Chinese High-Tech Startups: Now More Copied Than Copying

from the time-to-wake-up dept

Techdirt has been pointing out for a while that the cliché about Chinese companies being little more than clever copycats, unable to come up with their own ideas, ceased to be true years ago. Anyone clinging to that belief is simply deluding themselves, and is likely to have a rude awakening as Chinese high-tech companies continue to advance in global influence. China’s advances in basic research are pretty clear, but what about business innovation? That’s an area that the US has traditionally prided itself on being the world leader. However, an interesting article in the South China Morning Post — a Hong Kong-based newspaper owned by the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which has a market capitalization of $400 billion — explores how it’s Chinese ideas that are now being copied:

it’s a reflection of a growing trend in which businesses across Southeast Asia look to China for inspiration for everything from e-commerce to mobile payment systems and news apps.

Once derided as a copycat of Western giants, Chinese companies have grown in stature to the point that in many areas they are now seen as the pinnacle of business innovation.

The article mentions dockless bike-sharing, which is huge in China, being copied in California by a startup called Limebike. It notes that Thailand’s central bank has introduced a standardized QR code that enables the country’s smartphone users to pay for their purchases simply by scanning their devices — a habit that is well on the way to replacing cash and credit cards in China. In Malaysia, an online second-hand car trading platform Carsome based its approach closely on a Chinese company operating in Nanjing. Other copycats of Chinese innovators include:

Orami, Thailand’s leading e-commerce business, which started out as a clone of China’s online baby product platform Mia; Offpeak, a Malaysian version of the Chinese group buying website Meituan; and BaBe, an Indonesian news app that borrowed the business idea from China’s Toutiao and has been downloaded more than 10 million times.

As the article points out, it is perhaps natural that entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia should look to China for ideas given the commonalities of culture. But that kind of creative borrowing can only occur if Chinese companies are producing enough good business ideas that are worth copying. It’s evident that they are, and it’s time that the West recognized that fact.

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Comments on “Chinese High-Tech Startups: Now More Copied Than Copying”

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15 Comments
bob says:

Re: Re:

There are 2 reasons why they are finding more cheese.

  • corporate espionage
  • and the decline of competition among US companies.

Sure there are creative types among the Chinese that do invent new things. However because US companies are not being forced to compete, they are becoming more stagnant and risk adverse.

After all, if you are going to push the envelope and invent new things and ideas you must take risks. But those risks might result in major losses to your company’s and investor’s bottom line.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There’s a third reason: they’re smarter than we are.

The Chinese were ahead of us on technology and civilisation itself for centuries, then their culture stagnated due to over-centralisation. Then the Western powers moved in, the Brits got a large proportion of the population hooked on opium to fix the trade deficit, then two world wars and Communism happened. Now they’re back on top in their part of the world (that used to be Japan), and in ours, too.

Over-centralisation isn’t necessarily a government thing, is what I’m saying; we NEED competition to foster innovation. Where there is none we get stagnation, which leaves us vulnerable to takeover by outside forces. China is taking over as a superpower now, as has been predicted since I were a lass. We need to get better at learning the lessons from history, people. It keeps repeating itself because we don’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Abolish The Patent System

Isn’t it funny how places where the patent system has been de-fanged are suddenly getting more and more manufacturing industry? And everywhere else gets to be a “rust belt”.

Of course, if anybody in the advanced western democracies were to suggest that the patent system was rubbish, they would be shouted down by the “trial lawyers”. Follow the money, people. Wake up.

Warning — All those now-wealthy Chinese are going to get pushy. The now-poor westerners will be getting more cranky. Democracy and human rights will get disrespected. It will not be nice.

stine (profile) says:

you've glossed over a big point or two

First, the Chinese have a verly large, and protected, market. This means that any idea imported from the west will be relatively immune to competition from the original western product. Second, rhe Chinese only pay lip service to western copyrights. This is why you still can’tdo business in China unless you’re a Chinese company, or if your western company doesn’t control a majority interest in its own Chinese operations. this means that every business doing business in China is, at least locally, controlled by a Chinese company…so you can kiss your Intelectuual Property good-bye. Third, Chinese nationals and ethnic Chinese who think they want to be nationals haven’t stopped trying to acquire (through absoluely every means) technology and take it with them back to China.

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