Ray Kwong (a friend of mine) has a post up on the Forbes China Tracker entitled, “Five Reasons China Will Rule Tech.” I ain’t buying it. Not even at a deep discount. 

Ray’s post is rash, premature, and inaccurate. I set out Ray’s five reasons in bold below and then I analyze them in normal font.   

1. China’s leadership understands engineering. In China, eight of the nine members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau, including the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, have engineering degrees; one has a degree in geology. Of the 15 U.S. cabinet members, six have law degrees. Only one cabinet member has a hard-science degree — Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1997, has a doctorate in physics. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have law degrees.   So what? Running a country is running a country and there is no evidence that those who are better able to design a television are any better at running a country than those who are not. Jimmy Carter was (at least until George Bush), indisputably the worst American President since Hoover and he was (I think) the only engineer. And since when has the U.S. Cabinet been the determinant of how our our technology is going? Silicon Valley has led the world in technology through many a president and cabinet that was not made up of engineers, so why should that not continue? 

2. China’s leadership wants to out-innovate the U.S. China’s political leadership has made technological innovation a leading goal in everything from supercomputers to nanotech. One highlight of this is China’s investment in clean energy technologies.  Again, so what? The United States’ leadership wants to out-innovate China and it too has made technological innovation a leading goal. More substantively, this analysis wrongly assumes government to be the end-all on innovation and that just is not the case.  

3. China’s science and technical talent pool is vast. The technical labor pool in China is so large that Shanghai-based offshore outsourcing company Bleum Inc. can use an IQ test to screen applicants, with a cutoff score for new computer science graduates in China of 140. Less than 1% of the population has a score that high. Bleum has started hiring a U.S. workforce but sets an IQ score of just 125 as a screening threshold.  One data point to note: In 2005, the U.S. awarded 137,500 engineering degrees, while China awarded 351,500, according to a workforce study last year.  This is complete bullshit. Unscientific bullshit. This argument is so incredibly flawed I have trouble seeing straight enough to even know where to start, but here goes.

  • China has four times the number of people as the United States so one would expect China to have four times the number of people with IQs 140 and over.
  • Are you really making the argument that the Chinese are genetically superior to others? Gosh, that sounds a lot like racism to me.
  • If we assume China has the same percentage of people with IQs over 140 as does the United States, I would absolutely expect a much higher percentage of those people to be interested and available for tech jobs than in the United States. I would expect that because of where China is in its economic development. In the United States (where the standard of living is so much higher than in China), those with IQs over 140 will have far more varied opportunities than in China.  
  • Ray’s analysis unquestioningly (and wrongly) assumes IQ is the sole and perfect determinant of one’s value to technology. I have worked with enough software and gaming and engineering companies to know that way more than pure IQ goes into their businesses. These businesses run on innovation, management, marketing, financials, etc., in addition to pure tech. Frankly, I would be very skeptical of any company that bases its hiring purely on an IQ test. And is there correlation whatsoever between IQ and imagination? 
  • The number of engineering degrees is far less important than the quality of those degrees and on quality the United States still leads by a vast margin. Ray, were you not familiar with the Duke report or did you just choose to ignore it in favor of making your case?  

4. The U.S. is failing at science and math education. A stark assessment of the U.S. failure in science and math education was made by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) at a Senate hearing in May, when she compared the performance of students in Texas to those in China. Wow, if a politician says it, it must be true! More seriously, if the United States is failing so bad in education, why does it seem like everyone in China with money is trying to figure out how to send their children to school in the United States? 

5. China is getting U.S. technology, all of it. In 2008, Sony Corp. closed what was identified as the last television manufacturing plant in the U.S., in Westmoreland, Pa. It shifted work to an assembly plant in Mexico, but the vast majority of TVs’ electronics components are made in Asia. (Dell sources $25 billion annually alone in components from China, for example).  This just about cinches it, I guess. If the United States is losing television manufacturing then it must be falling behind on the newest technology.  

I am NOT saying China is not moving forward with its technology and I am NOT guaranteeing China may not some day surpass the United States on this. But I am saying that Ray’s arguments are no different than the arguments that were being made about Russia in the 1960s and about Japan in the 1980s and neither country is really anywhere these days on the technology map.

In the end, if I had to choose a country that will be the leader in technology ten, twenty, thirty and fifty years from now I would be looking more for the country that welcomes diversity (and I use that word in the most purely capitalistic least mamby-pamby way possible) in its population/people and in its ideas over a country with a government that decrees innovation will start happening now.  

What me worry?

What do you think? 

UPDATE: Just discovered an excellent post by GE Anderson over at ChinaBizGov, entitled, “America is rotten; China is awesome, also taking Ray to task. Anderson describes Ray’s conclusions as “way overdrawn” and he too focuses on how Ray puts quantity over quality:

This is very much an issue of quality vs quantity. I spent two years teaching at universities in China, and I continue to maintain close touch with the academic community there. While China is indeed turning out math and science whizzes up through high school level (the average middle schooler can plot the trajectory of a non-guided missile), nothing is being done to nurture the kind of creative and critical thinking that produces innovation.

Furthermore, among the engineers earning degrees in China, very few of them have a passion for what they are learning. It doesn’t bother me that a relative handful of students in the US are choosing the sciences as long as the vast majority of these students love what they’re doing and eventually find their ways to Silicon Valley, Austin, TX or other similar clusters of talent. Again, this is where the innovation comes from.

Anderson does throw Ray the proverbial bone, however, by noting that his article “may have been intended somewhat as hyperbole to shock our leaders into action.” 

Yeah sure. Whatever. I guess I do hope that was Ray’s intention all along as this same sort of off-the-cuff fear mongering arguably did help drive the United States to beat the Russians to the moon.  

  • Daniel Shi

    Dan,
    Great post. To be fair, Ray does consistently have very good insights regarding China’s economy. However, when I read his post, I also thought along the same lines as you in your responses. Just not as well thought out and articulated.
    One thing that I is always brought up is the number of engineers that China (and India) graduates each year and how the pitiful handful of US engineering graduates are doomed. This is wrong.
    I have worked for a number of Chinese technology outsourcing companies, and we interview and hire many fresh grads from China’s tier 1 and tier 2 tech universities. I also lived with a guy who was a fresh grad who graduated from an Ivy League school in engineering. The difference between him and my recent graduate Chinese colleagues is like the difference between my college football team (Division III) and the San Diego Chargers. And not just on pure engineering capability, but creative thinking, problem solving, leadership, not to mention being able to draw on added liberal arts education as well as many years of high school and college sports (what I maintain is one of the top differentiators of the US education system from China’s).
    Also, those stats are also wrong. This Businessweek article is about a group at Duke University who looked into the supposed massive corp of engineers graduating in China: http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/dec2005/sb20051212_623922.htm
    Essentially, the gap is not as big as the Chinese Ministry of Education would like you to believe.
    One especially telling moment:
    “The word “engineer” didn’t translate well into different Chinese dialects and had no standard definition. We were told that reports received by the ministry from Chinese provinces didn’t count degrees in a consistent way. A motor mechanic or a technician could be considered an engineer, for example. Also, the numbers included all degrees related to information technology and specialized fields such as shipbuilding.”
    Also:
    “There were also “short-cycle” degrees, which were typically completed in 2 or 3 years. These are equivalent to associate degrees in the U.S. Nearly half of China’s reported degrees fell into this category.”
    These kinds of stories are always interesting and capture our imagination, and I can understand why. China is growing and developing in a major way. And anything which can boost egos while alarming others is a great story. But honestly, having been immersed in China’s tech economy, I firmly believe there is still a long way to go before China will rule tech.

  • Stan

    One of your very best posts…bravo

  • Dan,
    Fantastic post, and well thought-out argument. To strengthen what Daniel Shi wrote earlier, there is a huge gap between US and China-educated engineers. I believe that in the right environment, both could develop into outstanding contributors, but out of the box, the US-educated engineers are far better problem solvers, have the ability to think in terms of systems and processes, and are more innovation oriented. Having hired and managed engineers and quality experts in both countries, I can confidently state that it will be a very long time before China makes significant technology contributions.

  • Not to pile on, but the point regarding lawyers v. engineers as leaders is probably the weakest aspect of his argument. I realize that I am certainly biased in this regard, but if you look at the World Bank data regarding determinants of economic stability and success, rule of law (and thus lawyers) is one of the most crucial and directly-correlated variables.

  • I’m confused. It appears that the article was written without taking into consideration two critical factors: (1) China’s government has not yet to prove that it can sustain a thriving innovation cultural climate, or (2) China’s watergy crisis has yet to be proved that the country can even sustain the growth that is has so far developed let alone any future growth. Indeed, the issue may not be whether the Chinese lead the world in techno development; but whether the innovators will choose to remain in China. As we have seen in the past, many of the USA’s innovations may be attributed to immigrants.

  • reader

    Regarding TVs… the point, and it was made by Andy Grove of Intel, was that by losing TV manufacturing the U.S. was also losing a “chain of experience” — TVs is just example. Grove thinks retaining a “chain of experience” is critical to innovation.
    Regarding secondary education: pick and choose your study on where the U.S. is excelling in secondary education? If you find that show the U.S. is a positive light, please point it out.
    And this point:
    “Are you really making the argument that the Chinese are genetically superior to others? Gosh, that sounds a lot like racism to me.”
    WoW. You gleaned all that?

  • David Li

    China could rule tech but not for the reasons In Ray’s articles but for Andy Grove’s recent post as last commenter mentioned. Those who dominate low ends with scale will dominate the tech of tomorrow. I think too much of the focus of the term “tech” have been focus on Internet these days while ignoring the next wave of tech are really in clean tech, transportation and biotechnology and China is laying ground works in all three areas. US still lead in all three areas but China is out investing US in all three. The US technologies are flowing to China because it provides better environment and with large scale investment and technology transfers, it will give China enough driving force to innovate in all three.
    These future tech get very little inks in mainstream media which are too busy to gossip about Google China. For example, Beijing Genomic Institue in Shenzhen has more sequencing capacity then entire US combined and they have just open another facilities in HK to double that. This company is posed to be Google of biotech and few has heard of it.

  • Hi Dan,
    I wrote the following post in 2005:
    December 27, 2005
    More on the “engineering crisis”
    As I noted here last week, a new study from Duke University suggests the so—called engineering gap between America and its Asian rivals China and India is a myth. Now BusinessWeek has uncovered some possible reasons behind this “propaganda” and the detrimental effect it is having America’s current high—tech workers.
    After discussing the sensitive issue with the author of the Duke study Dr. Vivek Wadhwa, Mr. Pete Engardio writes:
    The bottom line is that America’s engineering crisis is a myth, Wadhwa argues. Both sides in the globalization debate are “spreading propaganda,” he contends. India and China are using inflated engineering numbers because they want to draw more foreign investment, while fearmongers in the U.S. use dubious data either to support their case for protectionism, to lobby for greater government spending on higher education and research, or to justify their offshore investments.
    Some liberals have made scary predictions that all of our best jobs are migrating to low cost Asian countries. Promoted by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in his best—selling book The World is Flat, this fearmongering is demoralizing some American engineers.
    And in the future, it will make the problem worse by scaring some of today’s most talented American youngsters away from majoring in science and engineering. Mr. Engardio goes on to say:
    The debate raises an intriguing question: Does hype about the rise of India and China unnecessarily demoralize American engineers and scare U.S. students away from technical careers? Most surveys of U.S. corporate executives, after all, conclude that America is already facing a shortage of engineers in everything from software and chemicals to life sciences, and these shortfalls will worsen in coming years. Even the November survey of 4,000 engineers, by public relations firm McClenahan Bruer Communications and CMP publishing group, found that 56% said their own companies currently have a shortage of engineers.
    And sadly, with so much negative news in today’s mainstream media about offshoring and the decline of America’s high—tech competitiveness, many current engineers do not feel appreciated. Mr. Engardio goes on to explain:
    In focus groups, engineers overwhelmingly said they believe their work is important to society. “But when we asked whether they think society appreciates what they do, they looked at us with blank faces and said, ‘Are you kidding?'” says Kerry McClenahan, who runs the PR company behind the survey.
    After watching my father manage a small engineering firm for many years, I admire anyone who can master the hard sciences. As an American currently teaching business in Shanghai, I believe we should not be afraid of China and India’s economic rise. As I wrote here on October 13:
    It is inevitable, and probably desirable that more countries join the ranks of advanced manufacturers. America’s prosperity does not rest on a foundation of others’ poverty and backwardness. Our flexibility, creativity, and responsiveness to market signals, along with our traditions of hard work and the rule of law will keep us ahead.
    Regardless their age, all Americans should continue to focus on developing the creative and analytical skills needed to compete in an innovative workplace. While we must continue to make investments in education opportunities and public infrastructure, it is important not underestimate America’s hidden strengths.
    Cheers,
    Brian
    Shanghai

  • Dan, BTW, you can use an IQ test to screen applicants in any country, and it is one of the best ways to screen an employee. At least, according to the over-paid international HR consultants (I’m an underpaid HR consultant BTW), an IQ test is far more effective than an interview at determining future work efficiency. However, while I was selling assessment tests to local WOFE companies, we studied the results of the test usage and correllated the results of Employee Satisfaction Surveys. We can to a shocking conclusion: if your has sever morale problems, it is far more likely that higher IQ employees will leave for better work before other employees leave. You say “I have worked with enough software and gaming and engineering companies to know that way more than pure IQ goes into their businesses.”. True. But for a hiring interview IQ tests are one of the best STAND-ALONE methods for assessment.

  • Inst

    I agree that news about how China will take over tech is overblown; we’ve seen this kind of news for a decade so far, and China is still not a high-tech powerhouse. Still, I wouldn’t put the prospect in the improbable pile, I’d prefer the “don’t know”, and at the same time criticisms about weaknesses in the American system should be received with honesty, not dismissal.
    Comparing math and science; we do know that Chinese and Indian stringency about mathematical capability is real, and their cultures are a lot more rigorous about the matter. Academic studies have indicated that calculus is taught at the end of middle school, which would be equivalent to the first year of high-school in the United States.
    One comment I believe would be appropriate towards a lack of workplace training is that Chinese and Confucian-influenced education programs in general have a long time-preference with regard to students. They focus on basic technical skills when the student is young, the brain is malleable, and the memory is excellent so that things which can only be developed later with difficulty can be developed early on. Matters such as socialization, creativity, and initiative can wait, so the end result is that people trained under these programs tend to be poor graduates right out of school as they lack the traits learned under an American-style education regime. However, once they’re in their late thirties and early forties, these people, if they have made the effort to succeed, should have picked up the necessary aspects of socialization and personality that their American counterparts obtained their their youth, and should combine both technical and personal excellence.
    This is all theory, however. I’m basing this off descriptions of a neo-Confucian education, hearsay about Westernized Chinese managers, and a biography of Qian Xuesen, who was a real (also technically brilliant and hard-working) asshole when he was young, became less of an asshole when he matured, then became even more of an asshole when he got deported to China. What are you seeing on the ground? How do your experienced Chinese middle-managers compare to their Western-educated counterparts?

  • LoveChinaLongTime

    Lots of Chicken Little stuff to whip up the American readership into a frothing frenzy about nothing. In many ways, I think guys that write articles like this do so in the hopes of self fulfilling prophecies coming true just so they can gloat.
    China is still a plagiarism based society without a whole lot of innovation outside personal enrichment gimmicks at this point, I’d say.

  • pug_ster

    I also have to disagree with you Dan. Certainly today it looks difficult that China would rule Tech but I think the climate is there to do so. I think China with all its engineers and hundreds of millions in the internet, there will soon be people making software in the mobile market. I would not be surprised how companies like TSMC are in the hardware market, China’s companies will be there producing software in the software market. I would not be surprised that software for cell phones, tablets, smartphones, entertainment devices, iptv and among other software will be outsourced in China in the near future.

  • Hi Dan: Lighten up on the Kwongster! The Forbes China Tracker post called “Five Reasons China Will Rule Tech” was an excerpt from a recent article in Computerworld, written by Patrick Thibodeau. I thought that this was pretty clear, as I attributed as such in the first sentence and again in the last. In re: Greg Anderson’s (yes, excellent) post at ChinaBizGov (http://twurl.nl/lypmuq), he wasn’t taking me to task, rather he was hammering on the Computerworld article, and said as such. As to my intention on excerpting the article in the first place, see my comments at ChinaBizGov, a portion of which goes something like this: “”Aside from the shock value, the main reason for posting the Computerworld summary was to draw attention to China’s ‘indigenous innovation policy’ which, in practice, forces foreign companies to part with technology so China can fast track its ‘innovation.'” Nuff said.

  • Dan

    @ Daniel Shi,
    I agree on all points, including that Ray is typically quite insightful.

  • Dan

    @ Stan,
    Thanks. Much appreciated.

  • Dan

    @ Blake,
    Thanks. Much appreciated, and thanks for your in-the-trenches insight.

  • Dan

    @ Micah,
    Let’s hear it for lawyers ruling the world. I was listening the other day to a high level management consultant criticize Obama’s handling of the BP spill by noting how a CEO would have much better marshaled the forces and known who to listen to and who not to listen to and that Obama’s big shortcoming is that all he has done is teach, campaign and be a politician and things like BP call for management. I thought that interesting. Reagan was a manager. Clinton was a manger. Maybe we really do need a CEO. I’m definitely not sure on this though.

  • Dan

    @ Mao,
    I agree. It is premature to declare China the winner in tech when it has barely begun. I also completely agree with you regarding the contribution of immigrants to American tech; that was included in my use of the word, diversity. I have no doubt Chinese will contribute to tech as they always have, but I think their contributions will continue to be stronger here in the U.S. than in China, at least for the foreseeable future.

  • anonymous please

    Will China be leading the world in “tech”? Ignoring the question of what “tech” we’re talking about and even what “leading” means (e.g. are you “leading tech” if you turn over the most $$$ in low-end manufacturing of stuff designed elsewhere?), in the long term, the answer is probably “yes”, or “well, uh, maybe, depending…”, because when Beijing sets one of those goals, they usually (appear to) get what they want. Not because of any of the supposed reasons why (e.g. education, volume, offshoring, etc) but rather despite those (because the actual situation –as indicated by others– is rather different than the out-of-context numbers suggest).
    Throwing some China-numbers around to counter, in my field (micro-electronics) there’s a shortage of a quarter of a million qualified engineers (i.e. positions that can’t be filled), which happily co-exists with millions of college and university grads who cannot get jobs.
    In my experience, recruiting for high-tech positions in China is quite disheartening, when kids with straight-A masters degrees don’t know the answers to the most basic questions and kids with CET6 can’t string two words together (some can, many can’t), yet all expect to become senior managers immediately.
    Especially in “tech” there is a big difference in performance between those who do “tech” because they love it (nerds, yes), and those who spend a few years sleeping at the back of the class room, cram for 24 hours, pass a multiple-choice test on useless factoids which they immediately forget, or even worse, transform their fail-grade into pass-grade through fraud, bribery or ‘connections’. Don’t get me wrong, there are bright, well-educated, well-intentioned techies out there, but they are the minority (and many can’t wait to “escape” to the US). Disheartening, as I said…
    The local Chinese chip business (as opposed to non-Chinese companies offshoring production) is almost entirely low-cost-driven, largely devoid of innovation, and about ten to fifteen years behind the high-tech envelope (which means antique or prehistoric in this field). While Beijing is trying to push for more modern and innovative technology (i.e. can’t get subsidy or gov’t contracts unless you use so-and-so new technology, whether suitable/appropriate or not), the market is following only kicking and screaming, with goals not being met, enormous amounts of subsidy disappearing into private pockets and little if any of Beijing’s cash being spent on the innovative projects it is supposed to fund. Watch for more managers/directors to fly to Canada just before the current 5-year plan expires…
    As somebody who loves “tech” and would dearly like to see China advance and succeed, this too is disheartening. And badly written posts proclaiming the inevitability of China crushing the US in “tech” because TV-sets are being manufactured in Mexico, well, duh……!

  • 铁屁股 Will

    Help me out here. Ray Kwong merely posted the article, which was written by. Patrick Thibodeau of ComputerWorld. And Ray Kwong gave credit to ComnputerWorld.
    So why does Dan Harris think otherwise? Reading Comprehension is important aspect of being an attorney, is it not?
    What would American technology do without it’s foreign supply of engineers from Asia?
    I work in the Silicon Valley in Human Resources, and majority of semiconductor hardware/computer science engineers/software programmers are of ethnic Chinese from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and/or are Chinese-Americans.
    The majority of our recruitment has always targeted PhD candidates, or Master Degree graduates, which tend to be from Asia, China or India. While we would like to hire more PhD’s from America, the supply is lacking. With more Chinese engineers returning to China or Taiwan after they have worked in America, the American brain drain has increased the past 15-20 years.
    With the next couple of decades China/India should surpass American technology.
    ==
    Why China Won’t Rule Tech.
    Posted by Dan on July 15, 2010
    Print
    Comments (18)
    Share Link
    Ray Kwong (a friend of mine) has a post up on the Forbes China Tracker entitled, “Five Reasons China Will Rule Tech.” I ain’t buying it. Not even at a deep discount.
    Ray’s post is rash, premature, and inaccurate. I set out Ray’s five reasons in bold below and then I analyze them in normal font.
    ====
    Five reasons why China will rule tech
    Recent development points to growing concern in Washington about China’s tech moves, but here’s why it may be unstoppable
    By Patrick Thibodeau
    Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues forComputerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe toPatrick’s RSS feed . His e-mail address ispthibodeau@computerworld.com.

  • MichaelP

    I can only speak for medical and biotech, but I don’t think China will rule. China is developing really fast on the manufacturing side, but it’s a field where you just can’t afford to have poor quality control or lack of transparency – and these applies to both east and west (see heparin and Avandia). China still doesn’t have the basic scientific rigour to compete in cutting edge medical science. Chinese efforts in areas such as stem cell research and genomic sequencing show they are aggressive marketers, but very shoddy scientists. I’ve been very impressed with the technical and academic skills of Chinese science graduates, but they still fair poorly when put in a peer reviewed, evidence-based environment.

  • Andrew Wilson

    Hi Dan. Wonderful Post. I was wondering if you saw the recent Newsweek article that stated American’s children are losing their ability to innovate, particularly the generation after 1990? One thing to note is that advancements in technology, particularly the internet, is cited as a leading factor in the drop off because children are not as active outside anymore. Apply this rational to China, where they have internet addiction camps!, and they have an even bigger problem when it comes to spurring innovation.
    http://www.newsweek.com/tag/education.html
    (for some reason I can’t access the article in china, but thats the page for the link)
    Another issue that the article mentions is the fact that America, in large part, seems to be moving more towards more standardized testing, wrote memorization, and nationalized standards-the exact same problems education that China is trying to change. Another worrisome aspect about America’s education system is that we seem to spend more on special education programs than we do on nurturing children with advanced IQ’s who underperform in the classroom because, well, they are bored. Whats your take?

  • Robert Kawaratani

    BTW, Herbert Hoover was an engineer also.

  • Daniel Shi

    Ah ok, so the post was actually a repost from another article. I do remember seeing that, but it didn’t quite process in my brain.
    @铁屁股 Will
    I totally agree that there is a huge supply of a top technical talent in China and India. We have been successful in attracting them to the US (my family among them) with top flight education and employment, and the welcoming business and living environment have allowed to thrive and build some of the most enduring and impactful institutions (not just companies) in the world.
    I believe that top talent in China STILL wants to come to the US in a major way. I spend a bit of time each month counseling local friends and colleagues on how they can immigrate to the US. I know that America is still a shining beacon of prosperity and opportunity, especially for one’s children (Dan Harris had a very good post on this earlier). People still want to come to America. Let’s help them.

  • Dan

    @ Reader
    I read Grove’s piece on how America risks losing its technology edge and I thought THAT piece was quite thoughtful and thought provoking. This article so shortened and simplified that piece as to have butchered it beyond recognition. I countered what was written.
    Go ahead and complain about U.S. education but four things need to be mentioned regardgint that. First off, American education is by most measures better now than it was 30 years ago. Second, America education does okay (not great) when looked at by pure numbers, but where American education really shines is in teaching kids to think. Third, America is an incredibly diverse place, and if one were to look at the top half of our education system and of our graduates, I would bet that top half would come out on the top or near the top in the world. It is from the top half (mostly) that innovation comes. Fourth, American higher education is the best, without dispute (except maybe England), and not only does it produce excellent domestic grads, it produces a slew of excellent foreign grads who stay.
    I did not flat out accuse anyone of racism; I asked the question hoping for a response. Why don’t you give me one?

  • Dan

    @ David Li
    You make some excellent points and I do not disagree with any of them. China could rule tech. It is possible. I don’t disagree. I just disagree with poorly reasoned articles that make it seem like China’s ruling tech is a done deal.

  • Dan

    @ Brian Schwarz,
    I am totally on board with all that you have said in your comment. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Dan

    @ Jesse Covner
    I am not going to dispute that IQ is a factor “in future work efficiency.” So now what?

  • Dan

    @ Inst
    I am not saying China will NEVER rule high tech; I too put it in the “don’t know pile.” I think it bizarre to proclaim it either way.
    I do not dismiss issues regarding weaknesses in the American system. Hell, my wife is a school psychologist and I have two kids so I deal with those issues head on. However, I do dismiss those criticisms when given in a super-short polemical piece that seems intended to do nothing more than tell us China is King and the United States is an also-ran. If we are going to talk about American education, let’s really talk about it. Maybe we should also talk about how the top half of it is world-beating and how our higher education system is probably the best in the world.
    I find your comment on socialization interesting. I would actually think the opposite is true. That most who are not well socialized at a young age never become well socialized. Interesting issue though.
    I think your last two questions are excellent and so I repeat them here. What are you seeing on the ground? How do your experienced Chinese middle-managers compare to their Western-educated counterparts?

  • Dan

    @LCLT
    I like your description of the Forbes article as “Lots of Chicken Little stuff to whip up the American readership into a frothing frenzy about nothing.”
    I am not one to question other’s motives as I tend to believe we all have mixed motives in virtually everything we do, motives are hard to discern, and, most importantly, motives are usually irrelevant. I am going to stick with attacking the Forbes article on its lack of merit and I see no need to delve into the psychology of those behind it.
    You raise an interesting issue regarding plagiarism in China. Surprised you are the first to bring that up as it is at least somewhat relevant here, I would think.

  • Dan

    @ pug_ster
    I am not entirely sure what you are saying or what you think I said. I certainly never said China is and always will be worthless when it comes to tech. What I am saying is that it is way premature to proclaim that today’s tech centers will inevitably be forced to cede their top positions to China.
    I firmly believe in China’ s potential in tech; I am just not prepared to coronate it king when it isn’t even yet in the line of succession.

  • Dan

    @ Ray Kwong,
    You know I am a fan of the Kwongster!
    I also know though that the article from which you pulled all this was mighty weak and I do not think your intentions were ever made clear. Maybe you should do a follow-up post?

  • Dan

    @ anonymous please
    You are right to note that we are all being (intentionally) unclear on what we mean by tech. Nature of the beast, I am afraid.
    I like your comment on how “when Beijing sets one of those goals, they usually (appear to) get what they want. Not because of any of the supposed reasons why (e.g. education, volume, offshoring, etc) but rather despite those (because the actual situation –as indicated by others– is rather different than the out-of-context numbers suggest).”
    Thanks too for giving us the following real-world info:
    “Throwing some China-numbers around to counter, in my field (micro-electronics) there’s a shortage of a quarter of a million qualified engineers (i.e. positions that can’t be filled), which happily co-exists with millions of college and university grads who cannot get jobs.
    In my experience, recruiting for high-tech positions in China is quite disheartening, when kids with straight-A masters degrees don’t know the answers to the most basic questions and kids with CET6 can’t string two words together (some can, many can’t), yet all expect to become senior managers immediately.
    Especially in “tech” there is a big difference in performance between those who do “tech” because they love it (nerds, yes), and those who spend a few years sleeping at the back of the class room, cram for 24 hours, pass a multiple-choice test on useless factoids which they immediately forget, or even worse, transform their fail-grade into pass-grade through fraud, bribery or ‘connections’. Don’t get me wrong, there are bright, well-educated, well-intentioned techies out there, but they are the minority (and many can’t wait to “escape” to the US).”
    Most of all, I like your concluding sentence, to which I, of course, wholeheartedly agree: “And badly written posts proclaiming the inevitability of China crushing the US in “tech” because TV-sets are being manufactured in Mexico, well, duh……!”

  • Dan

    @ Will
    You try to nail me for reading comprehension and yet you seem not to have understood my post.
    I know many of Silicon Valley’s “semiconductor hardware/computer science engineers/software programmers are of ethnic Chinese from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and/or are Chinese-Americans.” That only proves my point. They are in the U.S. because this is still the place to be.
    Instead of just proclaiming that “With [sic] the next couple of decades China/India should surpass American technology,” why don’t you add something to support that?

  • Dan

    @ MichaelP
    Thanks for the kudos. Much appreciated.
    And thanks, particularly, for weighing in with your own filed of expertise, medical and biotech.
    I think you make a good point re the importance of quality control and transparency and “scientific rigour.”

  • Dan

    @ Andrew Wilson
    Thanks for the kudos. Much appreciated.
    I did not see the Newsweek article but that is a constant worry.
    The article talks about the U.S. moving towards more standardized testing, but that’s okay so long as we don’t move too far. Also, do not forget about our higher ed.

  • jeff

    While I hope that China catches up on tech, I think it will have very little to do with the point raised by Ray.
    Government: show me a relevant country that doesn’t focus on tech (or claims to.) Having the ambition alone won’t make you the winner.
    IQ: watch the TED clip called “When ideas have sex”. When it comes to innovation, IQ takes a back seat.
    Number of engineering degrees: I work a lot with Chinese engineers, and many of them are very narrowly trained. This inhibits their creativity/thinking outside the box and makes finding the right engineer for the job tedious. In a way I’m not surprised companies screen for IQ, because although I doubt its effectiveness, screening on certifications from Chinese universities is probably just as ineffective.
    The previous point covers education as well. There may be a decline in U.S. education quality, but that doesn’t automatically put it below that of China. Also the differences between universities in both US and China are quite large. It would require more information to know to what extent the decline in US education quality (and the assumed increase in the Chinese) actually applies to engineering.

  • Dan

    @ Robert Kawaratani
    Great fact. I had either forgotten Herbert Hoover was an engineer or I never knew it. I went and checked and it appears Hoover and Carter were our only two presidents who were engineers, and since these are two of the worst presidents we have had, that really does show something.

  • Dan

    @ Daniel Shi (ii)
    I completely agree with you.

  • Dan

    @ Jeff
    Thanks for checking in.
    I agree with you. All governments “talk” about tech, but so what? I also concur with your questioning a direct link between IQ and innovation. I am not prepared to say there is no link, but I am prepared to say that a lot more goes into innovation than just IQ. A lot more.
    Thanks for telling us of your real-world experiences with Chinese engineers. I hear the same things constantly from my clients. Just yesterday, I was speaking to a client who told me that they had originally intended to send over only three engineers to China, but once they started “really getting into it” and seeing what their Chinese engineers could do, they realized they would need to double that number.
    I also like your point about how just because U.S. education may be declining (and I don’t believe it is), that doesn’t tell us a thing about how it compares with education in China and it doesn’t tell us a thing about engineering training.

  • A “Five Reasons China Will Rule Tech” follow-up post? Nah. Too much hassle. (If I spent 10 minutes posting the original article, 8 minutes was spent embedding the relevant links.)
    That said, watch for a future original post on China’s “indigenous innovation policy.” This is the real pisser that’s impacting or about to impact companies that I work with. I know they have a “choice” as to whether or not to play, but the deck seems stacked in favor of the house (China).

  • Dan

    @ Ray Kwong,
    I look forward to your indigenous innovation post and I’m betting we will be more eye-to-eye on that one.

  • Andy

    This is actually a poor post.. you’re making childish comments like, “so what,” and “wow, if a politican says it, it must be true!” You’re right in that Ray’s article is completely off base and flat-out wrong, but your arguments are pretty weak.

  • @chilishrimpgirl

    After many discussions/arguments on this topic, I have a different view – it is less about the numbers (on the surface), more about the mindset, teamwork and leadership.
    Similar story as worldcup – why there is more than 1.3 billions of Chinese but China can’t able to get a great team of 11 people?
    ruling tech and completing globally is a totally different game, having a lot of great engineers is not enough, who are the coaches to lead? is here the “right environment” to foster innovation? how about the teamwork?
    If China can make it to worldcup final sometime in the future, then that maybe the time…

  • A couple of people have mentioned the lack of students with a real passion for what they study and their presumed future line of work. That certainly gels with what I see with my students. My students major in IT, but the number with a genuine interest in IT (beyond “I like playing computer games” – although that’s not necessarily a bad base from which to start) is distressingly small. One common story I hear from them is that they crashed out on the Gao Kao – which usually means they didn’t get a high enough score for their preferred option, and so had to scramble around finding an alternative. However, it’s not just the education system. Another common story I hear (and one which sometimes comes with the first story) is that the parents wouldn’t let them study what they really wanted, and forced them to study IT because it’s practical and will lead to a good career in the future. I wonder how many people who would rather be studying IT are stuck in other majors for similar reasons?
    Those who do have a passion for IT, however, do extremely well in their studies (even if they slack off a bit in their English classes – which isn’t such a good idea for students whose degree is taught entirely in English, but never mind), to the point where one extremely talented young man has even organised cram classes to help his weaker classmates figure out how to do their assignments.
    My experience in previous jobs teaching English majors matches what I see in my current students.
    So will China rule tech? The potential is certainly there, but so are features of the education system and society that put obstacles in the way of that talent. I side with those who say “I don’t know”.

  • Anonymous

    Dan is correct, especially for section three on engineering talent. I actually interview with Bleum software, with very senior people and they seem happy and promise to contact me with follow-up within two week. They do not, even after I send polite reminder. Maybe lawyers are better at running companies than engineer!
    Standard test like college entry test see if you are good at passing test, sometimes that also means good at working, innovating, but not always. I want Chinese to do well in tech but we need Chinese graduating with tech degrees to spend lot more time actually learning in university compare with what students in famous US schools learn.

  • Inst

    Re-reading the section on IQ, I think two ways of reading Bleum’s IQ testing is as follows:
    -First, if you assume that China is significantly meritocratic, but education resources can only be distributed to a small elite, the segment of the population that tests at 140 IQ is more likely to represent the desirable segment of potential recruits– if Bleum only hires the top 50 or 20 or 10 percent of the population and engineering educations represent a pre-selection, the top section is better represented in China by 140 IQ than 125 in the United States.
    I’m sure with this hypothesis, you can present many pieces of counter-evidence; studies for example showing that Chinese engineering graduates have the same intelligence as their Western counterparts, or that China is significantly un-meritocratic as much of the population is stuck being farmers or migrant laborers and so on.
    -Second, Chinese engineering students have cultural or personality problems that make it them less productive for the same IQ than their Western counterparts. Through this viewpoint, that Bleum requires higher IQ Chinese applicants than their Western counterparts is actually evidence against the suitability of their Chinese applicants.

  • cm202bc

    “One data point to note: In 2005, the U.S. awarded 137,500 engineering degrees, while China awarded 351,500, according to a workforce study last year. ”
    And not one of them knows where to put the kickstand on a bike. :-p

  • Robert C

    Engineering is not innovation.
    Silicon Valley has a culture of innovation – namely fresh thinking, the willingness to try and fail plus availability of capital. China has none of these (it has capital but not for startups — banks lend to SOEs, not private firms.)
    China has no functioning legal system and no system of protection of intellecutal property, although granted it makes an effort to protect the IPR of some Chinese companies, rarely foreign firms.
    It has no culture of creativity as in the US, western Europe or Taiwan. No watchable TV, almost no decent movies, very few readable novels. China is a communist state where people’s thoughts are there to be managed, not to be set free. It is on the same path as a Singapore, a business-obsessed state totally unencumbered by any creativity whatsover.
    That’s without mentioning the heavy pall of censorship as a tax on creativity and the uncompetitive telecom sector.

  • Being a Chinese national living in China, I don’t believe China will outpace US in terms of Science and Technology, at least not in a foreseeable future.
    For some outside observers, China seems to have more than enough determination and sufficient financial power to play such race with the west, but for us living and breathing here, there are so many things confuse and frustrate people who are willing to innovate and make break through either on technology or other aspects, that sometime it even make me wonder whether the money and efforts our gov spend on “boosting” innovations is in fact intentionally “unboosting” them.
    For example, you guys have no idea how difficult it can be to obtain a license to operate a website, and how easily for the gov to order your server unplugged(literally) without pre-warning and post-explanation.
    Admitted things have been much better in China during the past 10 or 20 years, and many of us are able to enjoy a certain level of freedom and prosperity unthinkable to our parents in their wildest dream when they were young, but there’re some deep-rooted factors here which are in principle against innovation(not because we Chinese aren’t smart) ; as long as I have to worry about any words in my website would piss off any arbitrary officials, I wouldn’t believe we are a qualified rival to our American peers.