Technological Superpower China
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Technological Superpower China

Jon Sigurdson, Jiang Jiang, Xinxin Kong, Yongzhong Wang and Yuli Tang

Technological Superpower China explores how China is becoming a technological superpower within the global economy by integrating its national R & D programmes with the innovation systems of national and international corporations. Jon Sigurdson provides a thorough and comprehensive analysis of China’s knowledge foundation in technology and R & D following its dynamic march forward in the early 1980s.
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Chapter 10: China Regaining its Position as a Source of Learning

Jon Sigurdson, Jiang Jiang, Xinxin Kong, Yongzhong Wang and Yuli Tang


SCIENCE AND CIVILIZATION IN CHINA Towards the end of the 1700s China had similar opportunities to start an industrial revolution comparable to those in England. One important difference was that the essential new energy source – coal – was widespread close to the manufacturing sites in Europe, while distances were far greater in China. In addition, Great Britain and Europe were to benefit from the flow of raw materials, like cotton, from the United States. This is the main argument advanced by Kennneth Pommeranz to explain why industrialization did not start in East Asia.1 However, Benjamin Elman argues that China was in a high-level equilibrium trap in which non-industrial methods were efficient enough to prevent industrial methods.2 Underlying his argument is an assertion that the older and the modern traditions embody fundamental differences and that the former do not permit changes. In a related discourse Ellen Chen has suggested that the problem of tradition and modernization is much more serious and disturbing for original civilizations.3 Thus Chinese, Indian and Islamic civilizations face greater difficulties than civilizations that have been constantly attuned to borrowing from other traditions. As a consequence China’s path towards modernization has been particularly tortuous as, like Japan, it had limited borrowing experience and nor did it have any of the colonial guidance from which, for example, India benefited. Chen sees China’s acceptance of the Marxist ideology as a complete system that would in its totality replace the totalistic Confucian system that had failed to direct...

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