China installed almost as many robots in its factories last year as the rest of the world, accelerating a rush to automate and consolidate its manufacturing dominance even as its working-age population shrinks, reports The Wall Street Journal. Shipments of industrial robots to China in 2021 rose 45% compared with the previous year to more than 243,000, according to data from the International Federation of Robotics, a robotics industry trade group.
China accounted for just under half of all installations of heavy-duty industrial robots last year, reinforcing the nation’s status as the Number 1 market for robot manufacturers worldwide. The IFR data shows China installed nearly twice as many new robots as did factories throughout the Americas and Europe.
Part of the explanation for China’s rapid automation is that it is simply catching up with richer peers. The world’s second-largest economy lags behind the US and manufacturing powerhouses such as Japan, Germany and South Korea in the prevalence of robots on production lines.