Very recently, Chinese companies have started to outpace multinational corporations (MNCs) in advanced research, emerging technologies and trend analyses, and MNCs in China are shifting innovation strategies to align with the Chinese model. How does innovation happen in a nation that for decades has been regarded as the pacemaker of global piracy and intellectual property infringement? What is the social foundation, or the ‘sociology of creative practice’, that drives China’s innovation capacities? This paper argues that piracy, albeit embarrassing, speculative and often harmful, under extreme social conditions leads to great affordability and then abundant accessibility of both foreign and domestic knowledge products. This has enabled young Chinese cybercitizens (or Diaosi) to develop experience with top-quality creative products to an extent that perfection becomes a common expectation from which China’s innovation leaders such as Taobao, WeChat and Xiaomi have to draw their inspirations. Key words China, Diaosi, user innovation, consumer demand, intellectual property piracy
China is widely regarded as a norm taker of the global intellectual property regime dominated by industrialized nations. It is however likely that China will become a norm holder due to China's increasing strengths in high technology and innovation as well as its expanding outbound investment into foreign high-tech sectors. Globalization and the global intellectual property regime that serves it are defined by neoliberal capitalism. Chinese enterprises equipped with improved market experience will soon find these neoliberal, corporate interest-maximizing game rules very attractive. As a consequence, they may become a new norm holder of the current intellectual property regime, and perhaps a more predatory one.
From the nineteenth-century late Qing dynasty reform to China's endeavor to construct a twenty-first-century knowledge economy, intellectual property has frequently stuck out as a core agenda of China–foreign diplomatic and trading relations. Such a history is usually interpreted from two perspectives: one is an ‘infringement perspective’ in which China is understood as a notorious infringer of foreign intellectual property; the other is a ‘transplant perspective’ which argues that China's modern intellectual property laws emerge and progress as the consequence of foreign pressure. Both interpretations intend to hold that China's passive role in modern intellectual property law making is ultimately cultural – that is, the notion of intellectual property is alien to Chinese culture. This paper takes a completely different cultural perspective. Through micro-level historical details, it addresses the following fundamental question – was the authentic Chinese culture present or accessible by the Westerners (as well as many Chinese) in that part of history? In a broader context, it further addresses another crucial question – if the authentic Chinese culture is yet to be presented or accessible, shouldn't (legal) orientalism be regarded as a consequence of cultural unawareness rather than cultural prejudice?