Innovation definitely requires courage, determination and enforcement. And as Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter said, "One person's innovation is another person's disruption'', which means that innovation is bound to meet with resistance since it causes the disruption of old practices and vested interests. Therefore China needs to take bolder steps to get rid of all the institutional and cultural barriers to innovation, even if this process may be painful in the short term. As the old Chinese saying goes, "We should not stop eating for fear of choking."
The most pressing task before us is institutional innovation, especially when we are caught in a period of development in which we are seeing a concentrated outburst of social conflicts. For example, we do have a need to optimize our economic system by giving more play to the private sector, which could have become a greater growth point for the economy and might also provide a more stable, and sustainable, foundation for growth. There is also a need for China to improve its mode of governance and public service so that people's initiative can be further boosted and the country's social productivity can be released for the second time since 1978.
Institutional innovation can greatly facilitate corporate, technological and cultural innovation. Without it, such innovations are unsustainable. Therefore, China's government and society should be more ambitious in terms of exploring new and effective mechanisms for innovation, which will definitely lead to a fresh miracle in China's economy and a more lasting prosperity.
Education is another pressing issue for China. Examinations have long been the cornerstone of the country's education system and, more disturbingly, have always been the primary goal for students of all levels. The motivation for most students is a desire to pass examinations instead of seeing education as a journey of wonder and exploration. What's worse, their brains are always occupied by a large amount of irrelevant, dogmatic and unproductive information. As a result, their imagination and sense of innovation are severely curtailed.
More depressingly, our education seems to be going astray. It is increasingly becoming a money-making industry. Parents usually have to pay large sums of sponsorship money, even for the nine-year term of compulsory education, which is supposed to be free. The higher education system has also been widely criticized for putting expansion and larger student numbers ahead of quality. Also problematic are many young people's values, which have become purely utilitarian. If this tendency is not arrested, the consumer culture and a short-cut mentality may prevail on our campuses and the worship of power and money may become all-pervasive.
After China's first space lab module Tiangong-1 blasted off into the space days ago, the whole nation was happy and proud. In sharp contrast, however, the frequent high-speed rail accidents have pushed raised a couple of very serious, and worrying questions: is innovation really happening here? And is it happening in the right way?
The author is a China.org.cn columnist. For more information please visit: http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/luohuaiyu.htm
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