced robotics — trends that, thanks to a big branding push by Klaus Schwab and the good folks at the World Economic Forum this January is now often referred to as “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” or “Industry 4.0” — will affect China. Will China, the “world’s factory,” be blindsided from these technologies? Or will it benefit from them?