All brawn and no brains? [By Jiao Haiyang/China.org.cn]
Today, China faces two formidable gaps. On the domestic front, there is the gap between the rich and the poor; in global terms, there is the innovation gap.
This year's Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), ranked China 26th in its top 30, up by one position from last year's 27th place. Switzerland took the top spot for the third consecutive year. China's Taiwan remained in 13th position. By contrast, the United States has seen its position drop over the last three year, falling from first place on the 2008-2009 list to fifth place this year..
Similarly, the Global Innovation Index 2011 Edition released by the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD) ranked China 29th, after Qatar, the Czech Republic and Cyprus. Once again, Switzerland claimed the top spot. China's Hong Kong claimed a remarkable fourth place, with the United States in seventh position.
Some fellow Chinese are laughing behind their hands at America's misfortune, believing that time is very much on China's side. However, in my view, these people are just miscalculating the situation and their overconfidence borders on absurdity.
The US' drop down the rankings is largely due to the financial crisis, which has greatly impacted its real economy and indirectly caused it to pare down its innovation-related spending. Even so, the country's innovation-friendly system and its advanced educational and scientific infrastructure remain intact. Given time and provided that it can recover well from the crisis, the US may yet reclaim the top spot.
In China's case, improving its ranking by one place is not especially significant. China is both the most populous developing country in the world and also the fastest-growing economy. Furthermore, the number of young people in our education system, most notably in higher education, is second to none in global terms. In light of all this, China's current 26th position is really too modest for the second largest economy boasting the richest human resources in the world.
Everybody knows the importance of innovation in today's business and economy. Some even believe that innovation is the source of a nation's core competitiveness. The bigger issue, however, is how to achieve innovation. Our governments at various levels have been calling for the building of an innovation-oriented country. But we have seen few specific measures to pave the way for innovations.