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SHANGHAI — China began its decades-long economic ascent as the “workshop of the world” by taking advantage of cheap labor. Now it is spending big to swap those factory workers for high-tech robots.

The country’s investment in smart manufacturing in 2018 surged 46% on the year to 69.6 billion yuan ($10.1 billion), according to Marketing Intelligence Resource, a Beijing-based research firm specializing in industrial products. Smart manufacturing employs robotics, automation and other technologies to increase productivity and cut labor costs.

The number of subsidized investments remained unchanged at 100, while unsubsidized ones doubled to more than 1,000, according to MIR.

The push is part of “Made in China 2025,” an ambitious government plan to make the country a self-sufficient high-tech superpower. Robotics is a priority, as it is crucial to keeping the country’s industries competitive with global rivals. The government’s plan calls for raising the share of domestically made industrial robots to 70% by 2025, up from just over 30% in 2017.

Read more about Chinese robotics market here:

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