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China's Innovation Drive

We take a look at what China needs to do to become an Innovation economy

27Oct

When I think of an Innovation economy, China certainly doesn't spring to mind. Its press is one of the world's most restrictive, seen most recently in the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, where instead of seeing the region's streets ablaze with protestors against the central government, people in mainland China were led to believe that the people of Hong Kong were actually celebrating the government.

That is not an environment in which innovation normally thrives in, add to the mix an education system that's governed by a very select group of people, and you have an innovation infrastructure that can't function correctly.

It would however be unfair to say that the Chinese state hasn't put together anything that could be classed as innovative. There are a number of large-scale examples that shows that China is as innovative as anyone, they've expanded upon the world's fastest high-speed railway, whilst also owning the world's most powerful super computer.

There's been a lot of talk centred around China's apparent appetite for stealing other countries technological ideas and whilst this might be true, it doesn't negate the innovative nature of China's space programme or mean that the people working on these projects aren't capable of innovative thinking.

For innovation to be created outside of the state sector, China's economy has to open up and develop in a way that guarantees that there is competition between both private and state owned companies. This will create a competitive market that will only allow the most innovative companies to remain operational.

Every time one of these sectors gets released by the Chinese government it becomes a hot bed for innovation, with only the best surviving. With this in mind, it's clear that China's innovation drive is very much down to the central government's willingness to open up new facets of China's market. China will also have to be willing to take failure with a pinch of salt, as working out how to sustain innovation is influenced by what's been learnt from past failings.

With a population of 1.4 billion, there's so much potential in China. The emphasis now is on the government to establish an infrastructure that allows it to foster innovation, then and only then, will it be considered a true innovative economy.

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