Innovating through manufacturing, the China way
Dan Wang writes in Foreign Affair about how China is gaining ground over the US in the tech space by challenging the Western model where scientific discovery reigns supreme:
Unlike the West, China has grounded its technology sector not in glamorous research and advanced science but in the less flashy task of improving manufacturing capabilities. If Washington is serious about competing with Beijing on technology, it will need to focus on far more than trailblazing science. It must also learn to harness its workforce the way China has, in order to bring innovations to scale and build products better and more efficiently. For the United States to regain its lead in emerging technologies, it will have to treat manufacturing as an integral part of technological advancement, not a mere sideshow to the more thrilling acts of invention and R & D.
This transfer of manufacturing know-how has also been one of the keys to China’s dominance of the solar industry. Goosed by subsidies and aided by their ready access to skilled labor, Chinese firms were soon producing better and cheaper solar panels than their U.S. and German counterparts. And these manufacturing innovations have increasingly defined the global industry: the advances in solar over the last decade have been driven less by breakthroughs in science—America’s specialty—than by driving costs down through more efficient production, which is China’s strength.
Read the full article: China’s Hidden Tech Revolution: How Beijing Threatens U.S. Dominance.
And in case you missed it, Wang also recently published his 2022 letter, which, amongst other things, includes a nuanced account of China’s year of lockdowns and what it means for the country as it moves into 2023.