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Technology & Innovation

Is Freedom A Necessary Ingredient For Innovation?

China may not be the freest society in the world, but for some time now it's been catching up to -- and outpacing -- the US in several facets of research and development.

What’s the Latest Development?

In case anyone still doubted authoritarian China’s influence in global innovation, writer Eamonn Fingleton offers, among others, the following indicators: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported that the number of Chinese working in research and development doubled between 2000 and 2007, while the number of Americans working in R&D increased only by 10 percent in the same period. Also, late last year, a report released by the Battelle Institute predicted that China would overtake the US in R&D spending by 2023.

What’s the Big Idea?

Contrary to what many Americans may like to believe, says Fingleton, cultural freedoms don’t always lead to increased technological creativity, and the US’ own reputation only dates back to World War II and the Cold War that followed. “Throughout history, rich nations have gotten to the future first…[A]s China becomes richer, is it destined to pass the United States as the world’s most inventive nation?” British professor James Wilsdon sees a comparison between China’s technological and sporting achievements, noting that between 1988 and 2008 the country went from 11th to first in total gold medals. “If this is what China can achieve in sport, how quickly can it become a leader in science and innovation?”

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Read it at The New York Times


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