Thursday, February 22, 2018

Can China Innovate?

The subject lies well beyond my competence. I report it here for your interest, but, more importantly, to address a question that has bedeviled American pedagogues.

Simply put, American academics reject the Chinese, i.e. Tiger Mom, approach to education on the grounds that it is too rote, too automatic, too unthinking. Thus, they propose, teaching children the Chinese way, where the teacher's authority is never questioned, will stiffly creativity and innovation. By this calculus Chinese business, especially the high tech variety, should depend on great innovators from America. The old saw was that Chinese scientists could merely imitate what was being produced by the great creative minds of America.

Apparently, such is not the case. Two stories, one from the Guardian and the other from Wired tell an entirely different story. Given my limitations when it comes to the future of technology, I will report them without much commentary.

From the Guardian:

The economic rise of China has been accompanied by a waxing of its scientific prowess. In January, the United States National Science Foundation reported that the number of scientific publications from China in 2016 outnumbered those from the US for the first time: 426,000 versus 409,000. Sceptics might say that it’s about quality, not quantity. But the patronising old idea that China, like the rest of east Asia, can imitate but not innovate is certainly false now. In several scientific fields, China is starting to set the pace for others to follow. On my tour of Chinese labs in 1992, only those I saw at the flagship Peking University looked comparable to what you might find at a good university in the west. Today the resources available to China’s top scientists are enviable to many of their western counterparts. Whereas once the best Chinese scientists would pack their bags for greener pastures abroad, today it’s common for Chinese postdoctoral researchers to get experience in a leading lab in the west and then head home where the Chinese government will help them set up a lab that will eclipse their western competitors.

As you already know, civilizations clash. They compete for advantage and for influence. The question playing itself out is whether China, with its authoritarian and hierarchical social structure can compete with an America that values diversity and that imagines that all people have equal natural talents.

The Guardian reports:

However, the pattern seems clear, and is worth heeding by other nations: despite China’s reputation for authoritarian and hierarchical rule, in science the approach seems to be to ensure that top researchers are well supported with funding and resources, and then to leave them to get on with it.

And also, Wired suggests that Chinese companies are moving to the head of the technology pack:

Researchers and companies in Beijing and Shenzhen are increasingly setting the pace for global technology development. “Large Chinese companies now have vast troves of data to hone artificial-intelligence experiments and can develop functions that the west may learn from, or copy,” says Qiang Yang, a professor of computer science at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Yang leads a team of researchers collaborating with Tencent’s WeChat platform, which has about one billion accounts to draw data from. In emerging fields such as AI, generally supportive government policies combined with generous salaries are already helping China’s internet titans lure top talent away from western rivals: in anuary 2017, former Microsoft executive Qi Lu joined Baidu to lead its AI efforts, including autonomous vehicle development. In other cases, Chinese tech firms simply acquire foreign competitors, as when China’s Midea Group acquired KUKA AG, the German robot-maker, last March.

Such progress has attracted venture capital:

In 2014, it [China] overtook Europe as a destination for venture capital, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Currently three of the world’s top five most highly valued private companies are Chinese – ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, phone maker Xiaomi, and e-commerce firm Meituan-Dianping.

China is moving ahead. It is innovating. It is either catching up to or moving ahead of America and Europe. In the meantime American tech companies are setting up diversity initiatives and offering new sexual harassment sensitivity training.


James said...

It's early but I'll take a shot at this. Anyone who thinks that one group of people are more innovative than another based simply on a genetic basis is rather silly. Same can be said for any other human endeavor. Cultural influence? Yes, but probably overrated. The Romans come to mind. Dominated the Western world for over 700 yrs. Were renowned for adopting other peoples innovations, think implementation. Belief in the above cited news reports, very little. China by nature conceals the truth from others and itself. Just look at the apparent decline in quality of US scientific journals and news reporting in general, especially in truth. So unable to judge.
How any given group is really doing in innovation and implementation will only be known by competition and unfortunately that final competitive arbiter....war.
Well that should be confusing enough.

Redacted said...

The very best grad student I ever had is Chinese. He attended Chinese schools to the graduate level, then returned home. He spoke very little English, but could write better than his American peers.

The best professor I ever had was K.S. Fu, whose spoken English was atrocious, yet authored several English-language books, now considered classics in the field. The King Sun Fu Prize is named for him. He did not attend a Montessori school or recieve indoctrination in intersectional wokedness.

Anyone who believes the Chinese cannot innovate is a fool.

American students and young adults have been emotionally and intellectually neotenized by a dominant Progessive culture that treats them like children, often into the third decade, and in some cases beyond.

The consequences of this are nothing short of a slow-motion cultural train wreck.

Mark Moncrieff said...

Dr. Schneiderman

We have centuries of data to look at and one or two brilliant people does not a civilization make. China has developed technologies in the past and then stopped. Inventing something does not mean that it leads to further inventions. Chinese history is proof of that.

Maybe their right, but I very much doubt it. China has the economy it has because the West turned over our technology to them at next to no cost. Compare how the West treated the Soviets when it came to technology and how it has treated China. Every factory sent to China went with Western technology, technology that they didn't have to pay for or invent. The article from The Guardian shows that that is continuing.

"Whereas once the best Chinese scientists would pack their bags for greener pastures abroad, today it’s common for Chinese postdoctoral researchers to get experience in a leading lab in the west and then head home where the Chinese government will help them set up a lab that will eclipse their western competitors."

They learn what we have, they aren't developing new technology.

Mark Moncrieff
Upon Hope Blog - A Traditional Conservative Future

Redacted said...

Part of innovation is making hardball, innovative deals. The Chinese, with the help of the WTO and several Presidents from both parties, is very good at doing that. Another part of innovation is stealing other people's intellectual property. The Chinese do it of course, but everybody does it. There's good reason to believe Ford stole innovative software from a much smaller Texas software vendor. It's still in court, AFAIK. Don't get mmre 'Murican than ol' Henry Ford. And innovation is obtaining cleverly-worded gateway patents and suing everybody else out of business. Qualcomm (San Diego) is a notorious patent troll.

And I haven't even touched on the pharmaceutical business, which is even more cutthroat than electronics, in no small part due to antiquated and stupid regulation.

And to top it off, a recent ex-President, "Lightworker" Obama, left an RQ-170 drone on the ground in Iran, to be reverse engineered by the Iranians and anyone else with the money to buy American technology. The RQ-170 was a black project, developed at the Skunk Works, with billions of dollars worth of the most advanced remote sensing, encryption, targeting, and flight control technology in existence. If the Chinese got a look at it, and I'm as sure they did as I can be absent a smoking gun, dead body, and gunshot residue on the hand, you can't say they "stole" it... we gave it away to the Iranians, and, being good Persian businessmen, they sold it.

And the Chinese are most certainly developing new technology. The Chinese Sunway TaihuLight is the fastest supercomputer on the planet, blazing along at over 120 petaflops. At those processing speeds, even the refrigeration is innovative. The DoE may - may - beat them this year. We'll see what we see. And if the Micius satellite they launched with quantum electronics on board continues to test out, not only will they revolutionize telecommunications, they will revolutionize cryptography. They recently published a paper in Nature demonstrating quantum entanglement at 1200 km separation. If that's not a breakthrough, nothing is. And a quantum device is essentially unhackable by any known means.

Oh yes. They are very, very good.