Source: Global Times Published: 2018-12-13
China will not give up its pursuit of technological progress through industrial transformation, even if it makes some changes to the "Made in China 2025" initiative, Chinese experts said on Thursday.
The comments came as media reports said China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is revising the plan, including postponing some aspects by a decade and allowing greater access for foreign companies. China and the US are currently working on a trade deal during a 90-day truce, and the "Made in China 2025" initiative is deemed controversial by the US.
The initiative seeks to boost progress in 10 key sectors from robotics to renewable energy, and has been a key concern for the US amid trade tensions with China.
A State Council circular on the central government's incentive measures for local governments posted on Monday dropped certain clauses for fostering the "Made in China 2025" plan that had appeared in its appraisal list back in 2016.
Zhang Yansheng, chief research fellow with the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, a think-tank under the NDRC, said China will never give up its efforts to upgrade manufacturing, as this is a core interest for China and will not be compromised in any negotiations.
His comment was backed up in a statement released after a meeting of the top decision-making body of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Thursday.
China will continue to promote high-quality growth of the manufacturing industry as a top priority for 2019, according to the meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. The meeting studied economic and other policies for 2019.
"However, it would not surprise me if China takes a practical and realistic approach to address issues where its partner in negotiations has concerns," Zhang said.
"There are some misunderstandings about the policy by foreign governments and companies," Zhang said, noting that allowing wider access for foreign firms in core sectors is in accordance with China's development concept of seeking growth through shared opportunity.
In a June report by the US Trade Representative, the agency directly linked the "Made in China 2025" initiative with alleged Chinese efforts to undermine the US' high-tech industries and economic leadership. This has led to the US levying tariffs on related sectors.
Wan Zhe, chief economist with the International Cooperation Center of the NDRC, said the pursuit of industrial upgrading is a natural and inevitable step for China as the country moves forward socially and economically.
"As with all plans, it is natural that they get updated according to the circumstances and to keep abreast with the times. It would be an incorrect interpretation to see this as an answer to a demand by another country," Wan told the Global Times on Thursday.
Mei Xinyu, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Thursday that it is impossible for China to give up its right to development but it is possible that a guideline policy such as "Made in China 2025" could get some fine-tuning according to the real situation.
At the moment, "the passion for industrial and manufacturing upgrading and moving up the value chain is at an all-time high in different provinces and cities of China," Mei said.
"The US puts its energy into forcing others to give up their rights to development rather than looking for ways to boost its inner strength. It has forfeited its status as China's teacher," Mei added.
China has taken steps this week to address some US concerns, including a reported plan to cut tariffs on US cars from 40 to 15 percent and plans to buy US soybeans. Last week, China also vowed to strengthen protection of intellectual property.
Cong Yi, a professor at the Tianjin University of Finance and Economics and an expert on industrial policy, told the Global Times that many Chinese experts are not surprised at the media reports that China is revising the "Made in China 2025" initiative.
"Even if China revises the plan, China's industry policies will still exist for the 10 major emerging industries," Cong noted.
Wan Zhe is a visiting fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.