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On the 27th of October 2016, the 5th annual VDMA Mechanical Engineering Summit took place in the Renaissance Hotel in Shanghai. The VDMA Mechanical Engineering Summit is the main annual platform for VDMA members to gather around and network with each other. Like every year executives from all over the world get the opportunity to listen to speakers addressing important topics related to the Chinese economy and how it affects their businesses. Furthermore different subjects regarding the German mechanical engineering industry in China were discussed and multiple speeches from renowned speakers were held. This year’s lead topic was “Structural Changes in the Industry and Current Economic Policy Developments in China.”

Among the special guest speakers were Professor Zhang Jianping, Director General of the Center for Regional Economic Cooperation and Director General of the Institute for Western Asia and Africa and Professor Dr. Heilmann, founding president of the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Berlin, one of the largest international think tanks for research into contemporary China.

The increasing strength of Chinese companies might become a challenge for many German engineering firms. Both key note speakers gave insight on how the development might go on and what actions German firms should take in order to keep a position in the Chinese market. Members took advantage of the rare opportunity to ask the experts questions about policy changes and developments in the altering Chinese market, but also shared their experiences on how they dealt with several challenges in the past.

Both speakers analyzed current developments of economic policies and evaluated the consequences for the mechanical engineering industry. Professor Jianping was optimistic about the current situation in the Chinese market. He pointed out that the “Made in China 2025” initiative will offer several business opportunities between Chinese and German companies in the future. The Chinese professor underlined China’s determined ambitions in becoming one of the world leaders.

Professor Heilmann from the MERICS institute on the other hand was a little less optimistic about the Chinese plans. From his point of view the goals of “Made in China 2025” won’t be achievable without support from foreign technologies. Professor Heilmann argued that Chinese firms will not be able to satisfy the demand coming from the Chinese industry. MERICS is expecting a yearly growth rate of around 20-30% for products from the sector “Smart Manufacturing.”

In the afternoon session, the participants had the chance to learn from VDMA member companies on their practical experiences. Speakers from ViscoTech Greater China, StrikoWestofen Asia, and KUKA Industries China shared their thoughts on the leading topic structural changes. UNITY China, LMT Tools and Pfeiffer Vacuum talked about B2B communication with the dominant Chinese social media app “WeChat”.       

At the end of the summit, participants could follow the panel discussion on the topic of “The future of Mechanical Engineering in China – How will the Industry look like in 2025”. As usual, the summit ended with a dinner where participants took the chance to further exchange with each other about the event’s content and other business related topics.

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