Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

China and the United States: Who Has More Innovation to “Steal?”

One of the truly amazing aspects of Donald Trump’s trade war with China is how all the pundits agree that we have a legitimate beef with China over stealing “our” intellectual property. This is true pretty much across the board, even among the harshest critics of Trump and his tariffs. As I have argued almost alone, this one needs a bit more thought.

First, the “our” part of the story needs some examination. The vast majority of us don’t own any substantial amount of intellectual property that is being compromised by China’s practices, Somehow we are supposed to be concerned that Boeing, Microsoft, Pfizer, Disney, and the rest are seeing lower profits because China doesn’t follow the rules they want them to follow.

Sorry folks, these are not the homes teams that we are supposed to root for in baseball. These are huge multinationals that have made their largest shareholders and top executives incredibly rich. The rest of us are supposed to want to stick it to China to make these people even richer?

It’s actually even worse. The simple story is that if China has to pay less money to Boeing et al. for their intellectual property claims they will have more money to buy other things from the United States, like soybeans and whiskey. Tell me again about “our” intellectual property.

The other part of the story that remarkably is always missing from the picture is that the United States is not the only country that spends money on research and development. According to the OECD, China spent 2.1 percent of its GDP on research and development in 2016 compared to 2.7 percent in the United States. While spending in the United States has been flat as a share of GDP for two decades, China’s spending has been rising rapidly.

Add in the fact that China’s economy is already 25 percent larger than the U.S. economy and is on a path to be almost twice as large in a decade, and it should be pretty clear that China will soon have much more innovation to “steal,” if it does not already. (The data in the figure below are taken from I.M.F,. I projected out the 2022-2023 growth for the next five years.)

Book4 1303 image002

Source: International Monetary Fund.

The point is that China will likely have far more to lose from not having an internationally agreed upon mechanism for sharing the costs of innovation than the United States. If we were approaching this from the standpoint of national interest rather than making the rich richer, the last thing on earth we would be pressing China for is greater protection of U.S. intellectual property. But we know who tends to control debate on public policy issues.

We should need a mechanism for financing research and creative work, but patents and copyrights are archaic and inefficient. We should be looking for more modern mechanisms. I talk about alternatives in chapter 5 of Rigged (it’s free) and there is a more extensive discussion of the relative efficiency of patents and alternatives in a paper  I wrote with Arjun Jayadev and Joe Stiglitz.

This column originally appeared on Beat the Press.

More articles by:

Dean Baker is the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. 

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail