Great Leap Forward

Blog-Icon-MI.jpgDecades ago, Mao launched China on a Great Leap Forward that was anything but great. It was more of a leap into an abyss.

Today’s Chinese leaders are smarter. For one thing, they don’t take manufacturing for granted like too many Americans do. They want it. They nurture it. They attract it. They must have studied how U.S. manufacturing became a global power, because they are taking pages from the U.S. innovation play book.

The latest news about this genuine Great Leap is from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Generally, we might think that a group like WIPO would be complaining about intellectual property violations in China, because there are plenty of them. But in this report, released recently, a different picture of China’s interest in IP emerged: a country that is accelerating its own patent filings.

The WIPO report says that patent filings in China increased sixfold in the past ten years, with more than 130,000 applications being filed there in 2004, the latest year for such data. That leap puts China fifth–behind the Japan, the United States, EU and South Korea. About half the patent applications were from Chinese and the rest from foreigners. So we are still ahead on this score, but China is moving up fast. Emphasizing an innovation agenda, as you have read about at other times on this blog, is critical for the United States to keep its competitive edge. Germany has displaced the US as the world’s top exporter; we don’t want to see that displacement spread to other key economic indicators.