There are, of course, many cultural differences between "East" and "West." I've had a growing awareness that intellectual property is one of those areas.

Now, I am no IP lawyer, patent agent, or anything of the sort.

By Way of Science But I have taught Chinese students here at Colorado State and elsewhere and I've noted that they often don't seem to understand plagiarism very well. That is not to say that American students understand it well, either, but I've always gotten the impression that the undergrad Chinese students understand what it is, but don't consider it to be important. (The American students who don't follow the rules on the other hand, are usually either taking short-cuts because they think they can get away with it, but are aware it's wrong, or they are plain ignorant of its importance.)

I'm not the only one to notice this aspect of Chinese academic culture, of course. Peter Friedman in Forbes had a substantial article about this very topic in 2010.

And what I've seen in other areas of Chinese intellectual endeavor suggests to me that this is by no means isolated. Just ask the Russians if Chinese collaborators can be trusted to respect other countries' intellectual property (in this case, Russian made MiG fighter aircraft).

It will be interesting to see how thoughts on IP develop in China going forward. The US is by no means a clean player in all of this. Since the beginning of the Republic, the country was known for producing cheap knock-offs of European goods. In a way, entrepreneurship and invention is a no-holds-barred rush for the next technology. Those who only copy others' goods will never get ahead in the long run. Those who work to develop the new technologies that will push us to new and great advances--those people will be the victors, no matter their country.

Can the "West" continue to innovate? Can the "East" develop its ability to invent in new areas, not just to rehash or extend technology developed elsewhere? The answers to these questions will be important in determining the outcome of economic competition in the next couple of centuries.


K.S. MacLea, Ph.D.