In You Can’t Build a New Silicon Valley Just Anywhere by Margaret O’Mara, writing for Foreign Policy magazine, she says, “for many of the would-be silicon cities being constructed by the Russias and Chinas of the world; with their long histories of centralized control, they are still convinced they can order up success.”
O’Mara’s theme is that the success we have seen in California’s Silicon Valley is due to the freedom America’s republic—now a democracy—offers along with loads of money from the government and venture capitalists with no strings attached.
If that were true, explain how China (ruled by Emperors under an autocratic imperialistic monarchy) was more technologically advanced than any country on earth for almost two thousand years.
If you don’t speak Chinese, the English subtitles say it all.
After all, the Chinese invented the stirrup for saddles which revolutionized warfare on horseback, gunpowder, the multistage rocket, the compass, paper, the printing press and pasta along with a long list of other innovations, which changed the world.
Without the Chinese, where would the world be today? See Chinese Crossbow and other Inventions
China may not offer the same individual freedoms the West does, but “face”, which is important in Chinese culture, is a strong motivator to improvise and invent so one gains “face” and becomes powerful and wealthy.
Before Deng Xiaoping and the “Getting Rich is Glorious” generation that he gave birth to, I would have agreed with Margaret O’Mara but not now.
In my next series, The Machines of Ancient China, we will discover more about China’s contributions to the world we live in.
To discover the Chinese advantage, learn about Guanxi in China
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.
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It does seem conceited to say that innovation hubs can only happen in a our kind of society. I think China and the other BRIC countries are changing opinions around the world on this point.
Also, after living in Guangzhou for the past year, I think Chinese citizens are much more free than most of the world realizes. They are starting businesses and creating new products all the time.
However, the Roman Republic was one of a kind and most of the other nations that existed before modern England and America may have been equally as “free” or “not free” as China. Therefore, someone could make the case that if the USA had existed in ancient times, they may have rivaled China or even dwarfed them as well. Certainly, the amount of inventions and innovations that America has brought into the world is endless in comparison. The quantity of innovative products is added to everyday, whereas no country in ancient times could have even rivaled with the number of innovations America spits out on a constant basis. This isn’t to say they were not innovative, just not at the same level.
Maybe we were just lucky. Maybe we came into being at a tipping point. However, I think we attracted the greatest minds in the world to come to our country to create the hubs that now exist. Even today, Chinese citizens are flocking to America with the rest of the world. They are helping to build the hubs in Seattle, San Francisco, Raleigh, and New York City to name a few.
So the question is: What attracted this Brain Gain? Was it the combination of unbridled capitalism and freedom? Was it resources? Was it a good standard of living?
I think Silicon valley’s success could have been created for the reasons O’Mara puts forth, but I don’t think it precludes other avenues to the same outcomes.
Other countries need to realize in order to create a world leading hub, it helps to attract the best and the brightest from around the world and not just from within your own country. Think of all the inventions America has produced on the backs of the smartest immigrants like Einstein.
Jeremie, I may have mentioned before that I taught in the public schools for thirty years. The school I taught at had many immigrants from all over the world. My experience is that if it weren’t for those immigrants, America would be doomed.
Where many American born kids of American born parents were rude, lazy and nasty, many of the immigrant students were polite and worked harder at gaining an education.
Most immigrants work harder than American born citizens do. Many who are born here and do not have immigrant parents tend to take all the material goods and freedoms for granted and do not realize how much hard work went into getting where the US is today.
As for innovative hubs, does another country with the size of China’s population need one. Maybe what will happen will be mini hubs scattered throughout the country, which will equal or surpass Silicon Valley in time.
For example, China built a super computer that rivals the ones in the US. China is on the way to the moon. China is going to build a space station since the Western nations won’t share theirs with China. China doesn’t plan to go to the moon, Mars and beyond to leave footprints. China plans to build colonies and mine for rare earth minerals, which are vital to new technologies.
I believe that global wars, genocides, and conflict drove millions to an America that was pretty much untouched by war since the Civil War more than a hundred and forty years ago. World War 1 devastated much of Europe’s industries and a few decades later World War 2 did a bigger job of wrecking those countries.
Japan’s invasion of China destroyed China’s industries besides killing more than twenty million. Then Mao did help with his Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution.
America benefited from the worlds bad times. However, Europe, Japan, and China have rebuilt and are ready to improve life and complete on a global scale, which explains why the US is hurting and has trouble competing with desperate people willing to work for meager pay to escape crippling poverty.
Spain was once a world empire that fought too many wars and built up too much debt then collapsed as the Roman Empire did. The British Empire did the same and so did France and Germany and Japan. All of these countries reached too far and paid the price and America benefited.
Not, it appears that those good times Ameicans started to take for granted have changed.