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Showing posts for "Innovation"

Calculus in the Snow

by Adam Segal
Chinese Doctors Walking in Snow

Military doctors make their way across snow to see patients trapped by heavy snowfall on the outskirts of Altay Prefecture, Xinjiang Uigur Autonomous Region, January 27, 2010. (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters)

What almost always goes hand in hand with worry about the United States is a tendency to overstate how great things are going in China or India.  So not only does the postponement of the Eagles game after a blizzard reflect the “wussification of America,” in Governor Edward Rendell’s memorable phrase, but this could never happen in Beijing or Shanghai.  The Chinese would march to the stadium “doing calculus on the way down” (the winter storms of 2008 that stranded thousands of travelers in central and southern China and resulted in the death of over 100 people must have slipped the governor’s mind).

I have been guilty of this myself.  Soon after I published “Is America Losing Its Edge?” in Foreign Affairs, I went to India expecting to hear a great deal about America’s decline.  While there was huge and justifiable excitement and confidence about the rise of India’s software industry, there was also significant worry about how sustainable it was and how innovative India truly was.  And almost every Indian CEO, scientist, and entrepreneur I spoke with cautioned me not to underestimate the resilience of the United States.  As C.N.R Rao, Chair of the Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Council, put it at a 2008 conference: “America—whether you like it or not, however much you complain, howl and cry—continues to be the centre of science and innovation.”

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Reviving American Innovation

by Adam Segal
US Flag in Front of Cooling Towers

A U.S. flag flutters in front of cooling towers at the Limerick Generating Station in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

It is only the fourth day of the new year and I suspect we are at the beginning of what will be a mini-boom in articles on the future of American power.  As you can imagine, the picture painted by most does not look bright.  The United States is overspent and overstretched.  Domestically, policymakers cannot seem to get anything done, and they seem particularly paralyzed when it comes to making difficult decisions necessary for immigration or tax reform.  To be fair,  despite the presence of “decline” in their article titles, Paul Kennedy in the New Republic and Gideon Rachman in Foreign Policy are really talking about relative power; a return to a more “normal” time when the United States, though still very powerful, must confront real limits to its own resources and the rise of new powers, China in particular.

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Wouldn’t hold my breadth for IPR protection in China

by Adam Segal
Gary Locke  (L) and Wang Qishan (R)

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke (L) shakes hands with China's Vice Premier Wang Qishan in Hangzhou October 29, 2009. (Eugene Hoshiko/Courtesy Reuters)

The two-day meeting of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade ended with the Chinese promising to crack down on software piracy and prevent other violations of intellectual property rights.  I hope they do, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

The good news.  The Chinese government will spend more on legal software and it will try to track the use of software in state-owned enterprises.  Vice Premier Wang Qishan is said to have agreed to personally oversee a public campaign against intellectual property rights theft.  In addition, Chinese officials once again tried to reassure their American counterparts that earlier policy documents suggesting that the government would only buy products patented or trademarked in China were just drafts and that new rules would be more flexible.

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What comes after gunpowder, paper, the compass, and printing?

by Adam Segal

The Four Great Inventions

The New York Times had a short piece yesterday, based on a longer report by Thomson Reuters, about how China is now poised to become the world leader in patent filings by 2011.  There has been a massive expansion of the number of patents filed in China–279,298 in 2009.  More importantly, Chinese firms are now filing within China at a rate almost two times higher than foreign firms.
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Won’t be an Apple or Google in China for Next 50 or 100 Years

by Adam Segal

Kai-Fu Lee

Over on Foreign Affairs, I have another piece on indigenous innovation and what it means for the United States.   Most of the points have already been well covered on Asia Unbound (here, here, and here).   I do, however, want to return to one that often gets overlooked in discussions about the 2006 “Guidelines on National Medium- and Long-Term Program for Science and Technology Development.”  Indigenous innovation and the state-directed, top-down policies designed to promote it get all of the attention, but in fact much of the Guidelines reads like a blueprint for building a Silicon Valley in China.  Large parts of the report talk about the need to create an ecosystem that fosters technological entrepreneurship through the growth of university-industry collaboration, promotion of small start-ups, development of venture capital funds, and protection of intellectual property rights.

The question–central to my forthcoming book Advantage–is how successful China will be in developing that environment.  I think it will be slow and difficult, but if it isn’t it will be because of people like Kai-Fu Lee, formerly of Microsoft Research China and Google China and now the head of a venture fund called Innovation Works.  Lee brings a wealth of knowledge and experience with him; he has deep ties to the technology community in China and the United States; and, in past profiles, has spoken enthusiastically about the growth of the Chinese Internet market as well as the energy and ability of Chinese students.  He, and other returnees, will be critical in building networks and a culture of innovation.
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Struggles with the Software

by Adam Segal

Whenever I am confronted with some new press report about how rapidly Chinese science and technology is growing, my first reaction is usually, “yes, but…”

The “but” almost always revolves around what I call in my forthcoming book, Advantage, the software of innovation: the web of social, cultural, and political institutions and understandings that help create and then move big ideas from the lab to the marketplace.  If you have the resources, it is pretty easy to build the hardware by increasing enrollments in engineering courses and ramping up spending on research and development.   You just need leadership that sees science-based innovation as critical to twenty-first century competitiveness and is willing to follow through.  And the Chinese, of course, have that.  Just two days ago, on the sidelines of a summer World Economic Forum meeting, Premier Wen Jiabao trumpeted the role of “scientific innovation in the process of shifting from ‘made in China’ to ‘created in China’.”
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China Assaults the High-Tech Frontier

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV

I did a fun panel earlier this week on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” with Maria Bartiromo.  She asked a pretty straightforward question:  Is China challenging the United States on the frontiers of high technology, and, if so, what sectors should we watch?

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Simmering Technology Tensions

by Adam Segal

Photo courtesy of flickr/Chrystian Guy

While much of the sturm and drang of the “big” issues in U.S.-China relations–Tibet, North Korea, Iran, and RMB revaluation among others–seems to have dissipated in the intense summer heat wave we have been enjoying here on the East Coast, a number of conflicts over technology continue to bubble along.

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Whac-a-Mole Technology Policy

by Adam Segal

Photo courtesy of flickr/sa_ku_ra

The reported adjustment of Chinese procurement policy is good news for U.S. and other foreign technology companies, as far as it goes. Published in 2009, though not formally announced, the policy said that all products included in the government’s procurement catalog must have Chinese intellectual property and that the IPR should be completely independent of the IPR of foreign owners. Given how much R&D is now collaborative and global, it is hard to imagine how any product could be deemed completely independent of technology from outside of China. For foreign technology companies, the worries were clear–more demands for technology transfer and more difficulties in operating in the Chinese market. Read more »