Private firms catching up with State counterparts in realizing China’s civil-military agenda: experts

By Ma Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/11 16:58:39

Private firms catching up with State counterparts in realizing country’s civil-military agenda: experts

Visitors take a close look at military aircraft models exhibited during a high-tech expo held in Mianyang, Southwest China's Sichuan Province on Saturday. Photo: IC

Civil-military integration (CMI) has been a national strategy and a priority within China's leadership agenda since 2012. In February, the Chinese government launched a campaign to review and update regulations related to CMI. Global Times reporter Ma Jun recently attended a CMI forum in Mianyang, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, where industry observers shared their insights on the topic and suggestions on how private companies could better compete with their State-owned counterparts.

China's private firms are now participating more in the R&D of the defense and military industry, and the achievements of civil-military integration (CMI) were on vivid display during the 6th China (Mianyang) Science & Technology City International High-Tech Expo.

The CMI-themed event was held in Mianyang, Southwest China's Sichuan Province - the birthplace of Chinese atomic and hydrogen bombs as well as artificial satellites - from Thursday to Sunday.

CMI generally refers to including private producers on a Chinese military supplier's list and exchanging technologies in the military and defense industries with the civilian sector.

The Global Times noticed that the expo, for the first time, had set up a BeiDou technology application pavilion to showcase the country's very first homegrown dual-frequency BeiDou chips, which are able to support super-accurate positioning for smartphones.

Other cutting-edged innovations unveiled during the event included a meteorological rocket thruster, an AEF100 spiral mixer and a laser detector.

Meanwhile, a total of 8,300 items related to CMI were displayed at the exhibition, up 17 percent from last year, the People's Daily reported over the weekend.

Industry insiders attending the expo agreed that CMI in China is transitioning from the early stages to in-depth cooperation. In fact, the country has been actively promoting the integration of military and civilian R&D, making it a national strategy in 2012 so as to boost China's ability to innovate in the field of military technologies.

But Wang Hongguang, a retired lieutenant general of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), said that in the process of CMI in China, military enterprises still play a dominating role and private capital has been "discriminated" against.

The main reason behind this is that "traditionally, private enterprises were not as strong as their State counterparts, which not only monopolized resources but also rode on policy booms," said Liu Yadong, editor-in-chief of the Science and Technology Daily.

However, Liu stressed that after 40 years of reform and opening-up, some private companies have already made major breakthroughs in core technologies in the military industry and have also effectively tackled certain "bottleneck issues" in weapon and equipment manufacturing.

As such, "when purchasing military equipment, the buyers, or the PLA, should treat military enterprises and their peers in private sectors equally… Whoever produces the best military products should win the order," Wang noted.

Unique advantages

Experts at the forum admitted that compared with State-owned military enterprises, private firms lack competitive advantages in traditional military sectors such as machinery and electronics.

"But things are becoming different in the high-tech sectors… We could name a few such as artificial intelligence, robotics, unmanned equipment, telecommunication, wearable devices, satellite application, new energy and new materials," Wang said.

Private firms have an overwhelming edge in high-tech sectors because they are well-informed of the latest breakthroughs in the world and could also cooperate with foreign companies and learn from them to accelerate research, according to Wang.

State-owned military firms, in contrast, could face a field of hurdles in global cooperation.

Wang also suggested that to snap up market shares, private firms should actively approach the PLA and recommend their new technologies, rather than "sit and wait" for the orders to come.

Observers also pointed out that those private players are more application-driven and would take into account practicability problems as well as support facilities and technologies when launching new projects.

"In fact, Chinese firms have yielded significant research results in recent years, but the State giants are having a hard time translating them into applications as some theoretical findings are 'disconnected and isolated.' And it was not until the State military enterprises initiated new projects that they could realize such issues," Zhao Zhenxing, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told the Global Times on Friday, indicating that private firms have the ability to see the broader picture.

Newspaper headline: China’s CMI mission


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