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The future of Chinese industry may rest on the shoulders of humanoid robots if the country can meet official new goals pushing mass production by 2025 and attaining world-advanced level in the technology by 2027.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), Beijing’s ministry overseeing the country’s industrial sector, published a nine-page guideline on its website on Thursday, saying that China’s humanoid robots should “realise mass production by 2025”.
MIIT said China would aim to “establish a humanoid robot innovation system, make breakthroughs in several key technologies and ensure the safe and effective supply of core components” by 2025.
By 2027, humanoid robots should “become an important new engine of economic growth” in China, the ministry urged.
The document required that by that time, “the technological innovation of humanoid robots will be significantly improved, a safe and reliable industrial supply chain system will be formed, an industrial ecology with international competitiveness will be constructed and our comprehensive strength will reach the world’s advanced level”.
The document is China’s latest attempt to accelerate the development of its local robotics industry and promote tech self-reliance amid fierce competition with the US in key technology areas, such as chips.
China has already made progress in industrial robotics, overtaking the US for the first time in 2021 to become the fifth most automated country in the world, according to the World Robotics 2022 Report released by the International Federation of Robotics.
According to the guidelines released on Thursday, industries such as healthcare, home services, agriculture and logistics are expected to see a rise in the use of robots.
At the beginning of the document, MIIT said humanoid robots were likely to become another “disruptive innovation” following computers, smartphones, and new energy vehicles that may profoundly change production and the way humans live “and reshape the pattern of global industrial development”.
The policy document also required the industry to focus on the “brain”, “cerebellum” and “limbs” of humanoid robots, led by breakthroughs in artificial intelligence such as large-language models. It urged the robot industry to accelerate the development of humanoid robots for use in harsh and dangerous conditions.
Enhancing the capabilities of humanoid robots in the manufacturing sector was also a priority, according to the document.
The ministry added that China would improve industry standards and product-testing capabilities, as well as build laboratories, industry organisations and open-source communities to serve the humanoid robotic industry.
It also vowed to help develop the industry with improved policies and talent training and international cooperation.
With any eye to setting world standards for the nascent industry, China would take part “in international rule and standard setting and contribute ‘Chinese wisdom’ to the development of the global humanoid robot industry”, MIIT said in a separate interpretation of the guidelines, also published on its website on Thursday.
Beijing is keen to boost its advanced manufacturing sector and improve self-reliance in the face of US restrictions. A declining population and weak economic growth further fuel these efforts.