GT Voice: Probe of China’s shipyards sign of American peers’ bleak future

File Photo: VCG

File Photo: VCG

The Biden administration seems to see cracking down on the Chinese shipbuilding industry as a panacea for struggling shipyards in the US. However, isn’t the idea of forcing China to take the medicine for what ails the US merely further evidence of the bleak future of the American shipbuilding sector?

A Sunday report by the Financial Times, citing industry insiders, said that the US investigation into the Chinese maritime, logistics and shipbuilding industries, which could lead to duties for Chinese-built ships calling at US ports, may help shipyards in South Korea and Japan, but will probably do little to boost US shipyards.

Professionals in the shipbuilding and maritime industries could easily see the absurdity of the US fantasy to revive its dormant shipyards by attempting to suppress China. Even if the US were to cause Chinese shipyards to lose orders through port charges, it would not benefit the struggling US shipbuilding industry. Instead, it would only lead to higher maritime trade costs for the US. 

The fact that even American shipowners are reluctant to place orders at home is sufficient evidence to indicate the lack of competitiveness of the industry. For nearly 100 years, a federal law known as the Jones Act has restricted water transportation of cargo between US ports to ships that are built by American shipyards. 

According to Clarksons Research, American shipowners own about 3,000 Jones Act vessels, with an average age of 23.7 years, compared with the global fleet average of 12.7 years. 

Due to high costs, American shipowners have been slow to update their fleets, with more than half of the vessels being more than 25 years old, and 700 vessels even being more than 50 years old.

Against this backdrop, instead of trying to improve its industrial competitiveness, the US is trying to contain China’s manufacturing, a typical display of its hegemonic mindset. 

But the decline of the American shipbuilding industry cannot be reversed through protectionism or repression of others. The rise of China’s shipbuilding industry is an indisputable fact, which has been verified by the market. In 2023, China’s shipbuilding output climbed 11.8 percent year-on-year, accounting for 50.2 percent of the world’s total, while new orders surged 56.4 percent, taking up 66.6 percent of the world’s total, according to data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

By comparison, US commercial shipbuilding capacity is only 0.13 percent of the global total, according to the US Naval Institute.

It is regrettable that the success of China’s shipbuilding industry may have pricked some sensitive nerves in the US, leading to the accusation about China’s “unfair, non-market policies and practices.”

While there is nothing we can do about reviving the US shipbuilding industry, the fact that the decline has lasted for several decades may help relax the nerves of some people. How much worse could it be?

Let’s clarify a few more facts. The decline of America’s shipbuilding industry began in the 1980s, when American shipyards became dependent on government orders as the Reagan administration ended the commercial shipbuilding subsidy program in 1981. The 1980s saw the US shipbuilding industry shed 40,000 jobs, with the collapse of the commercial sector, according to Marine Link.

After that, Japan and South Korea dominated the global shipbuilding market for many years. It was not until 2010 that China’s shipbuilding sector became a rising star in the global market. 

Is blaming China a tactic the shipbuilding industry uses to get government support? Don’t industry players know how obsessed politicians in Washington are with the new topic of suppressing Chinese manufacturing and how evasive these people are about solving real industry problems?

This distorted attitude, which persists from the government to the industry, is perhaps the root cause of the downfall of the American shipbuilding sector. No one is willing to confront the real problems and find solutions, leading to an inevitable and self-inflicted decline in the industry.

Let’s see if the US strategy of blaming China can revitalize the industry. However, it is highly likely that this will negatively affect the US shipping industry. Ultimately, the key to treating an illness lies in finding the right remedy, not in paranoia and blaming others.

China’s logistics industry improves in March as economic recovery accelerates

Staff members load vehicles for export onto a carriage at the Ningde land port in Ningde, southeast China's Fujian Province, Feb. 8, 2024. The Ningde land port, with vehicle transportation railway lines and vehicle loading and unloading platforms, has served as a logistics distribution center and shipment hub for vehicles to be exported to global markets. Photo: Xinhua

Staff members load vehicles for export onto a carriage at the Ningde land port in Ningde, southeast China’s Fujian Province, Feb. 8, 2024. The Ningde land port, with vehicle transportation railway lines and vehicle loading and unloading platforms, has served as a logistics distribution center and shipment hub for vehicles to be exported to global markets. Photo: Xinhua

China’s logistics industry experienced a notable improvement in March, signaling a steady start to the first quarter and the overall recovery of the Chinese economy, industry data showed on Tuesday.

The nation’s logistics industry prosperity index rose to 51.5, marking a 4.4-point increase from the previous month and returning to the expansion zone, according to data from China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing on Tuesday.

All major sub-indices of China’s logistics sector saw an increase, with the business volume index, new order index, and inventory turnover index showing significant improvements. 

He Hui, chief economist with the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing, said that the accelerated resumption of work following the Chinese New Year break and heightened business activities along the supply chain have increased the demand for logistics in March, providing a good start for the first quarter.

Business volume for road logistics and postal express delivery picked up 4.7 points and 3.7 points respectively from February due to a significant growth in resident consumption and retail business.

The delivery of bulk commodities also picked up. In March the railway logistics index reached 53.5, up 1.8 points from February. The daily freight volume increased 5 percent from the January-February period.

Surveyed companies expressed optimism about future business activities, with the business activity expectation index reaching 55.3 in March, up 0.5 points from the previous month.

Fixed asset investment and operational efficiency in the logistics industry also improved in March, with a growing pace of infrastructure project starting and increased investment in information and digitalization upgrading.

China’s logistics industry is expected to remain in positive throughout the year, benefitting from a slew of policies to boost domestic demand, stabilize investment, and stimulate foreign trade, according to the federation.

The demand for industrial manufacturing and consumer goods trade-ins and demand for sectors such as information communication technology, new energy, equipment manufacturing, automotive manufacturing, and green low-carbon industries will further drive the logistics industry.

China’s factory data for March also show a bright start to the year, adding to an increasing number of economic indicators that point to an accelerating recovery of the Chinese economy.

The Caixin manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) on Monday reached 51.1 in March, 0.2 points higher than that in February and the highest level since March 2023. 

China’s official manufacturing PMI data on Sunday also reflected a positive picture for factory activity in March. The official manufacturing PMI stood at 50.8, returning to expansion territory for the first time since September 2023.

IDC: China’s GenAI sector investment surges, projected to reach $13 billion by 2027

AI Photo: VCG

AI Photo: VCG

Driven by rapid technological advancement, China is expected to see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 86.2 percent for generative artificial intelligence (AI) investment between 2022 and 2027, according to a newly released report from Research firm IDC, showcasing the robust prospects of the country’s high-tech sector.

Thanks to the government’s rising efforts to accelerate high-quality development, China’s generative AI spending is set to reach 33 percent of the world’s AI investment by 2027, up from 4.6 percent in 2022 with the generative AI investments probably reaching $13 billion, according to the report.

China’s performance is outstanding amid overall global growth in the industry, which is projected to reach $512.42 billion by 2027, with a CAGR of 31.1 percent, IDC forecasted in its Worldwide Artificial Intelligence Spending Guide.

The report also underscored China’s leading position in AI investment within the Asia-Pacific region, surpassing half of the total investment in the region. As of 2027, China`s AI investment is set to exceed $40 billion, representing a CAGR of 25.6 percent. 

Generative AI is poised to become a pivotal technology in enterprise automation. Banking, retail, software, and information services are cited as the top three spenders driving its innovation and growth, collectively constituting nearly a third of the market, according to the report.

Since 2014, China’s AI development has been accelerating, driven by the surging application demand within the domestic market. According to an official with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), China’s AI industry output value reached 580 billion yuan ($80.23 billion) in 2023, up 18 percent year-on-year. The number of major AI-related enterprises has exceeded 4,400, ranking second in the world.

China’s AI development has been rising rapidly amid the government’s ramped-up efforts to develop new quality productive forces. The country has announced a slew of plans to enhance industrial innovation, and accelerate AI-driven manufacturing, led by large language models, to speed up the establishment of a modern industrial system, an official from MIIT said recently.

Global Times