Even after so many years of coming China, I still get a spring in my step whenever I arrive here. The economic growth that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the last forty years is the greatest achievement in all human history.
No other nation in the world has developed its economy so quickly or built such a massive manufacturing, transportation, and urban infrastructure to serve so many people. Naturally, China still faces serious challenges including reducing pollution and reducing the growing gap in living standards between the rural and urban population, but the government is already moving quickly to address these issues at a speed and scale that leave other countries gasping.
While recognizing China’s growing economic might, many Western critics have consoled themselves by saying that the country lacks the capacity for innovation that can be found in other more “advanced” countries. Ten years ago, this may have been true, but it’s hard to argue that it’s still the case now. Indeed, thanks to a judicious mix of strategic policy direction and huge government and private sector investments, China has a very good chance of becoming the number one player in the global market for electric-powered autonomous vehicles.
The aggressive startup culture that has emerged in cities like Shenzhen, Hangzhou, and Beijing is another sign of the country’s growing innovation capacity. Already we have seen its impact on the global smart phone market, and we will no doubt see similar results in the rising IoT and AI segments. For the first time, Silicon Valley has a real competitor for its mantle as the global technology innovation hot spot!
For many years, China has had a policy of learning as much as it can from the West. Now is the time for the West to take off its blinkers so that it can see more clearly what it can learn from China. Given the sorry state of the highways, trains, and airports in many Western countries, perhaps the first lesson should be Infrastructure 101.