Throughout the early 2000s, many American protectionists, including those who often described themselves as being in favour of free trade, criticised China due to its high levels of industrial output which far outpaced that of most competitors. At the time, China was criticised not only for its ability to outproduce the US but for its lower industrial wages and its alleged lack of innovation in both the development of industrial goods and hi-tech invention.
Today, wages in China continue to rise while automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are becoming increasingly important factors in China’s new industrial model which will culminate in the finalising of the Made in China 2025 drive for further innovation in mechanised and robotic production techniques. At the same time, President Xi Jinping’s “Created in China” revolution in hi-tech development, new industrial research, pioneering pharmaceutical/medical research/development and a renaissance in Chinese entrepreneurialism means that China is rapidly transforming itself from a production powerhouse to a hybrid economy where innovation and invention will become as vital if not more so than efficient and effective production techniques.
This is the message that President Xi Jinping conveyed during recent remarks which addressed the need to power ahead in terms of technological research and innovation. According to Xinhua,
“President Xi Jinping has stressed improving innovation capabilities for key and core technologies to offer a strong technological guarantee for China’s development.
Key and core technologies are crucial to a country and bear major significance for promoting China’s high-quality economic development and maintaining national security, Xi, also head of the Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs, said at a meeting of the committee on Friday.
China must improve innovation capabilities for key and core technologies and keep a firm hold on the initiative in the development of science and technology to offer a strong technological guarantee for China’s development, Xi pointed out.
Representatives from the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering reported their work at the meeting.
A statement of the meeting said China’s technology innovation capabilities have improved markedly in recent years, but the level of technology development, especially in key and core technologies, still has much room to improve to match international advanced levels.
China should enhance fundamental research and seek major breakthroughs, the statement said, calling for an enhanced sense of urgency and crisis.
The meeting asked for the establishment of a mechanism to enhance the development of key and core technologies and more targeted planning of related systems and new platforms.
The government will streamline the approval and management of projects for major scientific and technological research, give R&D institutions and staff more say, and reform evaluation and reward mechanisms for science and technology R&D.
More efforts will be made to develop top-level scientific instrument makers, protect intellectual property rights and nurture professionals. Innovative investment and finance policies will be introduced to facilitate greater cooperation between leading enterprises and research institutes, according to the meeting.
China will continue to be open to international cooperation in science and technology to leverage global innovation resources and diversify channels for cooperation, the statement said”.
For the China of today, things are not only better than they have ever been but in-line with Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for a New Era – the best is yet to come. This is manifested in Xi’s goal to transform China from an industrial powerhouse to an innovation powerhouse, all while eliminating poverty completely by 2020 in a push to create a moderately prosperous society.
In this sense, China is doing everything in 2018 that many Americans actually wanted it to do at the turn of the 21st century. China is no longer competing with others in terms of mere industrial output – instead China is now at the forefront of innovation in science and technological development. This means that in the years and decades to come, the next big cure for a devastating disease, the next innovation in the automotive industry to make vehicles safer and more efficient, the next great leap forward in multiprocessing technology and the next generation of machine learning techniques and devices will likely be created in China.
China seeks to become a world leader in hi quality manufactured goods as well as in the scientific, creative and innovative process that goes into pioneering new technologies. In this sense, Xi is spearheading a revolution in 21st century invention with Chinese characteristics.
While hardly published in western media, over the last ten years China has been making strides in the production of high quality electronic and automotive goods. Many Chinese brands in the coveted audio and video sector can already be found throughout the world, including in the United States, although for the time being, they lack the promotional presence of rival Japanese, US and EU brands.
While many of the components of the world’s leading computer, table and smartphone brands are manufactured in China, in short order, existing technologies will be competing on a global level with Chinese brands featuring unique hardware, software and design features. Likewise, while Chinese cars and trucks, including luxury vehicles are already being sold in ever greater numbers domestically and throughout Asia, just as Japan was comparatively late to the luxury car market that had traditionally been dominated by Germany, the US, UK and France, China too will soon be offering vehicles for sale to rival major brand names including BMW, Jaguar, Cadillac, Audi and even Mercedes-Benz.
XI Jinping’s increased commitment to innovation and quality production in China is in-line with the overall economic trends of Chinese prosperity creating increasingly high wages for Chinese labourers. China is no longer the low-wage/high-volume economy it once was. The China of today actually has wages that typically run higher than those in other parts of Asia, much of Latin America and parts of southern and eastern Europe. Consequently, it is only natural that China would progress to create goods that are more specialised, of increasingly premier quality and based on domestic designs and innovations.
This reality means that those who seek to deride China’s economic progress will have to find a new narrative, while justifying the fact that while innovation in neo-liberal economies tends to mean a loss of jobs, income and wealth among working and middle class citizens, in China the opposite is true. This is because the managed nature of market socialism allows for wealth generated in terms of aggregate national efforts which can be re-invested in the Chinese people. This is a further reason why increased automation will not negatively impact China in the way it already affects traditional neo-liberal economies. At the same time, China is feeling the increased confidence and general self-sufficiency to open up internal markets to foreign investment.
The result of China’s high-quality, hi-tech and AI revolution has been continued criticism from the United States. The logical conclusion that can be derived from analysing contemporary US criticisms of China is that US political leaders are not actually concerned with China’s own developmental goals as they once pretended to be. In reality, American critics of China are simply desirous to see China fail in its quest to become a global leader in innovation.
This zero-sum mentality is such that China is criticised when it allegedly innovates too little while China is equally criticised and subjected to protectionist tariffs when China innovates “too much”. This attitude of hypocrisy on the part of the US belies a mean spirited and childish mentality that does not allow for the phenomenon of shared success on the win-win model.
Today’s interconnected world necessarily relies on free trade to both elevate living standards and create jobs. This is why China’s One Belt–One Road initiative is designed to give nations the tools they need to engage in free trade in a manner that is specifically tailored to expanding a given country’s existing areas of excellence by opening up new trade routes and markets for a nation’s key exports while allowing the seamless inflow of goods from abroad required to elevate the condition of a developing economy and people, all the while boosting future industrial potential.
The Chinese model of free trade on a win-win cooperative basis could also help to inject new life into US industry that in many cases is in need of intense redevelopment in order to transform obsolete 20th century standards to the efficient, sustainable models of contemporary industrial trends. Imagine if instead of looking to China as a rival, Trump embraced a spirit of cooperation for major projects between the world’s two largest economies. Under such a format, US and Chinese tech firms could work jointly on projects involving the development of medicines and procedures to cure chronic diseases, joint car making initiatives which could rival European auto-giants, schemes to jointly train scientists working on cutting-edge AI and machine learning development – and these are just some of the areas where the two superpowers could combine strengths while also compensating for areas where the other might be lagging. There is a monumental level of potential inherent in joint Sino-US projects but unfortunately the current US leadership has turned its back on this potential.
Even though the US and Russia are going through a difficult period in terms of diplomatic relations, both countries still cooperate over space exploration. If China and the US could coordinate and cooperate in areas such as innovation in the hi-tech and pharmaceutical fields, the condition of both peoples could be elevated. Instead, Trump has decided to build an economic wall around the United States that has already backfired on the US stock markets which took a sharp downturn after the tariff proposal announcement and which will furthermore harm the US consumer, worker and business owner.
Trump’s path is a lose-lose proposition that will ultimately harm the US more than China. China is currently opening its doors to foreign goods and capital more than at any time in its modern history. Likewise, China continues to work on One Belt–One Road connectivity projects with partners across the globe. China will therefore reap the benefits implicit in the mentality of openness, optimism in free trade and innovation in both product development and trading logistics.
Simultaneous to this, the US is failing to re-invest in industrial modernisation but is instead using tariffs to shield businesses in need of fresh ideas and sustainable models from the realities of the modern world. The US should not be the land where time stands still, but this is the logical conclusion of the new counterproductive tariff proposals.
Instead of working as a partner of China whose economic door is now more widely open than ever before, the US continues to both criticise and attempt to punish China for the simple reason that China is successful. If the US put as much effort into reforming its own industrial base as it does in respect of criticising Chinese reforms, the US itself would be in a far better position than it is today.