Engage China with guarded openness
A policeman patrols on the renovated Bund against the skyline of Lujiazui Financial District in Shanghai, China. (Getty Images)
September 19th, 2011
08:00 AM ET

Engage China with guarded openness

Editor's Note: John Kao, dubbed "Mr. Creativity" by The Economist, is the chairman for the institute of large-scale innovation and author of Innovation Nation. You can follow John on TwitterFacebook and at www.johnkao.com. This post is the final of six pieces by John about his recent trip to China. 

By John Kao - Special to CNN

Over the past week, I have posted five pieces on the state of innovation in China.  First, in “China as an Innovation Nation,” I provided a portrait of China’s innovation drive, describing its scale and success model.   Next, in “Why is innovation so important to China?” I laid out the historical context for the centrality of innovation in China’s national strategy  (After all, this is the country that invented the compass, gunpowder and printing.) The third piece, “Chinese innovation – paper tiger or king of the hill?” attempted to go beyond the “black or white” rhetoric that characterizes much of the current debate on how real and significant China’s innovation drive is in order to shape the conversation about how others need to respond to it. Given the importance of the entrepreneur in driving the innovation process, I wrote “In search of the Chinese entrepreneur,” with profiles of Aigo’s Feng Jun and Sundia’s Xiochuan Wang and added a discussion of Chinese entrepreneurship as an innovation asset or bottleneck.   The last piece, "Innovation war or innovation peace?" looked at the potential for both conflict and cooperation in the U.S.-China innovation relationship.. FULL POST

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Topics: China • Innovation • United States
Innovation war or innovation peace?
September 16th, 2011
08:00 AM ET

Innovation war or innovation peace?

Editor's Note: John Kao, dubbed "Mr. Creativity" by The Economist, is the chairman for the institute of large-scale innovation and author of Innovation Nation. You can follow John on TwitterFacebook and at www.johnkao.com. This post is the fifth of six pieces by John about his recent trip to China. The first post was China as an innovation nationCheck back tomorrow morning at 8am for the last installment.

By John Kao – Special to CNN

The classical definition of a trade war applies to the behavior of two states that raise trade barriers against each other in a tit-for-tat cycle of protectionism and retaliation. The ultimate result is what economists call an 'autarchic equilibrium' - the state of self-sufficiency the countries arrive at once a trade war has burned itself out. Trade wars have traditionally occurred over physical goods such as commodities - finished products such as textiles and the like. But in the 21st century, trading in intellectual property, business models and other intangibles has risen in prominence. It is therefore worth asking whether the stage is being set for a new kind of innovation trade war, particularly between what some have called the G2 – i.e. China and the United States.

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Topics: China • Innovation
In search of the Chinese entreprenuer
(Getty Images)
September 15th, 2011
08:00 AM ET

In search of the Chinese entreprenuer

Editor's Note: John Kao, dubbed "Mr. Creativity" by The Economist, is the chairman for the institute of large scale innovation and author of Innovation Nation. You can follow John on TwitterFacebook and at www.johnkao.com. This post is the fourth of six pieces by John about his recent trip to China. The first post was China as an innovation nationCheck back each morning this week at 8am for the next installment.

By John Kao – Special to CNN

A famous East Asian saying goes something like this: 'It is better to be the head of a small chicken than the tail of a large ox.'In other words, it is better to run your own show than be a part of someone else’s. Today tens of thousands of China’s best and brightest are following this advice, with tremendous implications for China’s future innovation agenda. FULL POST

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Topics: China • Innovation
Chinese innovation – paper tiger or king of the hill?
(Getty Images)
September 14th, 2011
08:00 AM ET

Chinese innovation – paper tiger or king of the hill?

Editor's Note: John Kao, dubbed "Mr. Creativity" by The Economist, is the chairman for the institute of large scale innovation and author of Innovation Nation. You can follow John on TwitterFacebook and at www.johnkao.com. This post is the third of six pieces by John about his recent trip to China. The first post was China as an innovation nationCheck back each morning this week at 8am for the next installment.

By John Kao – Special to CNN

Two narratives are in play these days with regard to China’s innovation future. They could not be more polar opposite. One is openly dismissive of China, while the other sees a massive threat from the East on a scale that makes the Japan of the 1980’s seem like a tea party. The truth as always lies somewhere in between. But there is value in deconstructing these current perceptions because the future of China is definitely in play, and with it the world’s response.

Perhaps the most obvious example of narrative #1 is a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal, titled Chinese Innovation, A Paper Tiger. It argues that China’s innovation prowess has been misleadingly marked up because of the number of patents it has filed. The authors, respected management academics, contend that the quality of those patents is low, more related to incremental improvement than groundbreaking innovation and therefore, China is not an innovation force to be reckoned with.

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Topics: China • Innovation
Why is innovation so important to China?
A cyclist rides past the CCTV Headquarters in Beijing on February 28, 2010. The futuristic 54-storey building standing 234 metres, or 768 feet tall, for the state-run China Central Television was designed by European architects Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren. (Getty Images)
September 13th, 2011
08:00 AM ET

Why is innovation so important to China?

Editor's Note: John Kao, dubbed "Mr. Creativity" by The Economist, is the chairman for the institute of large scale innovation and author of Innovation Nation. You can follow John on TwitterFacebook and at www.johnkao.com. This post is the second of six pieces by John about his recent trip to China. The first post was China as an innovation nationCheck back each morning this week at 8am for the next installment.

By John Kao – Special to CNN

Why is innovation so important to China? The obvious answer to this question is linked to the importance of economic growth as a driver of social development, a rising standard of living and national eminence.

While China’s growing prosperity is evident, it is worth noting that its GDP is 49% based on manufacturing, a percentage that has held steady for over twenty years. This was described by one senior government official as the result of a “bad deal.” “We make things for the world,” he said, “but we get the pollution, the need to consume natural resources and energy, we get the CO2 emissions and environmental problems.” FULL POST

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Topics: China • Innovation
China as an innovation nation
John Kao. (Courtesy: John Kao)
September 12th, 2011
08:00 AM ET

China as an innovation nation

Editor's Note: John Kao, dubbed "Mr. Creativity" by The Economist, is the chairman for the institute of large-scale innovation and author of Innovation Nation. You can follow John on TwitterFacebook and at www.johnkao.com. This post is the first of six pieces by John about his recent trip to China. Check back each morning this week at 8am for the next installment.

By John Kao – Special to CNN

I recently had the rare privilege of traveling in China as a member of a U.S. expert panel on Chinese innovation. We were convened by an agreement between the governments of the United States and China to contribute to an “innovation dialogue” that has been underway for the past two years and that is seen as being of strategic interest to both countries.

Our itinerary led us to a broad array of players in the Chinese innovation system, including policy makers at both national and state levels, entrepreneurs, managers of state-owned enterprises, academics, representatives of think tanks and others. It also involved a whirlwind tour of innovation hot spots in Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai. We visited science parks, venture incubators, corporate labs of multinational companies, as well as start-ups in life sciences and digital media. We also sat down with our Chinese colleagues in a variety of settings, often accompanied by deliriously appetizing cuisine, to discuss the issues at hand.

What has emerged is a rather startling picture of a country on the move, whose drumbeat is...innovation. FULL POST

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Topics: China • Innovation
Defining innovation
June 5th, 2011
08:49 AM ET

Defining innovation

Editor's Note: John Kao, dubbed "Mr. Creativity" by The Economist, is the chairman for the institute of large scale innovation and author of Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovative Edge, Why it Matters and What We Can Do to Get it Back. This post is part of the ongoing "Global Innovation Showcase" by the New America Foundation and the Global Public Square.

By John Kao – Special to CNN

In my experience, if you work a room with 100 leaders of business and government, you are likely to get at least 50 different definitions of innovation. Stand up a panel of 10 innovation experts and you are likely to get at least a half dozen different perspectives.

Today, the word innovation is groaning under the weight of multiple meanings.

Does it refer to the ability of individuals to harness their creativity to generate value? Yes.

The prowess of certain companies such as Apple and Genentech? Yes.

The unique innovative abilities of certain societies – California, Singapore, Finland? Yes.

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Topics: Economy • Ideas • Innovation
Are we still an innovation nation?
June 5th, 2011
07:57 AM ET

Are we still an innovation nation?

Editor's Note: John Kao, dubbed "Mr. Creativity" by The Economist, is the chairman for the institute of large scale innovation and author of Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovative Edge, Why it Matters and What We Can Do to Get it Back. The following is an excerpt from that book. This post is part of the ongoing "Global Innovation Showcase" by the New America Foundation and the Global Public Square.

By John Kao – Special to CNN

Only yesterday, it seems, we Americans could afford to feel smug about our preeminence. Destiny, it seems, had appointed us the world's permanent pioneers, forever striding beyond the farthest cutting edge. From the Declaration of Independence to the Creative Commons, from the movies to Internet media, from air travel to integrated circuits, from the Mac to MySpace, we led the way to the new. We owned the future. Other countries would have to settle for being followers, mere customers or imitators of our fabulous creations.

That was yesterday. Today, things are vastly different. Innovation has become the new currency of global competition as one country after another races toward a new high ground where the capacity for innovation is viewed as the hallmark of national success. These competitors are beginning to seriously challenge America as magnets for venture capital, R & D and talent, and as the hot spots of innovation from which future streams of opportunity will emerge. FULL POST

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Topics: China • Economy • Global • Innovation