China is Volkswagen's most important market worldwide. On the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the People's Republic, Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen Group, speaks about the country's development, its future prospects and Volkswagen's role in the Chinese mobility market.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Where do you see China economically today?
The development of China in the past 70 years is impressive. Last year the country’s gross domestic product reached 13.6 trillion dollars. So China established itself as the second biggest economy in the world. The middle-income group in China expanded to more than 400 million people and there are almost ten times more university students now than 20 years ago.
Following this, we are pleased to see a fast-growing Chinese customer group. They are getting younger, well-educated and more and more independent. Creating a perspective for a better life for so many million people in such short time is an absolutely unique achievement in mankind’s history.
What economic opportunities have arisen for Volkswagen in China in recent decades?
Looking at 40 years ago, with the start of the Reform and Opening-up policy, the first connections were secured between the Volkswagen Group and China. As a pioneering foreign automotive company, Volkswagen helped to put China on wheels. We started local production with our trusted Chinese partners SAIC and FAW. Nowadays, we not only have a third joint venture with JAC, but due to the excellent cooperation with our Chinese partners, we are still by far the leading car manufacturer in China. Right now, more than 35 million Chinese customers drive a Volkswagen Group’s car. Last year alone, we delivered 4.21 million cars to Chinese customers.
The world wide free transfer of goods suffers increasingly from restrictions and trade tariffs. This causes major challenges for the global economy. What role can China play in the further development of the global economy?
Automotive technologies and services spread from China to the rest of the world. We appreciate and support globalized fair trade and multilateral commerce. Experience has shown that protectionism does not help in the long-term. Historically speaking, globalization was what provided the Volkswagen Group the chance to reach the leading position in the Chinese automotive market. Our company stands for a globalized world with more than 650.000 employees, over 100.000 of them in China. Over 25 percent of the Volkswagen Group’s plants are located in China.