The awakening of the sleeping giant – China!
The famous French General, Napoleon Bonaparte, remarked about China — “There lies a sleeping giant. Let him sleep! For when he wakes he will move the world.”
China is awakening.
One indication of China’s new alertness is the desire to no longer simply imitate the technology of other nations, but to innovate new technology of its own. Christina Larson writes for Wired about her experience of going to Beijing to visit Kai-Fu Lee, a venture capitalist focused on artificial intelligence (AI). Her visit, in October of 2017, was interrupted briefly by what seemed to be a quick slip through a wormhole, leaving Ms. Larson in the Beijing of the last century. It was not a real wormhole, of course. Nor a time machine. It was something far more prosaic – an elevator. She took the wrong one.
Evidently, one mark of the old China still present is an area of northern Beijing, known for its electronics-markets. High-rise buildings with multiple floors each packed with stalls selling all kinds of electronic product. From cameras to TVs, from DVD players to smart toasters, from keyboards to printers. Some items were made by major brands – Samsung, Nokia, Canon. Many more were imitations of the real thing. Knock-off products. While most electronics were assembled in China, few, if any, were invented in China. China has for generations been understood to be “the industrious copycat nation.”
Known for Design
However, key leaders of the sleeping giant nation awoke and decided that they wanted the country “to be known for a new kind of electronics – not only ‘Made in China,’ but ‘Designed in China.'” This new direction is being encouraged, not mandated. Innovation has a decidedly creative aspect which cannot be turned on at will. So the government has provided refurbished office space through incentives for startups, investors and patent attorneys. By edict many of the imitators have packed up their boxes.
China continues to awaken
The old China that only cloned the ideas of others, needs to make way for the new China that is ready to contribute to the growth of global technology. They have growing strength “in fields ranging from artificial intelligence to genomics to drones.”
Ms Larson makes the observation from her experience in the elevator wormhole, that…”In China, change comes so quickly that the future can arrive before the past is fully stripped away.” Transition is inevitable. New growth, however, does not wait for the old to fall off. It pushes it out of the way. When focusing on China in the global economy, rather than being confused by the close juxtaposition of old and new, focus on the dominant new direction.