1.3 billion people and China still has no jobs. Better put, China still has no [Steve] Jobs.
Since China’s emergence in the last decade as a global economic superpower, Beijing (the government) has done much to produce national products worthy of the world stage. Whether it’s the creation of the Shanghai World Financial Center (pun?), the construction of The Three Gorges Dam or the performance of Chinese Olympic athletes, it seems China is determined to regain its previous status as the most advanced civilization.
While Western kingdoms prospered and fell throughout history, The Middle Kingdom maintained a considerable edge in all facets of societal development. Commerce, agriculture, technology and yes, even law, all like the sun, first graced China before its Western counterparts.
Nevertheless, many would argue that China grew dark in the 17th Century, Europe having stolen the spotlight during the Age of Enlightenment. It was during this time that the promotion of science and intellectual exchange became encouraged along with the critique of superstition and dogmatic practices.
At no point during China’s long, historical timeline has any such Enlightenment occurred. However, can the absence of Enlightenment really be responsible for the absence of a Chinese Jobs or Gates?
China is so desperate for a tech-innovator to call its own that the government has gone great lengths to root out the best and brightest for national review—literally national review.
The popular show Brainstorm recently featured a segment titled, “How to Create Today’s Chinese Genius”. (Note the curious lack of a question mark.) Unfortunately for the contestants, this perverse cross-examination resembled a “baffling blend of Oxford-style debate and “America’s Next Top Model”.
Each of the five high school students were dismissed for reasons that would make most American college admissions panels cringe. Whether it was one student’s penchant for fantasy novels or another’s uncertainty of future occupation, each was rejected for not having “what it takes”.
So what does it take to be the next Jobs or Gates? Surely these two college dropouts wouldn’t have even made it in front of the judges had they applied for the contest.
Simply put, China’s educational system does not foster innovation. From the pressures of kindergarten to the sometimes-fatal reaction to Gaokao (China’s SAT) scores, Chinese students live more with fear than with curiosity.
It is the deficiency of the catalyst that prevents Chinese students from real, comprehensive innovation. Anyone who’s ever read about the early lives of Jobs and Gates knows that it was their curiosity and fascination with computers that lead to their success.
Gates even skipped a semester of high school classes to pursue further work with computers—educational suicide for any Chinese student. Furthermore, Gates decision to drop out of Harvard for a business venture is altogether inconceivable for anyone enrolled in the Chinese education system.
Every innovator in history took great risks in the production of their craft, so how can the Chinese be expected to innovate in the image of Gates and Jobs if they remain adverse to risk?
Perhaps it’s time for China’s Educational Enlightenment.
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