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Ex-minister says China output still inadequate

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By Reuters | March 9th 2021
Employees work at a shoe factory in Lishui, Zhejiang province, in this January 24, 2013. [Reuters]

China is at least 30 years away from becoming a manufacturing nation of “great power”, a former industry minister said on Sunday, despite boasting the world’s most complete industrial supply chains.

In recent years, China has become the world’s top manufacturing nation, accounting for over a third of global output, driven by domestic demand to produce everything from motor vehicles to industrial machinery. But its industries’ heavy dependence on US high-tech products such as semiconductors constituted a strategic weakness.

“Basic capabilities are still weak, core technologies are in the hands of others, and the risk of ‘being hit in the throat’ and having ‘a slipped bike chain’ has significantly increased,” said Miao Wei, who was Minister of Industry and Information Technology for a decade before stepping down last year.

As the Chinese economy pivots towards a services-based model and polluting smoke-stack factories are mothballed, manufacturing output as a share of the economy has declined. In 2020, manufacturing accounted for slightly over a quarter of gross domestic product, the lowest since 2012.

“The ratio of manufacturing output to GDP has been declining too early and too quickly...,” said Miao, now a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the top advisory body to the government. 

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