China is on its way to turn itself from the “Factory of the World” to the “Smart Factory of the World.” The goal of the upgrade is to replace low-skilled labor with high-tech machines and solutions. The Chinese government aims to automate its manufacturing with nation-wide initiatives such as “Made in China 2025” and to make it smarter with the “Internet Plus” plan.

But is China ready to enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Despite the apparent lack of talent, core technology, and key components, one of the main pillars of the Made in China 2025 plan—robotics —has already begun to show results. Today, with government support more than 20 provinces and cities throughout the country have made robots a key industry; there are now more than 800 robotics enterprises in China (although the actual success of these companies is a subject of debate).

But upgrading industry doesn’t just mean bringing in shiny new machines to replace workers; it’s also about making industrial work smarter, faster, and better. This requires implementing the next big step: automatization with the help of big data, cloud computing, AI, and the Internet of Things (IoT). China hopes that its growth in Industry 4.0 will be exponential rather than linear, crossing one big gap with a single step. However, according to a recent analysis by IT consulting company Capgemini, China is still lagging behind most Western industries and even India in the smart factory initiative.

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Masha Borak

Masha Borak is a technology reporter based in Beijing. Write to her at masha.borak [at] technode.com. Pitches with the word "disruptive" will be ignored. Read a good book - learn some more adjectives.