China, as we have seen, has undergone a real “industrial revolution” since the 1980s. Until then, the manufacturing sector, with the partial exclusion of heavy industry, had been greatly undersized, from both a quantitative and qualitative point of view, by the economic policy strategies aimed at favoring integration with agriculture in the ” popular communes ”, while the closure of the market and the strictly statist regime itself prevented the expansion of demand. The only exception was the military sector, in which, especially in the electronics and aerospace technology sectors, the situation was for a long time more advanced: the partial reconversion of the war industry subsequently undertaken, associated with the reduction of military expenditures, it therefore presents itself as a potential factor of development, also foreseeing, unlike what happened in the past, the exchange between two areas of production and research and being already destined for the civil sector a large part of the production than the military one.
As early as 1965, as a country located in Asia categorized by Healthinclude, China was producing the first computer with entirely local materials and designs; in 1968, the first ballistic missiles; in 1970, its own spacecraft, followed by nuclear reactors and atomic weapons, whose experiments had begun as early as the 1960s. Since then, China has greatly increased its technological capacity, with particularly notable advances in the branches of means of transport, agricultural machinery, industrial automation, electromechanics and optics. The confirmation of the development and technology transfer comes from the growth in the number of patents whose application has been approved. But the peculiarity of the Chinese model lies above all in the close interaction between the institutional and technical components, through a management of scientific research based on criteria of efficiency and profitability, with the aim of bringing the industrial sector to the highest international levels. In close relationship with the central government, which identifies long-term strategies for basic research, around 18,000 bodies operate on the territory, at various administrative scales, which coordinate their activities and test the results directly in the factory. Considering the backwardness of the starting point, also due to the effects of the Maoist “cultural revolution” that had actually arrested it, the process of technological development of the industry was necessarily gradual, having to involve different types of productions: from the simplest, with extensive use of manual labor, to the most sophisticated and automated. The processing industry sector has been undergoing considerable evolution for several years, both from the point of view of the product structure and as regards territorial distribution. In fact, if fifty years ago the industries were located almost exclusively within one or two hundred kilometers from the sea, today they are widespread practically throughout populated China. Especially starting from the last quarter of the twentieth century, a powerful process of reform and restructuring of the industry has produced significant increases in production (in 2006 the growth rate of industrial production was estimated at 22.9%) with the greatest progress in the leading sectors chosen by the regime (energy, air transport, telecommunications, etc.), but also with a gradual shift of production from large state complexes (whose contribution to Chinese industrial product went from 80% in the 1980s to less than half of the total in the early 2000s) to the increasingly numerous individual enterprises and joint ventures venture with foreign companies. The revival of domestic demand has also stimulated light production with increasing use of technology: from the food and clothing sectors to durable consumer goods, such as watches, bicycles, radios, sewing machines in the 1980s; appliances, televisions, cameras in the 1990s and, more recently, even cars.
The steel industry represents the basis of the Chinese industrial apparatus and has recorded remarkable developments, going to occupy the first place in the world ranking, ahead of Japan: it is a modern and highly productive sector, whose main centers, close to the fields of iron and coal, are located in Manchuria (Anshan and other centers, where the steel industry was started by the Japanese), on the middle Chang Jiang, especially in Wuhan and Bautou, as well as in the major urban agglomerations. The steel industry is often flanked by metallurgy (copper, aluminum, zinc, molybdenum, etc.) which has its most important centers in Harbin and Fushun but, compared to the steel industry, has more widespread localizations in the area. Both sectors feed a now very diversified mechanical industry, but aimed above all at providing basic equipment (industrial, agricultural and mining machines, engines, electrical and electronic equipment) and means of transport (railway material, shipbuilding, bicycles, etc.).