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hina Literature Limited CEO Liang Xiaodong and Wu wenhui rase champagne glasses ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty Images

Will China Out-Innovate the West?

For decades, Western governments have offered protections for incumbent firms at the expense of new market entrants, and of productivity growth generally. With China quickly realizing the value of fair and free competition, the West urgently needs to change course, or risk being left behind.

NEW YORK – From the early nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, Western countries attributed their economic growth to the discoveries of “scientists and navigators.” A country needed only the “zeal” to develop “obvious” commercial applications, and build the facilities to meet demand for new products.

Until recently, the Chinese believed the same thing. But now, Chinese businesspeople and entrepreneurs are increasingly showing not only the entrepreneurial drive to adapt to new opportunities, but also the desire and capacity to innovate for themselves, rather than simply copying what’s already out there.

Indeed, more and more Chinese companies are realizing that they must innovate in order to get – and stay – ahead in the global economy. Several companies – notably Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent – made breakthroughs, by offering digital-age infrastructure that facilitates innovative activity. And industrial firms have recently moved into robots and artificial intelligence.

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