High-Tech Entrepreneurs Thrive in China

This post is taken from China’s 360 Series and is about Zhongguancun, China’s Silicon Valley, which is located in Beijing’s Haidian District and was first developed in the late 1990s.

Here are a few pictures of the concrete, glass and steel canyons of Zhongguancun taken by Steve Hsu, a professor of physics at the University of Oregon.

Prior to this post, I’ve read several times in the Western media that China doesn’t have a chance to match California’s Silicon Valley because China lacks freedom. This is simplistic thinking.

The Chinese have every economic freedom that many Americans do except two — total freedom of religion and limited political expression if it is considered a threat to the central government and the stability of China’s economic progress.

It isn’t as if these few limits to freedom are a secret since they are part of China’s Constitution, which is taught in the public schools.

Other than that, since money and freedom are linked, the growing Chinese middle class has as much freedom to live the same consumer lifestyle many Americans do.

In fact, a 2010 survey by the California Voter Foundation found that 51 percent of nonvoters (in the US) grew up in families that did not often discuss political issues and candidates.

This is evidence that total freedom of religion and/or political expression is not necessary for entrepreneurial innovation to improve lifestyles and consumer freedom.

If you still doubt that China can compete with America, I remind you of the recent PISA results where China’s Shanghai teens earned first place in every category tested while the US ranked 23rd of about 65 nations tested.

Time magazine reported, “Chinese classrooms have more students, but teachers make more money than in the United States and there is a huge emphasis on problem-solving skills.”

This 2008 video takes us to a lab in Tsinghua University in Beijing where students are discussing solar technology.

Ye Yuming, an award-winning student at Tsinghua University said, “China lags behind other countries in the solar power industry. The solar PV will help us improve and break the monopoly held by foreign businesses. The solar PV has great market potential, especially in China. The market size is huge.”

What Ye Yuming said was true at the time but two years after he made that statement, China became the world’s largest solar power manufacturer.

Feng Jun, a Chinese entrepreneur, set up one of China’s first private high-tech companies. Today he is president of AIGO. He says, “1992 was the year the real reform of China began.” By 2008, AIGO was one of the top ten camera manufacturers in China. He says that 20% of profits go to profit sharing and the other 80% goes into research and development.

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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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