Opportunities of Industry 4.0 | China-ASEAN

By Wang Qin

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A technician performs preliminary tests on welding robots at an auto parts workshop in Cangzhou, Hebei Province on July 11, 2016.

The fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) is now making steady progress. It is considered another technological revolution following the steam technology revolution, electric technology revolution and information technology revolution. It is a trend towards automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies and processes which include the Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI), which will have a great impact on the traditional industrial structure and production pattern and reshape the global value chain and production network.

In recent years, China and ASEAN countries have developed relevant strategies and policies to promote domestic industrial restructuring and upgrading for the era of Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 Wave

China and ASEAN countries have successively formulated Industry 4.0 strategies and policies. Thanks to this existing structure, they can gradually facilitate cooperation on industrial complementarity, technological innovation and smart city construction to achieve complementary advantages and win-win results.

In 2017, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China first mentioned the notion of “high-quality development,” marking the start of the transition of the Chinese economy from high-speed growth to high-quality development. From the industrial perspective, high-quality development requires optimization of industrial layout, reasonable structure, continuous transformation and upgrading and significant improvements in the benefits of industrial development. High-quality development demands continuous technological innovation with expansion of industrial scale, especially in manufacturing industry— the heart of the real economy. Implementation of a high-quality development strategy will upgrade the structure of China’s real economy and improve its competitiveness. Quality and benefits are the focus of the transformation: It aims for maximum benefits with minimal cost for sustainable development. From the perspective of enterprise operation, high-quality development requires improvement of productivity and product performance with innovation to introduce new technologies, new models, new products, new formats and a move toward the medium-high end of the value chain.

Among ASEAN countries, Singapore was the first to focus on Industry 4.0. It announced Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015) and Smart Nation 2025 plans in June 2006 and June 2014, respectively, with the goal of building the world’s first smart country. In March 2016, the government of Singapore promulgated the Industry Transformation Program featuring Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) for 23 industries. The Ministry of Trade and Industry will fund evaluation of 300 multinational companies and small and medium-sized enterprises with the Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index developed by the Economic Development Board (EDB) to help them harness the potential of Industry 4.0.

In 2016, Thailand proposed the Thailand 4.0 strategy to support the development of 10 industries including next-generation automotive, smart electronics, advanced agriculture and biotechnology, digital industry, robotics, future food, biofuels and biochemicals, aviation and logistics, medical and wellness tourism and medical care. Meanwhile, the government of Thailand designated the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC) as strategic projects of Thailand 4.0 and new drivers of future economic development.

In April 2018, the government of Indonesia launched its roadmap for Industry 4.0. The plan named five sectors—electronics, automotive, textiles, food and chemicals—as priority areas involving the 10 cross-sectoral national initiatives.

In October 2018 shortly after his reelection, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad presided over the formulation of Malaysia’s national policy on Industry 4.0, Industry 4WRD, which aims to drive the digital transformation of manufacturing in Malaysia on the pillars of IIoT, AI, industrial robotics, cloud computing, industrial big data, industrial network security, 3D printing, knowledge work automation and virtual reality.

In September 2019, the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Vietnam adopted a resolution on several policies involving the nation’s participation in the fourth industrial revolution with a strategic vision to optimize opportunities brought by Industry 4.0. Specific targets include becoming ranked in the top three ASEAN countries in the Global Innovation Index (GII) by 2025 and earn a spot among the top 40 countries in the world in GII rankings by 2030. Digital economics is expected to account for 20 percent of Vietnam’s GDP by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030. The country is aiming to become a leading Asian hub for manufacturing, smart services, startups and innovation by 2045.

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Smart production line at a home textile factory in
Changsha, Hunan Province.

Better Cooperation

Using existing framework of Industry 4.0 strategies of China and ASEAN countries, the two sides can gradually synergize strategies to optimize cooperation in several ways.

First, synergizing the Industry 4.0 strategies of China and ASEAN will promote regional industrial restructuring and upgrading. China and ASEAN countries have successively formulated unique Industry 4.0 strategies and policies with roadmaps and timetables. Comparison of respective strategies and policies shows wide similarity in strategic objectives and vision as well as priorities, which opens new space for regional production capacity cooperation. China and ASEAN countries should synergize their Industry 4.0 strategies according to their respective national conditions and industrial conditions and promote bilateral or multilateral production capacity cooperation pragmatically and effectively to meet the individual needs of each country and region.

Second, designating keying areas for Industry 4.0 cooperation will enhance the effectiveness of production capacity cooperation. Based on existing cooperation programs, the two sides should promote the transformation of traditional industries and the development of emerging industries in the spirit of “meeting ASEAN’s needs with Chinese proficiency” to achieve complementary strengths and win-win results. New technologies such as AI, IoT and big data should be employed to promote industrial restructuring and upgrading. The two sides should endeavor to establish platforms for sharing experience in emerging industries such as modern communications, intelligent manufacturing, new energy, new materials and biomedicine. They should move forward with key projects with market potential, financial support and facilitated infrastructure to demonstrate the effects of regional production capacity cooperation.

Third, promotion of the China- ASEAN Science and Technology Partnership Program will provide technical support for the implementation of Industry 4.0. Within the framework of the program, the Ministry of Science and Technology of China has cooperated with relevant science and technology departments of ASEAN countries to set up eight joint laboratories and research centers: Joint Laboratory on High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor, China-Indonesia Joint Research Center for Port Construction and Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, China-Indonesia Joint Laboratory for Biotechnology, China-Thailand Railway System Joint Research Center, China-Cambodia Joint Laboratory for Food Industry, China- Malaysia Joint Laboratory for Halal Food, China-Laos Joint Laboratory for New and Renewable Energy and China-Myanmar Joint Laboratory for Radar and Satellite Communications. Through these joint facilities, China and ASEAN countries can establish long-term stable cooperative relations for joint research, talent exchange and cultivation, technology transfer and commercial use of scientific and research findings to provide technical conditions for the transformation of traditional industries and cooperation among emerging industries.

Finally, China and ASEAN countries should promote cooperation on smart city construction and explore methods of cooperation between regional smart cities. In 2006, Singapore started the Smart Nation 2025 program. In 2012, China launched a pilot national smart cities program, and two years later, construction of smart cities was included in the national strategic plan. So far, more than 500 Chinese cities have expressed interest in becoming smart, and many have done so already. In 2018, ASEAN launched the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) initiative which has attracted participation from 26 ASEAN cities.

The space for cooperation between China and ASEAN countries in building smart cities is large. On the basis of IoT, cloud computing, big data and spatial geographic information, construction of smart cities involves governments, contractors and various solution providers in domains of urban construction, transportation, intelligent industry, public service, ecology and residential life. The segmented market will create numerous business opportunities.

China and ASEAN countries should strengthen linkage and cooperation among major cities, industrial enterprises and scientific research institutions to encourage exploration of smart city construction and cooperation, establish bilateral or multilateral mechanisms for smart city cooperation, and accelerate training of specialized talent in smart city construction and management so as to quickly begin engaging in digital urban planning featuring smart infrastructure and convenient public services.

Layout by Tian Yuerong

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