Innovation in China­ ­– Part 1/2

February 12, 2012

Ever since the debate with Troy Parfitt, I’ve been interested to discover if there was a way to measure global innovation to learn how China compares to other nations such as the United States, Singapore and Canada.

In fact, there is a way. It’s called The Global Innovation Index 2011. Since 2007, INSEAD eLab has been producing this index, which recognizes the key role of innovation as a driver of economic growth and prosperity.

Through a complex method of gathering data, INSEAD eLab and its global partners compiled the annual results.

China may not be the world’s number one country on this global index, but it is ranked twenty-ninth of the 125 countries on the list and it has a score of 46.43. The lowest rank went to Algeria, which had a score of 19.79. The highest went to Switzerland with a score of 63.82.

By comparison, the United States ranked seventh with a score of 56.57. However, one region of China beat the US and was ranked fourth—Hong Kong (SAR) with a score of 58.8. Canada was ranked eighth and Singapore, with 76.8% of its population Chinese influnced by Confucian values, ranked third.

Global Innovation Index 2011

The Global Innovation Index ranks countries with a complex series of measurements that are described in detail in a fifty-four page pdf document, which may be accessed from the Global Innovation Web site (see link above).

The pillars used for measuring innovation are: Institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure, market sophistication, business sophistication, input, scientific outputs, creative outputs, output, and efficiency.

INSEAD has four partners that help compile the data that results in the Global Innovation Index—they are: The World Intellectual Property Organization at the UN (WIPO), Alcatel-Lucent, CII (Construction Industry Institute), and Booz & Company. In addition, INSEAD’s advisory board is comprised of senior representatives from organizations such CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and ITU.

Why is it important to the global economy to identify countries that have a rich environment for innovation? Professor Dutta says, “Both developed and developing countries realize that innovation is the only way that they can guarantee the competitiveness going forward. It is also important because innovation is important to inspire young people in an economy.”

Continued on January 11, 2012 in Innovation in China – Part 2


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Global Ignorance of Innovation

October 31, 2010

Many who live in Western democracies love patting themselves on the back and feeling superior to the rest of the world.

In The Economist for October 16, I found Innovation in China — Patents, yes; ideas, maybe, which demonstrates how ignorant some are about China. 

Since The Economist’s home office is in London, the magazine represents more than the American media—it represents the Western media and this piece was written in Hong Kong.

This isn’t the first time I’ve read about China’s reputation for trampling intellectual-property rights and that an authoritarian government couldn’t possibly compete with a democracy when it comes to innovation.

However, the conclusion points out that China is becoming more innovative and is starting to be serious about protecting intellectual property rights through China’s changing legal system.

What The Economist piece misses is that democracies do not hold a patent on innovation. For more than two millennia, innovations were rampant in an authoritarian China ruled by emperors without much of a legal system. The usual form of punishment was decapitation.

In fact, the list of innovations from ancient China is long and historians are starting to revise the textbooks to show that most of what we have today came from an authoritarian China.

To learn more about the innovations that originated in Imperial China then found a way to the West centuries later, I suggest reading Paper, Printing, Gunpowder, Crossbow and other Inventions, Machines of China, and China Points the Way.

I’m sure there are those who will deny the West “borrowed” these innovations from China and claim that the West reinvented them, but the evidence shows that these ideas traveled West along both the north and south Silk Roads as early as the Roman Empire more than two millennia ago. It just took time for the West to learn how to copy what the Chinese invented then claim it was the West that came up with the ideas.

Too bad that the patent laws, lawyers and courts of today didn’t exist then. Imagine the settlements over these ancient Chinese innovations, which revolutionized the world we live in today.


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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