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March 16, 2009



Ultimately and eventually China will have to invent their own. However, in the mean time, borrowing the Japanese model of beg, buy, borrow, steal, rob and copy, at least for now, is the easiest, cheapest, fastest and safest way to make better weapons.


Bill: Absolutely, and such has been the case with weaponeers since homo erectus discovered the homicidal properties of the rock. And my biggest problem with US DoD for years has been that they do not beg, buy, borrow, steal, rob and copy enough.

Yet history has proven that there are "war dividends" to those who innovate by their own blood, sweat, toil and tears. As my first boss once said, in the long run, there is no such thing as a good shortcut.


Interesting stuff. It's not hard to foresee a Chinese military investment in technological development paying civilian dividends. But it seems to me there are hurdles as well. Defense-related spending in the US was responsible for a great deal of practical technological innovation, but much of that spending went to companies that were in a good position to commercialize the resulting innovations. Internal, creativity-driven R&D cultures, as with the old Bell Labs and similar outfits, had a lot to do with it as well. Many of the technologies that proved so valuable were ridiculed at the outset. (Lasers? Useless crap!)

So the question I have would be whether some of that spending will find its way into the right R&D culture and from there into companies that can effectively commercialize the results. I suspect there are a few institutional and even cultural hurdles to get past. That's not to say that such endeavors can't or won't be successful, just that obstacles exist.


Will, you make a good point. It is worth noting that a goodly number of defense contractors in the US failed to draw civilian dividends from military contracts, hence the wave of creative destruction in the defense and aerospace industries after the Berlin Wall was turned into 10 million paperweights.

Making that shift requires a unique combination of circumstances and at least one moment of uncontained inspiration. (I'm thinking of Irwin Jacobs' I-5 epiphany that led to CDMA, but there are others.)

The difference for China is that it has the U.S. experience to draw from as a guide. Armed with that hindsight and the example of Huawei, I figure that we will see some defense dividends in China's tech industry at some point, but it will still only be a small percentage of the companies in question.

As we look for potential paths for Independent Innovation, I think we have to count this as one.

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