On a recent to visit to China to speak at the World Economic Forum's Summer Davos in Tianjin, I was struck by a palpable sense of urgency. Catching up with US GDP was no longer the only burning issue; China, it was said, needs to close the gap with the US on innovation. I agree, but some myths about innovation in China need to be dispelled. I have heard five mentioned most frequently.
1. There is no innovation, only piracy and imitation.
2. The Chinese approach to innovation is too top-down and State-led, and real innovation only comes from the bottom-up from entrepreneurs.
3. Protection of intellectual property rights is weak, discouraging innovation.
4. China's Asian education model emphasizes rote learning, with a narrow emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics; innovation can only flourish in environments that encourage exploration, critical thinking and a broad education in the liberal arts tradition.
5. In a globalized economy, sustaining innovation requires investments in international markets; China's brand and soft power abroad is weak and dated.
Each of these beliefs, mostly held by China skeptics, is a statement about China's innovative spirit compared with that of the US, the world's benchmark. Of course, the reality is more nuanced.
Read the full op-ed