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China’s industrialization 4.0 is turning ‘Made in China’ into ‘Created in China’

As more April data point to a loss of momentum, China Inc. is looking to technology and new urbanization to grow. At the 2017 annual meeting of the China Enterprise Confederation (CEC) in Zhuzhou, Hunan province this weekend, more than 1,000 heads of Chinese companies knocked out future strategies.

Zhuzhou is China’s cradle of industrialization, where the country’s first locomotive and first plane engine were produced. What goes for Zhuzhou goes for the rest of the country. That’s why the CEC chose Zhuzhou for its annual meetings.

The theme of this year’s meeting is “invigorating the real economy” – in light of companies reaping more profits from market speculation than their main business. And CEC’s Secretary General Zhu Hongren stressed the importance of invigorating the real economy, focusing more on strategic sectors like new energy vehicles, smart manufacturing, as well as new urbanization.

“We’re seeing the kickoff of the Thousand Specialty Towns project here, which aims to attract companies with their industrial specialties and clean environment,” said Zhu.

The most used word at the gathering was “upgrade”, even for the world’s largest gold foil company.

“We are working on fully automated gold foil machinery, we are applying for a patent and technology awards. We must go up a level,” said Jiang Baoquan, the chairman of Nanjing Goldfoil Group.

Meanwhile, China’s biggest manufacturer of pipes Jinzhou, which balances swings from the energy business with tourism, is also upgrading. 

“Now it’s not just sightseeing tourism, it’s tourism plus education, plus sport, plus health and wellbeing, plus culture. Tourism is upgrading. We want to create a tourism and anti-ageing center, using the natural environment and modern health technology,” said Jinzhou chairman Yu Jinfang.

For China’s fourth richest man and founder of the Wahaha drinks empire, Zong Qinghou, the virtual economy should serve the real economy. ‍

“Now it’s about the virtual economy taking money from our pockets and putting it into theirs. Looks like money comes fast, it goes fast too. If everyone strays from the real economy, we will be in trouble. For us, we haven’t gone into the virtual economy, we don’t need its support, because our cash flow is already good,” Zong stressed. 

For more opportunities from the real economy, the Belt and Road Initiative beckons.

“In Cambodia, we’re working to build a plant together. Also in Myanmar, governments there want us to work with their local companies. In the past we only exported products. Now we work together to build factories,” Jiang said.

China’s top train maker – CRRC – saw international orders jump 40 percent last year. That is just one example of China Inc.’s transformation through diversification, globalization, and digitalization. And that’s the sort of speed that China is bringing to the Belt and Road Initiative.