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The Trouble With China's So-Called Pursuit Of Innovation

China talks the talk when it comes to innovation, with recent national conferences on the topic attended by high-ranking Communist party leaders. But scratch the surface, and you'll find something that is the very opposite of innovation.

Good tech never dies (derekGavey)
Good tech never dies (derekGavey)
Ma Yu

The Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China held a meeting in May to discuss the deepening of scientific and technological reforms, as well as ways to accelerate the establishment in China of a true system of innovation. The meeting set the goal of China reaching the ranks of the world's most innovative countries by 2020.

Innovation has long been talked about in China. It is a timeless topic. Nevertheless, it's the first time a top-level meeting has been devoted to the issue.

Earlier this month, the National Science and Technology Innovation Conference was held in Beijing, gathering most of the members of China's top leadership. One can imagine that in the Chinese context the term "innovation" will continue to be a hot button word for a long time in all of China's political, economic, cultural and social fields.

In fact it's not just in China. Innovation has become a hot issue across the whole world. Some have said that the word "innovation" is employed so often, in so many ways, as an affirmation that one is at the forefront of one's field, that the term has been abused.

According to a statistic from Amazon, in the last three months alone, as many as 250 newly published books include the word "innovation" in their titles. They are mostly books about business. Another search result based on the annual and quarterly reports submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last year also shows that each of these company reports had used the word "innovation", in different ways, a total of 33,528 times. This represents a 64% increase over five years ago. Apple, Google and Procter & Gamble, three distinct types of companies, used the word 22, 14, and 22 times respectively in their most recent annual reports.

And yet, what the vast majority of companies mean by innovation is not truly innovation but just ordinary progress. Or worse, it's a pretense.

The purpose of flaunting innovation at a company is obvious. First, by misleading the capital market and raising the value of its stock, the company can reduce its financing costs. Second, it's a way of promoting itself in the consumer market. An image of innovation improves the corporate reputation and can be considered de facto as a marketing tool. Regardless of their real corporate innovation results, at least they have more or less achieved their aims -- and certainly won't be left out of the current search for innovation.

However, a country's innovation is much more complicated. It's beyond reproach for the government to make innovation a priority so that people and businesses recognize its importance. Nevertheless, in the Chinese context, there seems to be something missing: the establishment of a system and environment for innovation.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Hide-And-Seek Of Drone Warfare, A Letter From Ukraine's Front Line

A member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces writes his account of the new dynamic of targeting, and being targeted by, the invading Russian troops, as drones circle above and trenches get left behind.

A Ukrainian military drone operator during a testing of anti-drone rifle in Kyiv.

Igor Lutsenko*

KYIV — The current war in Ukraine is a game of hide-and-seek. Both sides are very well-stocked with artillery, enough to destroy the enemy along many kilometers. Swarms of drones fly through the air day and night, keeping a close eye on the earth's surface below. If they notice something interesting, it immediately becomes a target. Depending on the priority, they put it in line for destruction by artillery.

Therefore, the only effective way to survive is to hide, or at least somehow prove to the drones your non-priority status — and avoid moving to the front of the 'queue of death.'

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In general, the nature of this queue is a particular thing. It may seem to be a god, but is instead a simple artillery captain's decision of when to have lunch, and when to fire on the house where several enemy soldiers are staying. It's just a handful of ordinary people (observers, artillerymen) deciding how long their enemies will live depending on their own schedule or the weather, the availability of ammunition or if they're feeling tired.

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