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When Innovation, Too, Is Made in China

When Innovation, Too, Is Made in China

Until today, China has remained to be the world’s low cost workshop for assembling the technological products designed elsewhere. In fact, any technology, be it a computer or a digital recorder, may be developed elsewhere but produced in China. Such focus on production alone sure has its limitation and the Chinese leaders have recognized it which is why China’s national strategy is now aligned towards building an economy based on “innovation” rather than “imitation”.

Can Chine Lead With Innovation?

While the answer is not yet sure, it is a long way in determining whether China’s future in innovation can impact global economy. However, the recent steps in Chinese innovation confirm that the government is rightly inclined towards production of indigenous innovation. China’s indigenous innovation policy and patent strategy definitely shed some light on how China intends to engineer a domestic innovative society.

Chinese Innovation & Patent Strategy In A Nutshell

  • In 2010, State Intellectual Property Office of China published “National Patent Development Strategy (2011-2020)” that discusses broad economic objectives as well as specific targets to be attained by 2015.
  • In China, the number of invention patents is growing faster than the number of utility patents. While just half of China’s total filings in 2015 are for invention patents, the goal for total annual patent filings is two million, including “utility-model patents.”
  • According to its patent strategy, China intends to double its patent examiners to 9000 by 2015. The number is about one third more than what US plans to do.
  • China also intends to double the number of patents that Chinese residents and companies file in other countries. To lift this patent count, China has introduced an array of incentives including cash bonuses, better housing for individual filers and tax breaks for companies that are prolific patent producers.
  • In another attempt to propel indigenous innovation, China has declared priorities for industrial strategy, including solar and wind energy, information technology and telecommunications, and battery and manufacturing technologies for automobiles.

How Does China’s Strategy Impact United States?

Since Chinese government is taking several measures to improve indigenous innovation and patents, it comes as a great concern for United States.

Historically, just about 2 decades ago, Japanese government had made similar attempts that were widely viewed as the master practitioner of industrial policy. While Japan did not turn out that way, it certainly makes United States more insecure about the history to repeat one more time. And this time, it is China who is vying it position as the intellectual mastermind of the world.

Speaking of history, Japanese government never really marched over the United States in the imaginative side of computing. But could that be the case with China is yet to be seen. Could China produce enough innovative skill and generate such a large number of patents that would leave United States behind? The answer lies in the past itself.

Why did Japan not succeed? Well, Japanese industrial policy was not an outright failure for sure. They did really well in the autos, machine tools and consumer electronics, for example. Yet, how strong the Japanese government policy is, has remained a topic of debate till date.

Today, China is spearheading along the same direction as Japanese government did 2 decades ago. The Chinese patent strategy document is filled with metrics, right down to goals for patents owned per million people. Speaking of an “innovation-by-the-numbers” mentality, the Chinese patent strategy appears much like a student who equates knowledge with scores on standardized tests. So, is it just quantity patents as opposed to quality patents? Is this how China wants to supersede United States long drawn success in innovation?

In response to United States apprehensions, many Chinese researchers say that, China’s inevitable rise is advantageous for United States as it is the country that is most open to innovation. While the innovative products and technologies may be made elsewhere, “America’s future lies in being the orchestrator — the systems integrator — of the innovation process,” said Mr. John Kao, an innovation consultant to governments and corporations. “Someday, China will have its entrepreneurial equivalents of Steven P. Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.”

While researchers continue to debate if Chinese government is following the footsteps of Japan, China’s sheer size and a more individualistic entrepreneurial society fails to ascertain that China could be making such an attempt.

Note: The preceding is a summary of an article found though our research, and is provided here with editorial comment for members only. Please see the full article at the following link for full original content: http://www.nytimes.com

The New Asia Innovation Team

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