Strategies, Contexts and Challenges
Edited by Ken Shao and Xiaoqing Feng
Chapter 10: The international enclosure of China’s innovation space
A country’s ability to innovate depends on a wide variety of factors. Internally, it depends on the size of its economy, the availability of technological capabilities and the presence of much-needed human capital. Externally, it depends on constraints imposed by standards laid down by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and in other international fora. It also depends on international relations and foreign pressures, such as those exerted by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) through the widely criticized Section 301 process. Although China has a long history of international engagement, it was largely outside the international intellectual property community until it reopened its market for foreign trade in the late 1970s. In December 2001 China was finally admitted to the WTO after more than 15 years of exhaustive negotiations. Because of its then outsider status, many of the rules and standards in the existing international intellectual property regime have been established without the country’s input and participation. As China’s technological capabilities improve, these rules and standards have posed significant challenges to the country’s ability to innovate. To highlight the external constraints on China’s ability to innovate, this chapter recounts how the existing international intellectual property regime has evolved in a way that significantly encloses the innovation space of less developed countries – which, in WTO parlance, include both developing and least developed countries.
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