China's too much of a copycat to rule the digital world

China is not a superpower of the digital world, and without fundamental political reform it never will be. It's a copycat which steals other people's ideas because it can't generate its own

by Asian Watcher on 10 April 2016 08:03

Everyone who believes in the free society has the same concern over China: Is it really possible that such an authoritarian regime can continue to deliver such astounding economic successes, thus offering a potentially attractive counter-example to democracies in Asia and around the world?

The stumblings of the Chinese economy in 2015 have already flagged up the difficulties the country will have in breaking through to a top level power in terms of wealth per capita as opposed to the middle rank level it has already achieved.

Another aspect to the problem faced by an authoritarian (and corrupt) system like China's was highlighted in Sunday's edition of the South China Morning Post.

In an article discussing the problems faced by foreign companies in China, author Peter Guy argues:

"Innovation and creativity are not rewarded in the Chinese commercial or educational sectors, which emphasise rapidly monetizing activities and rote learning.

"Obeying authorities ensures stability and eventual success. Gaining favours from regulators and party elites are the surest path to good fortune. Unfortunately, it is precisely this type of closed minded thinking coupled with cronyism and exclusive capitalism with Chinese characteristics that will continue to kill innovation and stifle creative thinking across China.

"That explains why China’s big internet companies are basically copies of their western counterparts. It also explains why their tech giants aren’t changing the rest of the world."

China is not a superpower of the digital world, and without fundamental political reform it never will be.

Guy continues:

"Stealing intellectual property has enormously benefited Chinese companies. But, it has crippled their ability to develop the next version or innovate.

"Just look at almost every important technological innovation in hardware, software, and the internet. Without sounding arrogant or imperialistic, they are with few exceptions made in America".

Perhaps the authoritarian model is not so convincing after all.

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