How does "primary school apprentice" grow into "partner"?

Two stories of "introduction, digestion, absorption and innovation"

Newspaper reporter Han Weizheng


In May 5, 2017, C919 flew first at Shanghai Pudong International Airport.
Xinhua News Agency reporter Ding Ting photo

The "Fuxing" EMU is assembled on the assembly line.
Xinhua News Agency reporter Li Ziheng photo

C919 is parked in the assembly workshop of China Shanghai commercial aircraft Co., Ltd.
Xinhua News Agency reporter Ding Ting photo

In the past 40 years of reform and opening up, "introduction, digestion, absorption and innovation" has been one of the important ways to narrow the gap between China's technology industry and foreign countries. It was born in the early days of reform and opening up, and with the expedient measure of "market for technology", China provided a "no way" for China, which had two shortages of foreign exchange and savings, and no money to buy equipment. With diligent China's astonishment in the world, from the "primary school disciple" of apprenticeship to the "partner" who can cooperate on an equal footing, the "teachers and masters" of that year put up a shelf and built up a fence. "Introduction, digestion, absorption and innovation" gradually returned to peace in the "self reliant" atmosphere of public opinion.

The "introduction, digestion, absorption and re innovation" mode has already left a heavy mark in the history of the development of China's technology industry. Reviewing the historical evolution of this classic model is not only a question of commemorating the 40th anniversary of reform and opening up, but also because these stories also contain the mirror of China's future development.


China's high-speed rail

China's high-speed rail is a classic case of "introduction, digestion, absorption and re innovation".

In 2004, the Ministry of Railways launched 140 tender procurement for the EMUs of 200 kilometers per hour, which was the largest single EMU bidding in the world at that time. The best four high-speed rail manufacturers in the world have heard the story. German SIEMENS, Alston, Kawasaki heavy industries and Bombardier Canada are eyeing this big cake.

In response to this crucial tendering, the Ministry of Railways has adopted a centralized procurement strategy known as "strategic buyers". "China's way is to let ourselves compete with each other so that we can have the initiative to negotiate." Wu Junyong, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, who participated in the late high-speed rail technology negotiations said.

In particular, the game with SIEMENS is even more popular. SIEMENS's 2004 technology transfer fee of 390 million euros was reduced to 80 million euros in 2005. This legendary negotiation has been hailed as the classic of contemporary international business negotiations. According to Guangming Daily, the story was also written into the lesson plan of economics in Stanford University in 2008.

However, it is easy to get fish and difficult to fish. It is easy to import and difficult to digest. The fear is to spend a lot of technology transfer fees, only to import products at the end, but not to introduce technology, only to follow the ability to copy, but not the ability to develop innovation. To avoid this loss, Chinese manufacturers also have their own institutional innovations in absorbing and absorbing foreign technology. The Sifang company has designed a method of "1: 2: 17 syllogism". It means that all motor vehicles are divided into three stages according to the ratio of 1 to 2: 17.

The first stage is called "they do us to see": vehicles are completely produced in foreign factories, and domestic enterprises send their staff abroad to receive training and participate in assembly. The second stage is called "we watch them": the imported parts are imported from abroad, and then the employees trained by domestic enterprises are assembled in China, and foreign technical experts are guided by them. The third stage is "do it yourself": Chinese employees independently complete all production processes, and gradually replace imported parts with domestic components.

Under such a strategy, Chinese technicians learned very quickly from co operative foreign businessmen, which exceeded the expectations of many people, so that many foreign media exclaimed China for "stealing" intellectual property rights of foreign businessmen. In response, Wu Junyong retorted: "which technologies can be transferable and what must be retained and transferred to what extent, the contract is very clear. The transfer of core technology was clearly put forward at the very beginning, and they agreed that cooperation could be profitable. This is business and there is no theft.

In this process, CRH2, CRH3 and CRH5 series motor cars born in Japan, Germany and France have been born. They have also realized the historic mission of the first generation of China's high-speed rail: from introduction to digestion and absorption, and the localization of parts. But localization is not autonomy, localization is only representative of domestic production, but does not mean that it can be designed independently. The task of autonomy depends on the second generation of China's high-speed rail.

In 2008, relying on the national science and technology support plan of 11th Five-Year, the Ministry of science and technology actively intervened in the development of China's high-speed rail. In collaboration with the Ministry of railways, the Ministry of science and Technology launched the major project of "key technology research and equipment development of China's high-speed trains", and co operated with major universities and research institutes across the country. Finally, in 2010 -2011, we independently developed a new generation of high speed EMU CRH380 series (maximum speed of 380 km / h). We carried out a comprehensive re innovation in the core technologies such as traction drive and network control, and got rid of the control of the source technology of the imported technology, and realized the mission of second generation high-speed rail in China.

The core feature of the third generation of China's high-speed rail is the establishment of the Chinese standard system. With the strong internal force of many years of self-cultivation, the technology that has been introduced from all over the world has been integrated into one furnace. The representative works are the CR400 lines which were officially launched in 2015 and 2017. They also have a more widely known name: Fuxing. China's high-speed rail, like the name implies, is heading for the world's highest stage step by step.

Civil airliner that has experienced great vicissitudes

Unlike China's high-speed rail, which relies on "introduction, digestion, absorption and re innovation", China's civil aviation industry has experienced hardships in trying to introduce foreign technology. In the narration of many old aviation people, the history of the dream of Chinese civil aviation industry is like a history of taking a stroll, pushing ahead, and starting from the crooked road back to the origin.

In the mid 80s of last century, the transport 10 project was completely shelved. At that time, the Ministry of aviation industry hoped to refer to the Santana model of Shanghai automobile factory, and formulated the three step strategy: the first step is to provide technology and equipment from abroad, and China is responsible for assembly; the second step is to develop a 100 regional aircraft with Chinese and foreign cooperation, serving in 2005, and the third step is to design and manufacture 180 grade trunk planes, which will be realized in 2010.

Even if we miss 10, the first step of the three step strategy of China's civil aviation industry will have been quite successful. In 1987, in the background of the world's civil aviation market being increasingly occupied by Boeing and Airbus, the former West Germany MBB company approached China actively and hoped that both sides would develop an advanced MPC75.

It is a once in a blue chance that developed countries take the initiative to propose technology transfer and joint development. This proposal has been highly valued by China aviation technology company. The two sides signed 26 million Mark's technology transfer contract, and the Chinese side sent 176 people to study. Chen Suining, director of the former Office of the China commercial aviation science and Technology Commission, is one of them. He said that the German technology transfer results made everyone refreshing, and the design level and R & D concept of the Chinese staff were also improved. Wu Guanghui and Chen Yingchun, the two chief designers of C919 and ARJ21, were trained by MPC75 projects in those years.

Unfortunately, this potential cooperation project has not received more support from the competent authorities, because the eyes of the aviation industry department at that time were attracted by the main line assembly plan of McDonnell Douglas.

From 1986 to 1996, China Shanghai aircraft manufacturing company and McDonnell Douglas Corporation assembled dozens of trunk planes. Although missed the MPC75, cooperation with McDonnell Douglas has made the Chinese civil aviation industry earn the first barrel of gold, and has also accumulated important knowledge of organizing large modern aircraft and improving the quality standards.

With the gradual development of the three step plan, China has further deepened its cooperation with McDonnell Douglas, and the two sides intend to jointly produce 150 tier MD90 aircraft. When China's aviation industry was full of ambition, the accident came unexpectedly when mobilizing all the power to build new factories, acquire equipment and train personnel. In 1997, the wheat road company was Boeing company merger, Boeing immediately announced the closure of McDonald's all production line. This made the early stage of China's aviation industry lose its blood.

With the grief of MD90 dismounting, the civil aviation industry turned to Airbus. The Airbus, who has been unable to open up the Chinese market, resolutely seized the opportunity and signed an agreement with China to jointly produce 100 AE100.

However, heaven again played a joke on Chinese civil aviation people. After buying 30 A320 series airplanes from China, the Europeans suddenly changed their faces and put forward more than 1 billion US dollars in technology transfer fees. In 1998, after a long stalemate in the negotiations, Airbus simply stopped the AE100 contract with no profit.

Liu Jimei, a Xinhua News Agency reporter who has been tracking the development of aviation equipment for a long time, has recorded the tragic scene of the aviation people in the book "for China".

In 1998, when the AE100 project was disbanded, the designers who participated in the MPC75 and AE100 projects bid farewell to Beijing. They faced a dangerous and uncertain future. They drank the wine with great grief. Dozens of people stood in the stars of the motherland and cried. They stand in the blue sky of the motherland to embrace farewell: how can China's commercial airplanes not fly up in the blue sky of the motherland?

The Chinese aviation people gave up their illusions about foreign "teachers" and went back to the origin of self-reliance. C919, a self-developed large size civilian aircraft carrier ARJ21190, has been launched. In May 5, 2017, when the C919 aircraft flew straight to the sky, people looked at it. They carried the ARJ21 and C919 to develop the flag, but they were still the old team of 10 and MPC75.

Technology introduction serves independent innovation

Similarly, with the introduction of "absorption, digestion, absorption and innovation", why did China's high-speed rail and China's civil aviation industry get totally different results?

According to Professor Lu Feng of Peking University, the fundamental difference between the two is whether the "independent product development platform" remains in the process of introducing technology. "All absorptive capacity is based on independent development. If there is no independent product development platform, we can only learn how to do it, but it is difficult to understand why this is done. The result is that we can only follow the technological trajectory of the advanced."

The words of two elder statesmen seem to confirm the view of the road. Wuxing ARJ21, the chief designer of the ARJ21 aircraft, said that the loss of China is not only a product of a plane, but also a platform for the development of technological capability. But unfortunately, we didn't see that clearly in the year. " Zhao Xiaogang, chairman of the former China Southern car group, also believes that the appearance of China's high speed railway is not "overnight like spring breeze". It is indispensable for China's own development of "star of China".

"When China's civil aviation industry decided to co organize the US McDonald's aircraft to replace its own development and transportation 10, its technology research and development system collapsed, and when foreign investment and retreat directly controlled the technological learning process of China's civil aviation industry, the introduction of it became a risk." According to Lu Feng, in view of China's high-speed rail, the product development platform is relatively intact. Large-scale technology import can bring mature product experience and promote the formation of a complete industrial system, thus becoming a platform for self upgrading.

(Editor: Ma Chang, Yuan Bo)

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