Comparing China’s Approach to Technological Development with Latecomers and Peer Competitors

This project evaluates the progress that China has made in transforming its national innovation system over the last decade.

At the end of the 1990s, China’s state-dominated approach to innovation changed dramatically as new areas for bottom-up innovation and entrepreneurship were opened up and resources and responsibilities were delegated to firms. The country’s national innovation strategy took a distinct turn to a heightened emphasis on indigenous or autonomous innovation. The new strategy involves both increased resources and important strategic policy choices.

Researchers are examining China’s transition to autonomous innovation through two perspectives. A comparative approach examines the earlier experiences of Japan, Korea, and other late industrializing countries and draws lessons for China. A sectoral approach considers the technology trajectory and experience of specific industries.

Bringing these approaches together will allow researchers to draw up a preliminary evaluation of China’s recent innovation experience as well as chart a course for future research.

Research Agenda

  1. Examine China’s technology development model since late 1970s from vertical integration to global horizontal networks
  2. Analyze policy trade-offs between encouraging “indigenous innovation” and maximizing absorption of foreign capabilities
  3. Investigate firm-level decision making with respect to innovative activities
  4. Redraw dividing line between government and firm in civilian, dual-use, and defense-related high-tech sectors

Project Leads

Tai Ming Cheung
Barry Naughton