Why Can’t China and Russia Innovate?

These days, China and Russia are more famous for stealing, pirating, and copying foreign technology than for meaningful homegrown innovation.

Europe Can Innovate

Over the past 6 centuries, Europe and its diaspora have been the global centre of innovation. European technological innovation was reflected in the virtual conquest of territories covering the entire world. There are many reasons for the explosion of innovation that took place across Europe over the past half millenium, but the most significant aspect of this innovation is that it was applied in a vigorous and progressive manner.

China Was Once the Global Emperor of Innovation

The Chinese invented gunpowder, the compass, the waterwheel, paper money, long-distance banking, the civil service, and merit promotion… China has the potential to set the kind of economic policies and build the kind of education and research institutions that propelled the U.S. to technological dominance. But will that potential be realized? We see considerable challenges.

… __ https://hbr.org/2014/03/why-china-cant-innovate

These days, China is most famous for stealing, pirating, and copying foreign technology than for meaningful homegrown innovation. A flood of foreign investment triggered by economic liberalisation in the 1970s and 1980s has reversed itself, and is turning into an all-out rout of retreat by foreign (and domestic) investors. It is difficult to innovate when investors are sending their money elsewhere.

An international comparison of research and innovation performance:

Rank Country Innovation performance
1  South Korea 0.740
2  United States 0.736
3  Japan 0.711
4  European Union 0.630
5  Canada 0.497
6  Australia 0.389
7  China 0.275
8  India 0.207
9  Russia 0.191
10  Brazil 0.178
11  South Africa 0.105

The above table reveals the continuing high level of innovation in Europe and its satellites in comparison to “emerging nations” such as China and Russia.

Russia Was Never Much of an Innovator

Russia has always been more of a borrower and thief when it comes to technologies, than an innovator. That trend continues to this day. This failure of homegrown innovation occurs in spite of Russia’s past ability to produce world-class mathematicians, physicists, musicians, and chess masters.

“The fact that our country has demonstrated outstandingly high intellectual results and can show them in mathematics, physics, astrophysics, chess, but failed to develop [effective and innovative] modern industry is a paradox that needs to be explained,” Alexander Auzan, dean and professor of the Lomonosov Moscow State University’s Faculty of Economics told Russia Direct during a conference in mid-October.

… Most Russian academic professors have little understanding of the commercial value of their ideas, and this can be the case with scientists from anywhere in the world as this is how scientists are trained to think and assess their ideas. This is quite normal. They are not prepared for these conversations and they can hardly be expected to speak directly with any investors as they don’t know how. ___ http://www.russia-direct.org/qa/how-russia-can-overcome-its-innovation-challenges

Like China, Russia has almost always been a “top-heavy” overly centralised command economy. This form of economic organisation has not allowed for the type of entrepreneurial, “bottom-up” grassroots economic growth that seems to feed broad society-wide innovation.

The leadership of both China and Russia remain terrified of allowing ordinary citizens the opportunity to innovate and build economic and information networks that are independent of existing government structures and ancillary criminal groups. Without that level of economic freedom to citizens, engineers, scientistis, and other potential innovators and entrepreneurs, China and Russia remain mired in stasis and decline.

World’s Most Innovative Universities

Rank University Country
1 Stanford University USA
2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA
3 Harvard University USA
4 University of Washington USA
5 University of Michigan System USA
6 Northwestern University USA
7 University of Texas System USA
8 University of Wisconsin System USA
9 University of Pennsylvania USA
10 Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) South Korea
11 Imperial College London England
12 Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH) South Korea
13 University of California System USA
14 University of Southern California USA
15 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill USA
16 KU Leuven Belgium
17 Duke University USA
18 Osaka University Japan
19 Johns Hopkins University USA
20 California Institute of Technology USA
21 University of Illinois System USA
22 Kyoto University Japan
23 Georgia Institute of Technology USA
24 University of Tokyo Japan
25 University of Cambridge England

Table Source

Russia has no universities that rank in the top 100. China has only 1. Where is a nation’s innovative technology and science going to originate, if its own universities fail to make the grade? In Russia, unfortunately, a once-impressive educational system is collapsing from neglect — along with most of the rest of the nation’s critical infrastructure (with the exception of propaganda networks, nuclear missile systems, cyber-mischief, and other military and espionage organisations).

It is crucial to point out that most of China’s genuine (as opposed to phantom bubble) economic growth was based upon foreign investment and technology transfer. That particular bird has flown, in the face of Xi’s aggressive and corrupt power grabs — and significant changes in global economies. Most foreign investors and manufacturers who previously considered China a prime location to build and invest, are now changing their minds and finding more rational and less thieving locations for outsourcing. This is leaving China in the lurch — forcing the dragon to intensify its technology theft operations via cyber-espionage and other means.

Russia faces demographic disaster and collapse at the same time that China faces the prospect of growing old while remaining poor. Both emerging nations require massive injections and dispersion of productive innovation in order to prevent rapid decline, much more so if they wish to advance their status. Unfortunately, the tyrants that lead both nations have chosen to regress to further misallocate capital in the form of aggressive militarism, global propaganda, and brute-force intimidation of smaller, weaker neighbors. They are choosing the opposite path to that which might have led their people to a brighter future.

More: Why Russia and China Can’t Innovate

World’s Most Innovative Universities

China and Russia Driving Out Foreign Investment

True Innovation is Very Disruptive: Tyrants Fear Disruption

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3 Responses to Why Can’t China and Russia Innovate?

  1. yoananda says:

    Maybe I have an answer.

    It’s not about individual high IQ (Japan, South Corea and China beat most of western countries, including USA), but rather collective IQ (first study in 2010).
    Maybe we are the champions of collective IQ : https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286512331_Collective_Intelligence_and_Group_Performance
    But it doesn’t explain everything : without high individual IQ, I don’t thing you can invent nuclear facilities, event with the best collective IQ (c).
    Right now we lack of complementary studies of how collective and high IQ interacts, but, like g explains individual performance, c could explain collective performance.

    Collective IQ is strongly correlated to the number of women in the group. The study is limited to small groups, but I think we can safely infer that in our egalitarian society, where woman status is higher than everywhere else, we have favoured (wihtout knowing it at first) c and so, innovation, even if we don’t have the hight average IQ.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Interesting idea.

      What may be more important is the idea of “market dominant minority” transferred to the intellectual realm. 10% of the people do 90% of the work. And the higher up the scale of achievement one goes, the smaller the percentage of the actual innovators and achievers. The US, for example, is still able to skim from overseas pools of talent, as are many nations of Europe.

      More, a low IQ society (average IQ 72) such as South Africa, for example, is able to rank # 11 on the global innovation rankings. How is that possible? Market dominant minorities — and small islands of competence — still survive in the midst of stupidity, nepotism, and corruption.

      This is why networking competent groups of people is so critical in the age of dysgenic decline and Idiocracy. Parallel infrastructures are likewise crucial.

  2. Dave says:

    The “leading innovator” countries did one thing right: They instituted a system of secure property rights. That meant that your improvements to your land would benefit your offspring instead of whoever the state decided to put there. It also meant that you could have fewer but healthier offspring, because the land wasn’t constantly redistributed to whoever had the most babies. This kept the population safely below the Malthusian ceiling, so you could set aside some land for experimentation.

    Most importantly, this began a thousand years ago. Eugenic breeding is a very slow process, gaining at best 2 IQ points per century, and it takes a large population of very high intelligence before a Scientific or Industrial revolution can happen. White men are often ridiculed for promoting women into cognitive fields based on their performance relative to other women, but their original reason for doing this was so they could marry the smartest women and produce the next generation of scientists!

    Instead of property rights, China created an exam system to select the best and brightest and promote them to positions with the best mating opportunities. Thus over centuries the Chinese brain evolved away from innovative thinking and became a test-taking machine. Don’t assume that teaching students to memorize facts and regurgitate them on tests is the path to innovation — like any livestock breeder, you’ll get what you select for!

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