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China Gets Innovative

That was the title of a session in Davos today that looked at how China is moving rapidly from manufacturing to serving as a hotbed of technical and scientific innovation, as well as a fount for design and other forms of creativity. Moving, in fact, more rapidly than many of us recognize. And here was a scary anecdote: Jack Ma Yun, the founder and CEO of Alibaba.com (the eBay of China), described how impressed he was when he visited Silicon Valley eight years ago.

That was the title of a session in Davos today that looked at how China is moving rapidly from manufacturing to serving as a hotbed of technical and scientific innovation, as well as a fount for design and other forms of creativity. Moving, in fact, more rapidly than many of us recognize. And here was a scary anecdote: Jack Ma Yun, the founder and CEO of Alibaba.com (the eBay of China), described how impressed he was when he visited Silicon Valley eight years ago. The work ethic, he said, was astounding: Judging by the traffic to and from offices and the lights he could see burning at all hours, people were working late into the night and all weekend. But on a return visit three years ago, the lights were out by evening and the office parks were dead on Saturday and Sunday. The opposite is true in China today (where increasing numbers of Chinese engineers and scientists who were educated in the U.S. and who cut their teeth in Palo Alto are returning because the opportunities are so great). Today, Ma said, “Silicon Valley is in China.”

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