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China Table of Contents


Civilian Production

In late 1978 China initiated a policy of integrating civilian and military industry more closely in order to promote overall civilian economic development. This policy entailed civilianizing the machine-building ministries to make the defense industry more responsive to civilian control and needs; increasing defense industry production of civilian goods, particularly consumer goods; and transferring technology from the more advanced defense sector to the civilian sector of the economy. Production of civilian goods totaled 6.9 percent of total defense industry output in 1975. In 1980 it rose to 18 percent, and by 1985 it had jumped to 41.8 percent of total output. Chinese officials predicted that by 1990 about 80 percent of defense industry output would be civilian goods. The large excess capacity of the defense industry, resulting from declining orders from the PLA, made possible the rapid growth in civilian output. The defense industry manufactured a wide variety of goods for civilian use, including motor vehicles, optical equipment, television sets, electrical appliances, pharmaceuticals, and medical instruments and prostheses. Many of these products were consumer goods in high demand. For example, in 1985 the Ministry of Ordnance Industry manufactured 500,000 motorcycles, representing two-thirds of total motorcycle output, as well as 250,000 cameras, 450,000 bicycles, and 100,000 refrigerators.

Following the formulation of regulations and mechanisms for such transfers, defense industries began transferring technology to civilian industries on a large scale in the mid-1980s. Technology transfers provided defense enterprises with additional, lucrative sources of income and furnished civilian enterprises with a wide range of useful, advanced technology to modernize production. For example, the Ministry of Astronautics disseminated aerospace technology to light industry and to the petroleum, chemical engineering, machine-building, textile, communications, medical, and electronics industries.

Data as of July 1987