According to the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), humanoid robots could constitute a “disruptive innovation,” similar to computers, smartphones, and green energy-powered vehicles. This term refers to an innovation that eventually replaces a previously dominant technology in the market and/or creates an entirely new category of products or services. Such technology has the potential to reshape global industrial development models.
Becoming the Global Leader by 2027
While China surpassed the United States in industrial robotics in 2021, it currently ranks fifth among the most automated countries worldwide. As part of this new initiative, the country aims to establish a robust ecosystem of humanoid robot innovation and make breakthroughs in several key related technologies. This would ensure a safe and efficient supply of basic components by 2025 for mass production of finished products. MIIT hopes that, starting from that date, international competitiveness will be established, allowing China to become the global leader in the field by 2027.
The primary goal of deploying robots will be to revitalize the manufacturing sector to address the challenges posed by an aging population. Competition with the United States, which imposes significant trade restrictions on China, is another factor driving this effort.
According to MIIT’s guidelines, various sectors such as healthcare, home services, agriculture, and logistics are expected to see increased use of humanoid robots. These robots could serve as assistants or provide physical assistance to people with mobility challenges, significantly improving production efficiency in the latter two sectors.
Furthermore, MIIT urges industry professionals to focus on the “brain” (embedded computer) of robots and optimize limb mobility, leveraging the latest advances in AI and engineering. These robots must be capable of working in challenging and dangerous conditions. It’s worth noting that robotization initiatives have already emerged in the country, particularly in firefighting and law enforcement services, with the ultimate goal of enhancing autonomy and efficiency.
Resistance to Change and the “Uncanny Valley”
While the technology enabling this transformation is nearly ready, its deployment is a source of societal concern, not just in terms of potential job displacement. Psychologists suggest that the physical and behavioral resemblance of humanoid robots to humans can evoke feelings of discomfort and rejection, a phenomenon known as the “Uncanny Valley,” which alone could increase resistance to change.
To overcome these challenges, China plans to improve industrial standards and allocate resources for testing future robots. The country is committed to supporting sectoral development through tailored policies, the training of new talents, and international collaborations. The Chinese government also aims to contribute to the establishment of global standards governing this emerging industry, with specialized laboratories, industry organizations, and open-source support communities in the works.