It's rare for senior officials in China -- even former ones -- to criticize government policy out loud. But former industry minister He Guangyuan has raised eyebrows by saying that China's policy of requiring foreign automakers to form local joint ventures is like an addiction and is failing to foster world-class Chinese car companies.
"It's like opium," He said during an industry forum in Tianjin, according to Reuters. "Once you've had it you will get addicted forever."
China opened its border to foreign automakers about three decades ago, requiring each international player to team up with no more than two local partners and hold no more than a 50 percent stake in the joint venture. All major automakers have joint ventures in China.
He said fledgling Chinese firms have left the technological heavy lifting to the visitors -- and have remained bit players as a result.
"From central authorities to local governments, everyone has been trying hard to bring in foreign investment," He said. "But so many years have passed and we don't even have one brand that can be competitive in the auto world. I feel red-faced."