BEIJING – China wants Western technology. It also wants to export its own technology to the West. The key question is whether the rest of the world will be willing to go along given the widely held belief that China is the "knockoff capital of the universe."
When Zhongguancun Haidian Science Park, China’s foremost high-tech cluster located in Beijing's Haidian district, held its annual conference here this week, organizers boldly put “technology transfer” at the top of their agenda. More than 2,000 attendees showed up, including Chinese government officials and academics along with executives from the U.S., Europe and elsewhere in Asia.
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For China, technology transfer is essential to narrowing the innovation gap. It’s critical to Beijing's global strategy, according to both international and Chinese representatives at the forum.
Beijing, on one hand, demands active development of indigenous technologies by setting a lofty national goal for Chinese scientists and engineers to file 2 million patents annually by 2015. Still, China is keenly aware of its chronic technology gap with the West, and knows that it can’t catch up by going it alone.
IP rights were a hot topic at the Zhongguancun Haidian Science Park conference.
Caught between what seems like two contradictory approaches to IP protection (internal development vs. technology transfer), one Chinese attendee asked the panel (above): “To what extent should we rely on foreign countries for innovations?”
China doesn't yet have the rule of law, let alone the rule of IP law. They have good laws but everyone ignore them. They are too free, they can do whatever they want. The government doesn't want to spend time enforcing the law as long as the law breakers are not against the government.
The West can afford to advocate democracy and freedom because the people obey traffic lights. Traffic-light obeying people are considered to be fools over there.
Bert, you've got a good point here.
The issue is how one defines the "borrowed/digested/reinvented" model.
When I asked the panel, "what can China do to convince the world it’s serious about IPR protection," here's what
Pekin Univ.’s Chen said: “I am not a lawyer. So I am not sure how much of Chinese law should be changed.” But he quickly added, “I think the penalty for IPR infringement is too low in China. It has to be higher. I predict that IP litigation will increase in China.”
More lawyers filing more lawsuits is not anyone’s ideal scenario, but in China it might be a necessary growing pain, if only to test the fairness of China’s evolving legal system, Prof. Chen explained.
I don't buy the bit about three different ypes of innovation, frankly. In my view, innovation is always more like the last ietm listed. You're always building on something that came before. I'll bet even the wheel was invented when some clever guy got tired of moving round logs constantly, and decided to try to keep that round thing attached to the heavy object.
But there are limits to how much one can copy verbatim with impunity, and clearly China has yet to internalize that limit. Reputations, both good and bad, are built for very good reasons, almost always.
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