Can China defeat U.S.? No, because imitation connot overcome innovation.
Even if China’s GDP exceeds U.S. as the most creative country around the world, U.S. will still be the only one leader in the age of globalization, with more and more new products and services derived from its creative firms.
I have worked at private sectors in China for 25 years since the early 1990s. I have witnessed too many firms having a new product and service disappeared quickly soon after rapid growth.
There seem to be different causes that led to those firms’ death on the surface, such as outdated design or poor quality, but at the core is the lack of capacities to unceasingly innovate, and innovative culture which is frequently misunderstood by vast majority of Chinese firms.
"China—and it's true—is graduating six to eight times as many scientists and engineers as we have. But I challenge you, name me one innovative project, one innovative change, one innovative product that has come out of China," said U.S. Vice President Joe Biden a few months ago.
As a Chinese, of course I am not willing to hear that, but I have to admit that is indeed true and worrying.
That is not only true, but also mainly rooted in our traditional Confucian culture, which, at least in practice, place much more emphasizes on absolute obedience and one-way unconditional loyalty toward a variety of superior, such as emperor, governor, leader, father, and teacher.
Let me put it another way, our traditional Confucian culture also is emperor-centered, government-centered, rulers-centered, leader-centered, superior-centered, patriarch-centered, elders-centered, father-centered, husband-centered, man-centered, and teacher-centered.
Because of our traditional Confucian culture, all too frequently, dissenting opinion (or dissent) from subordinates cannot be accepted by superiors in the name of harmony and unity.
As a result, such culture certainly generates two extreme: on the one hand, all superior without necessary restriction become more and more arrogant, haughty and egoistic, on the other hand, all subordinate lacking basic right or protect get more and more inferior, weak, helpless and worthless.
In short, this Confucian culture by nature is very harmful for innovation.
And more unfortunately, in most of the past three decades, China’s economy has been enjoying double-digit growth, mainly stemming from imitation, so many people start to attribute a great deal of this success to our traditional Confucian culture.
It is truly ridiculous. As we all know, though Confucian culture have been occupying a dominant position in Chinese history, China’s economy has not had a double-digit growth based on marketization until it started to open or imitate to the Western world 36 years ago.
To be honest, today governments and companies in China have paid close attention to innovations. And yet, they only want new products and services, and they do not need corresponding culture and system, so their money invested in innovation have to have a very poor performance.
In other words, the reality is that while there have been a few innovations among Chinese firms, the percentage of creative firms, compared to US, is too low for China to become an innovation-driven economy.
I believe that in China it will be a far long way to eliminate the negative influence from our traditional Confucian culture, and to learn the Western civilization which does boost innovation.