Harbin-ger of change

Updated: 2011-06-03 11:37

By  Lu Chang and Tian Xuefei (China Daily European Weekly)

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Harbin-ger of change
Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province and one of China's old industrial bases, is transforming itself into a modern, high-tech and manufacturing hub. Zhao Tianhua / for China Daily

Old industrial center looks to innovation to move up the value chain

Crowds cheered when the group of eight contestants appeared on stage, under neon lights and dancing to music as part of the China's Got Talent show. It was just like any popular TV talent program, with one major difference - these were 30-cm tall robot dancers equipped with computers, sensors and batteries.

The robots could do more than dance. They mimicked other human movements like picking up trash, serving dishes and performing gymnastics.

The team behind the performance is from the robotic research lab in the Harbin Institute of Technology, in the capital city of Northeast China's Heilongjiang province.

Harbin-ger of change
A worker welds equipment at the Harbin Hafei Airbus Composite Manufacturing Center. Provided to China Daily

They are part of Harbin's major economic transformation from an old industrial base to a modern, high-technology and manufacturing hub.

The city's economy has relied mostly on heavy industry, with traditional strengths in mining and equipment manufacturing.

But with the country implementing strategies to rejuvenate old industrial bases in the three northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning, Harbin authorities are pushing for a major change - by making local companies innovators of modern technology.

The goal is to move away from mere equipment manufacturing to high-tech industrialization.

"The local companies, especially in the aircraft manufacturing sector, are climbing up the value chain," Harbin mayor Lin Duo says.

"We will continue to provide more support in science and technology as the major driving force in the local economy and create a fair competition environment for these companies."

Harbin Aircraft Industry (Group) Co Ltd (Hafei), a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), is already making technological breakthroughs by cooperating with foreign companies that help put Harbin on the world map.

Hafei, a leading aerospace manufacturer in China, set up a manufacturing center with plane-making giant Airbus to produce composite material components for the A350 XWB.

"The inauguration of the manufacturing center demonstrates that we are well prepared for the production of the A350 XWB components. It's our pleasure and honor to be involved in the production of the world's most advanced aircraft and to become an integrated part of the global supply chain of Airbus," says Li Fangyong, vice-president of the AVIC.

The 33,800-square-meter state-of-the-art facilities are the first of what will be an 80,000-sq-m manufacturing compound, comprising production, technical support, office areas and other services. It is also an exclusive supplier for A350 rudders, elevators and maintenance doors.

Production of these parts will start in the first half of 2011 after the initial industrialization phase is completed in Europe.

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