Debunking The Myth That Chinese Can't Innovate

Posted: July 24, 2012 at 8:14 pm

In my last post,Doing the Undoable, I discussed the rapid development of genetics, particularly genetic engineering. Having the video presentation of Juan Enriquez available helped get the point across. Today, Im going to look at a related area that also raises the possibility of sudden and unexpected change in the not-so-distant future (anytime from tomorrow on).

Once again, Im assisted by the work of another commentator who, like Mr. Enriquez, provides a good overview of other changes that are already underway, but whose impact has yet to be felt by most of us, at least knowingly.

I am referring to an article in Foreign Policy magazine by Dr. Vivek Wadhwa, director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University and fellow at the Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University.

Published on July 17th of this year, it is titled, The Future of Manufacturing Is in America, Not China. Thats a nice provocative title. I will provide a link to the full article (its not that long and free of most technical jargon), but first Ill use his words to briefly summarize four important areas where advances have led him to choose that title.

It all sounds very exciting, full of potential for good things. Dr. Wadhwas summarizes his argument reflected in his articles title when he says, All of these advances play well into Americas ability to innovate, demolish old industries, and continually reinvent itself. The Chinese are still busy copying technologies we built over the past few decades. They havent cracked the nut on how to innovate yet.

Yes, it sounds great, but hold on a minute. Like all things human, the potentially good comes coupled with the potentially bad. I have two very basic concerns.

The first is true of so much that I read these days, including a lot that is written on what the Eurozone has to do to deal with its problems. Oddly enough, those varied European solutions have something in common with the idea that Foxconn plans to install one million robots within three years to do the work that its workers in China presently do. It has found even low-cost Chinese labor to be too expensive and demanding. Too many commentators on the Eurozone today forget that all the zones nations are functioning democracies.

China obviously is not, but even casually following Chinas internal political and economic trends provides plenty of evidence that non-democratic states also have to consider the feelings and fears of their citizens. We are continuously told that the Chinese Communist Party fears uprisings among the people. There is more than one way to vote and get your voice heard.

So Foxconn will replace Chinese workers with robots. Great. That ought to make folks happy in China. But hold on, theres good news. We can do the same in the US! Wonderful, now we have a means of massively increasing US unemployment too! Pardon the sarcasm. Im sure Dr. Wadhwa is well aware that robots will replace human workers who may not be able to find replacement jobs easily or at all. His relatively short article is focused on the good news, so he doesnt try to address problems that might result.

But one sentence stands out as unacceptable to me.The Chinese are still busy copying technologies we built over the past few decades.They havent cracked the nut on how to innovate yet.

Go here to read the rest:
Debunking The Myth That Chinese Can't Innovate

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