China says disputes with the US over new vehicle technologies can be solved through talks

Workers inspect Baojun E100 all-electric battery cars at a final assembly plant operated by General Motors Co and its local joint-venture partners in Liuzhou, China, on Dec 27, 2017.
Workers inspect Baojun E100 all-electric battery cars at a final assembly plant operated by General Motors Co and its local joint-venture partners in Liuzhou, China, on Dec 27, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING: Citing over three decades of "fruitful" Sino-US collaboration on technology research, China's top science official said yesterday that any problems arising between the US and China in the area of new vehicle technologies can be solved through talks.

With global trade protectionism on the rise, Chinese Minister for Science and Technology Wan Gang was asked about the latest tweets by Tesla CEO Elon Musk who urged US President Donald Trump to look at the trade imbalance in electric vehicles (EV) and related fields.

Mr Musk noted on Friday (09/03) that American cars were subject to a 25 per cent import duty in China, compared to 2.5 per cent for Chinese cars entering the US.

China welcomed EV makers from around the globe, including the US, to enter its market and provide consumers with more diverse options, said Mr Wan, noting that brands such as BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, GM and Ford have already done so.

"They produce EVs in China through joint ventures, and enjoy the same treatment (as local car makers)," said Mr Wan.

The Trump administration, which disagrees, has criticised China's industrial policy, saying rules such as that of having to set-up joint ventures with a local partner to gain access to its market were designed to force the transfer of US technology to Chinese firms.

The US said on Wednesday  (07/03) that it was mulling penalties against China, pending the result of a US Trade Representative's office investigation into Beijing's intellectual property practices.

Europe has also in recent years grown wary of the rising number of Chinese takeovers of its firms, fearing that they could unlock access to its critical technologies.

Last July, Germany issued new rules that gave its government more powers to block foreign acquisitions, following two consecutive years of record Chinese investments in its companies - €9.1 billion ($14.75b) in 2016 and €11 billion ($17.83b) last year.

China has the largest car market in the world, and is determined to be the world leader in the next generation of automotive technology. Domestic makers account for less than half of sales in conventional models, but have over 90 per cent market share in EVs at home.

Some 770,000 EVs were sold in China last year, and the 1.6 million EVs it now has on its roads accounts for half the world's share, said Mr Wan.

On Saturday, Mr Wan emphasised China's commitment to international collaboration in the area of science and technology, pointing to its growing number of overseas innovation centres as well as the partnership agreements it has signed with 158 countries.

Beijing will also push for global collaboration in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) research, he said, while continuing domestic reforms to cut red tape and spur innovation.

"AI is an international trend," he said. "We need to strengthen international cooperation and support China's AI companies and institutes to work globally with others and play their roles in key fields."