BEIJING — China’s tech industry development plan released nearly two years ago has unexpectedly become the target of finger-pointing this week.
A European business group criticized the strategy, named “Made in China 2025,” in a lengthy report that said China’s support for its ten high-tech manufacturing sectors would lead to worsening treatment for foreign companies, while allowing government-subsidized homegrown players to compete unfairly.
A media report called the plan a “threat to foreign firms,” adding to concerns about China’s business environment.
The assertion, seemingly reasonable, does not appear to be true.
China had long granted multinationals privileges unimaginable to native businesses, including huge tax breaks and subsidies. Local authorities, especially those in less-developed regions, provided even more generous policies, such as free land use.
“Super-national treatment” used to be a popular term in China to describe such exclusive preferential policies.
Now the special treatment is being gradually repealed as the government lets the market to decide, but more critical economic areas are open to global investors and free trade zones have been established.
“China’s door is going to keep on opening wider,” Premier Li Keqiang reassured foreign firms when addressing national lawmakers at the beginning of March.
Premier Li promised the same preferential policies under China’s manufacturing improvement program for domestic and foreign players, in addition to equal treatment in license applications, standards-setting and government procurement.
For foreign-funded firms, countless Chinese workers in processing industries have for decades created considerable profits to receive low salaries.
Suffering from lackluster global markets, an increasing number of multinationals are starting to regard the rapidly-growing Chinese market as a way to boost business growth.
Global industry leaders have reasons to be afraid of eroding their competitive edge as the rise of Chinese tech firms will break their monopolies on technology.
But competition is healthy and will improve productivity and quality, and bring benefits to consumers around the globe.
China’s aim as a manufacturing power will not harm the interests of foreign companies; on the contrary, it will generate more opportunities for cooperation and mutual growth.
The market will be highly respected, and companies will be free to make their own choices without intervention, no matter in M&As or technology transfers. For example, subsidies have been reduced significantly for electric vehicle producers.
Last but not the least, China is steering to a more sophisticated growth path, which is an inevitable link of economic development.
It is unreasonable to count on China to keep driving the world economy on the one hand and malign its efforts to seek sustainable impetus from technological improvements on the other.
Finger-pointing can never be boon to corporate profits and economic advance. Only through unremitting innovation and reform can the world blaze a trail to the future, as China is doing.