BEIJING — Zhang Hao is a “chuangke” (maker), a group described by Premier Li Keqiang in his government work report on March 5, as “coming thick and fast.”
The rise of China’s makers is a result of government efforts to restructure industry to identify new drivers to boost the slowing economy, according to Premier Li’s report.
Makers are hands-on technology enthusiasts who use 3D printers, robotics, and other advanced tools to create pervasive products.
By using the word chuangke, Zhang said, makers have been marked out as more than just a creator, inventor or innovator. As the word has an entrepreneurial slant to it.
Entrepreneurship was also underscored by Li in his report, he said that paired with innovation these “twin engines” would drive development.
“Some makers are hobbyists, while others like me have a dream to realize,” said Zhang. “I want to make a robot cat that can serve you tea and do the laundry. It will be even cheaper than a car so every family can afford one.”
MORE THAN HONORABLE MENTION
Although the word chuangke appeared only once in the Premier’s work report, it is far more than an honorable mention.
During his inspection tour to Guangdong province in January, the Premier visited Chaihuo, where he was attracted by a robot that could roll over and had a robotic arm, its software had been made by young makers.
“Makers show the vitality of entrepreneurship and innovation among the people, and such creativity will serve as a lasting engine of China’s economic growth in the future,” Li said at Chaihuo.
“I will stoke the fire of innovation with more wood,” Li said, adding that people with workable creative ideas should be helped to set up their own businesses.
The government will establish a platform to offer low-cost services to innovative micro businesses and individual start-ups, according to a statement released after an executive meeting of the State Council presided over by the Premier in late January.
Liu Dezhi, head of Chaihuo Makerspace, said makers hoped that they would help shift the perception of China products from “Made in China” to “Made by China”.
“The maker’s philosophy is innovation without boundaries. ‘Freedom’ is the keyword. It means there are no limitations to what I do and how I do it,” Zhang Hao believes.
According to Wang Shenglin, CEO of Beijing Makerspace (BM), there are 40,000 to 50,000 makers in China, with most living in the big cities. Local networks and communities are integral collaborative spaces for these makers to learn and share.
Beijing Makerspace, a laboratory that houses about 300 makers in the capital, is located in the Zhongguancun National Innovation Demonstration Zone, where innovative policies are tested.
Niu Wenwen, Editor of The Founder, a magazine focusing on small and medium new enterprises, has seen the agony of “limitation” since starting his own company, which offers startup consultant services. He said many makers find it difficult to apply for a license.
“Entrepreneurs want less red tape, the government needs to issue policies that facilitate entrepreneurship and innovation, which will release more vitality,” Niu says.
Premier Li pledged in his report that the government would “drive scientific and technological innovation” with institutional innovation.
“We will do more to streamline administration and delegate more powers to lower-level governments and society while improving regulation,” he said. “Cuts to government power will be made to boost market vitality.”