Western powers neglect how China shared innovation throughout history

By Toumert Al Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/22 21:58:40

llustration: Peter C. Espina/GT



 

Lately when reading the news, we see a lot of talk about an imminent trade war that will break out among the biggest economies in the world, namely China, Europe and the US.

The new US administration is taking the lead by engaging in confrontational rhetoric, blaming China of stealing intellectual property rights (IPR) from US companies.

This stance is not only alarming because it is a false narrative; ultimately, it represents a very disturbing trend emerging in the West , a trend that tries to hide the role of Chinese civilization in bringing crucial innovations, scientific discoveries and inventions to the world.

It hides a simple truth, that these countries are somehow losing the edge of innovation to China. They have to compete with robust Chinese technology, China's cheaper manufacturing capacity due to economies of scale, and a China that's more willing to share its IPR as it did centuries ago. And this is what Americans and Europeans are uneasy about: the power of innovation and sharing of China.

China has been historically credited with bringing to the world the Four Great Inventions: the compass, gunpowder, papermaking and printing.

For this I would like to quote Karl Max: "Gunpowder, the compass, and the printing press were the three great inventions that ushered in bourgeois society. Gunpowder blew up the knightly class, the compass discovered the world market and found the colonies, and the printing press was the instrument of Protestantism and the regeneration of science in general; the most powerful lever for creating the intellectual prerequisites."

If we study the work of authors and researchers since 1500 AD, we will find numerous citations on the origin of these inventions in China.

It is important from a historical prospective to stop characterizing China as a nation that built its society by infringing on other nations' ideas and advances.

Without the Four Great Inventions cited above, the world would not be the same as we see it today. Did the European nations take advantage of these discoveries? Certainly. Did the Europeans pay China for any use of IPR? Never.

Actually, the list of innovations does not stop with these four. We can relate many others, among them paper currency dating back to the Tang dynasty around 618 AD. Can you imagine globalization, international trade without paper currency? So again China shared its innovation without asking anything in return.

If the past shows us clearly that China was an innovative civilization, the present reflects that spirit of leading in the field of discovery, a decision taken by Chinese President Xi Jinping to engage China in a new driving force not only to bring back China's glorious status as a major civilization, but to rejuvenate its society, give it momentum in a world relying for its survival on technological breakthrough in the fields of quantum physics, space discoveries, aviation, the Internet and artificial intelligence.

Europeans and Americans have ignored the peaceful rise of China. The People's Republic of China under the Communist Party leadership had a vision in 1949 for a great nation to rise from the ashes of imperialism and poverty to become a modern economy and lead the peaceful economic advancement of the world.

Western powers tried to contain it, tried to limit the pace of modernization, curb in any possible way the potential of a strong China.

History tells us that they failed at all level. The pursuit of containment pushed decision-makers in China to look inward and stay true to the virtues of party values, which lay in recognizing the roles of science, technology and the people to realize the Chinese dream.

The author is director of Education, International Bachelor Program at the International School under China Foreign Affairs University. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn



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