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China aims for robot leadership in new five-year plan

21 January, 2022

China has released a new five-year plan for its industrial robotics industry, aimed at making it a global leader. Already China has the largest number of installed industrial robots (943,200 in 2020) and is the world’s biggest market for robots, with 168,377 new robots being installed in 2020. But most of these (73%) were from non-Chinese manufacturers, with domestic manufacturers accounting for just 27% of the robots shipped – a total of 45,347.

The new five-year plan published by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), focuses on promoting innovation and making China a global leader for robot technology.

“The new five-year plan leads the digital development and intelligent upgrading in China and also helps to promote the global robot technology progress,” says Song Xiaogang, executive director and secretary-general of the China Robot Industry Alliance.

Just five years ago, China was 25th in the global league of robot users with 49 robots per 10,000 manufacturing employees. Now it has risen to ninth position with 246 robots per 10,000.

According to the most recent figures from International Federation of Robotics (IFR), in 2020, installations of robots from non-Chinese manufacturers – mainly imported from Japan, Korea and Europe – grew by 24% to reach 123,030 machines. This number also includes robots produced in China by non-Chinese suppliers.

Anniual installations of industrial robots in China (1,000s) showing the breakdown between foreign and local suppliers
Source: IFR World Robotics 2021

In the five years from 2015 to 2020, the number of robots sold each year in China grew by an average of 20%. Unlike in other countries where the automotive sector has traditionally been the biggest buyer of industrial robots, in China handling operations accounted for the lion’s share of robot sales in 2020 (42%). This was followed by welding (21%), the electrical/electronics sector (37%), and then the automotive industry with just 16%.

China’s stock of operational robots has been growing even faster than the sales numbers with a CAGR of 30% from 2015-2020. The growth rate slowed slightly in 2020 when about 943,200 robots were installed – 21% more than in 2019.

IFR:  Twitter  LinkedIn

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