China's affinity for robots has created a booming industry, but its companies aren't overtaking their global competitors, a senior partner at consulting firm McKinsey & Company told CNBC.
A decade ago, Chinese robotics firms met only 5 percent of the demand in their country, Karel Eloot told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Thursday. The industry has since developed and Chinese companies now provide about a third of industrial robots in the country.
"There's still a long way to go, especially when you think about the government's targets of 50 percent in 2020 and 70 percent in 2025," he said.
Eloot was referring to the Made in China 2025 national plan drawn up by Beijing, which identifies 10 key sectors such as high-end technologies, that the country wants to develop to catch up with its rivals including the United States and Germany.
One of the goals in that plan is for local companies to make up half of the domestic market for industrial robots in the next two years and capture about 70 percent of the market by 2025. China is also aiming to develop local robotics systems to compete with global rivals and eventually beat the United States in the field of artificial intelligence.
"When we talk about global competitiveness, there is work to be done," Eloot said, explaining that there are strong incumbent robot suppliers in many developed markets.
In those countries, he said, Chinese companies will likely have to do as they've done in their home country: "come from the bottom of the application pyramid and move their way up."