经济学人官方译文 | 速度与激情:中国私营企业正在积极创新

Innovation
创新
​​Fast and furious
速度与激情
Chinese private firms are embracing innovation
中国私营企业正在积极创新

“CHINA MUST RELY on innovation to achieve continuous and healthy economic development.” To anyone outside China, that seems to be stating the obvious. What makes it striking is who said it: none other than President Xi Jinping, speaking last December.
“实现我国经济持续健康发展,必须依靠创新驱动。”对于中国以外的任何人来说,这似乎是个不言自明的道理。使之变得受人瞩目的是说这句话的人:不是别人,正是国家主席习近平。他在去年12月谈到这一点。

China has long pursued an industrial policy of “indigenous innovation”, obliging multinational companies to transfer technology and propping up SOEs in strategic sectors. That has not worked, so now the country is pouring money into a renewed push from the top down. It is spending more than $200 billion a year on R&D, up fourfold in a decade. As a proportion of GDP the figure, at 2%, now slightly exceeds that for the EU.
中国长期以来奉行“自主创新”的产业政策,要求跨国公司转让技术,扶植占据战略产业的国有企业。然而这一套并不奏效,所以现在国家正注入资金,自上而下地重新推动创新。每年投入的研发经费已超过2000亿美元,十年内翻了两番,占GDP比例为2%,目前稍高于欧盟的水平。

Thomson Reuters, a research firm, claims that China is an “undisputed patent leader”. Central planners now want to triple the number of patents by 2020, to 14 per 10,000 people. They aim to increase R&D spending further and eventually match America’s current level of 2.8% of GDP, in the hope that all this will make China an innovation superpower. Already a fifth of the world’s technical graduates are Chinese.
研究公司汤森路透(Thomson Reuters)称中国是“无可争议的专利先锋”。中央决策者如今希望在2020年前把注册专利数量增加两倍,达到每万人14件。 他们的目标是进一步加大研发投入,最终追上美国目前的水平,即GDP的 2.8%,以期令中国成为创新大国。全世界的理工科毕业生已有五分之一是中国人。

The government could help boost innovation, for example by ensuring a sound legal framework and functioning financial markets, but so far it has failed to do so. Instead, it is overreacting in unhelpful ways. That is partly because it is confusing innovation with invention, which involves lots of research spending, patents and engineers. Innovation may or may not involve those things, but is essential to an economy’s wellbeing. Simply put, it is fresh thinking that creates value in the market. It may not require new technologies but simply the adaptation of products and business models from one industry or market to another.
政府可以促进创新,例如确保法律框架健全及金融市场良好运作,但迄今它没有做到这些,而是常以无益的方式反应过度。原因之一是政府将创新与发明混为一谈,后者牵涉大量研发费用、专利及工程师。这些并非创新的必要条件,但经济体要健康发展,创新至关重要。简单来说,在市场中创造价值的是新思维。这也许不需要新技术,而仅需改良产品和商业模式以适应不同的产业或市场。

Research spending, subsidies for high tech and PhDs are inputs. Spending more is no guarantee of better outputs, whether in the form of high-quality patents or rising sales. China’s official R&D funds often go to the well-connected rather than the deserving. The number of patents filed has soared thanks to government incentives, but many are worthless. After adjusting for quality, using a range of criteria, China still lags.
科研经费、对高科技及博士的补贴都是投入。花费更多并不能保证产出更佳,无论是表现为高质量的专利成果还是销售的提升。中国官方的研发经费往往拨给关系户,而非受之无愧的项目。专利申请的数量因政府的激励措施而激增,但许多其实一文不值。以一系列标准对质量做修正后,中国仍然落后

Gordon Orr, a former head of McKinsey’s Asia operations, thinks that SOE bosses find it easier to woo regulators to support existing products than to come up with new ones. New businesses are typically required to make money in the first year, which inhibits risk-taking. Guan Jiancheng of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and Richard Yam of the City University of Hong Kong quizzed over 2,000 manufacturing and technology firms in Beijing to see whether state aid in the 1990s led to more patents or higher sales and profits. They found that state money funnelled to SOEs was not only ineffective but “even occasionally had a negative impact on innovation”.
麦肯锡公司亚洲业务的前负责人欧高敦(Gordon Orr)认为,中国国有企业的领导人发现,比起推陈出新,现有产品更容易赢得监管部门的支持。新企业一般被要求第一年就盈利,这抑制了冒险。中国科学院大学的官建成和香港城市大学的任正民对北京的2000多家制造及科技公司做过调查,看看上世纪90年代的政府拨款是否带来了更多专利成果或更高的销售及利润。他们发现,投向国有企业的政府资金非但没有效果,“甚至偶尔对创新有负面影响”。

The World Bank reviewed various studies and concluded that the innovation effort at SOEs “tends to be unproductive and poorly integrated with the rest of their operations”. One reason is that big state firms are less efficient than smaller private firms at converting resources into innovations and patents. Total factor productivity has been growing three times as fast at private firms as at SOEs.
世界银行回顾多项研究后得出结论,认为国有企业的创新工作“往往无所成效且与企业的其他业务运作整合不佳”。一个原因是,在把资源转化为创新及专利成果方面,大型国有企业比规模较小的民营企业效率低。民营企业全要素生产率的增长速度是国有企业的三倍。

If China is becoming a lot more innovative, the private sector can take much of the credit. A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute, the consultancy’s research arm, shows that Chinese firms are good at innovating in a number of industries. The authors avoid the trap of just counting patents and PhDs, relying instead on “the ability of companies to expand revenue and raise profits” as the proof of successful innovation. Having examined financial data for 20,000 publicly held firms in China and abroad, they conclude that Chinese firms sparkle in consumer-facing industries, such as e-commerce, and in efficiency-driven ones, such as manufacturing, but that they lag in industries that rely on the latest science and technology.
如果说中国的创新力大增,主要应归功于私营部门。咨询公司麦肯锡的研究机构麦肯锡全球研究院(McKinsey Global Institute)最近发表的报告显示,中国企业在几个行业善于创新。报告作者没有落入以专利及博士数量论高下的窠臼,而是以“公司提高收入和利润的能力”作为成功创新的证明。他们审视了中国及海外两万家上市公司的财务数据,发现中国企业在电子商务这类面向消费者的行业以及制造业这类效率驱动型行业里表现耀眼,但在依靠最新科技的行业则落后于人。

There are notable exceptions. Huawei, for instance, has emerged as a world-class telecoms-equipment firm. It spends some $5 billion a year on R&D and has research centres close to technology hotspots. It is one of the world’s biggest generators of high-quality patents. Along with Sweden’s Ericsson, it is now at the forefront of research on 5G technology for the next generation of mobile phones.
但也有明显的例外,比如已成为世界级电信设备企业的华为。该公司每年投入研发的资金约为50亿美元,而且贴近各技术热点区域建立了多家研究中心。华为已成为世界上高质量专利发明最多的企业之一。与瑞典的爱立信一样,华为走在下一代5G通讯技术的研发前沿。

BGI, a privately run research outfit, is one of the world’s most highly regarded genomics institutes. It started life in 1999 when a handful of researchers left the Chinese Academy of Sciences to found a new genomics institute. They ended up in Shenzhen, where local officials, unusually for China, support businesses without trying to control them. BGI has hundreds of PhDs on its staff and owns half the world’s genome-sequencing capacity. It has won accolades for sequencing the SARS virus and decoding the genomes of birds and of the friendly microbes that live in the human gut. It advises most of the world’s large pharmaceutical companies on drug discovery and development.
民营科研组织华大基因是世界上最受尊崇的基因组学研究机构之一。华大基因诞生于1999年,当时几名研究人员离开了中国科学院,想要创办一家全新的基因组学研究机构。他们最后来到深圳,当地官员支持企业发展而不插手管控,这在中国颇为少有。华大基因拥有数百名具有博士学位的员工及全球一半的基因组测序能力。该机构曾成功对SARS病毒做基因测序,并对鸟类的基因组和人类胃部益生菌进行解码测序,因而赢得赞誉。华大基因为全球大多数大型制药公司提供药物发现和开发方面的咨询。

Ideas factory
创意工厂

George Yip of the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) points to GE’s development of ultrasound technology in China, which has gone global. Chen Xiangli, head of GE’s China Technology Centre in Shanghai, lists many examples of world-leading research done there. One team has developed membrane systems that help dirty industries such as coal meet requirements for zero liquid discharge. Another team is pioneering the development of superconducting magnets with a significant reduction in the use of liquid helium.
中欧国际工商学院的叶恩华提到通用电气公司在中国研发、现已输出全球的超声波技术。通用电气在上海的中国研发中心负责人陈向力列举了许多在中国完成的领先世界的研究。一个团队研发出的膜系统帮助煤炭等污染行业符合废水零排放要求。另一团队正率先开发可显著降低液氦消耗量的超导磁体。

Mr Yip and colleagues have recently published a study of research done by foreign firms in China in strategy+business, a magazine published by PwC Strategy&, a consulting firm. They found that 28% of these firms now work on cutting-edge R&D. In addition to GE, firms ranging from Microsoft to ABB have top researchers in China pursuing advanced projects for the global market. Novartis has committed $1 billion to its R&D centre in China, which has already come up with a novel treatment that promises to tackle liver cirrhosis.
叶恩华及其同事最近在普华永道思略特管理咨询公司(PwC Strategy&)的刊物《策略+业务》(strategy+business)上发表报告,考察外资公司在中国的研发工作。他们发现,这些公司中有28%正从事尖端研发。除通用电气外,从微软到ABB等多家公司都在中国部署了顶尖研究人员以开展服务全球市场的先进研发项目。诺华公司(Novartis)向其中国研发中心投入了十亿美元,中心已开发出新药,有望治疗肝硬化。

If China is so innovative, sceptics often ask, why has it not produced a world-class car yet? A successful car industry requires decades of engineering experience and complex global supplier networks. Foreign car firms that set up in China were forced into joint ventures with SOEs, so the local firms involved have had access to global technology for 20 years. But when they try to make cars under their own brands, they still produce clunkers. China needs time to catch up, just as Japan and South Korea did, argues Neil Shen of Sequoia Capital.
怀疑论者经常质问,如果中国如此善于创新,为何至今未能生产出世界一流的汽车?成功的汽车产业需要几十年的工程经验及复杂的全球供应商网络。外国车企在中国设立公司时被迫与国有企业合资,所以本地公司接触全球技术已有20年。但当它们尝试生产自己品牌的汽车时,产品依然落后于人。红杉资本的沈南鹏认为,中国需要时间来追赶,正如日本和韩国过去那样。

Perhaps, but there may be another explanation. One of the most senior foreign businessmen in China exclaims that SOEs “have the smartest people in science and technology but cannot get a branded product out the door that people outside China want to buy”. There is too much control from the top, he says, and not enough faith in markets and competition.
或许如此,但也可能有另一种解释。中国最资深的外国商界人士之一感叹,中国国有企业“拥有最聪明的科技人才,却无法推出能吸引国外消费者的品牌产品”。他说这是由于政府管控过度,而对市场及竞争信心不足。

In Japan and South Korea, it was private firms such as Honda and Hyundai that developed cars. By competing in the global market, they learned to innovate. In China, the state has decreed and protected national champions. Shanghai Automotive has joint ventures with both Volkswagen and General Motors. The resulting easy money and access to global designs has given it little incentive to innovate, says a manager at the firm.
在日本和韩国,研发生产汽车的是本田和现代这样的私营企业。通过参与全球市场竞争,他们学会了创新。在中国,政府指定并保护国有领军企业。上海汽车集团分别与大众及通用汽车成立了合资企业。由此轻松而得的资金及全球设计技术令其缺乏创新动力,上汽的一位经理说道。

But some privately run car companies are getting better. A few years ago, when your correspondent went to Shenzhen to visit BYD, a maker of electric cars, its engineers boasted that apart from the glass and the tyres, they made every single part themselves. It showed: the vehicles were awful. But recently, with advice from Mercedes-Benz and parts from outside suppliers, its quality, safety and styling have improved dramatically.
而一些民营汽车公司则不断进步。几年前,本刊记者赴深圳造访电动汽车制造商比亚迪,其工程师自豪地宣称,除了玻璃和轮胎,其余每一样部件都是他们自己生产的。这看得出来:车子很糟糕。但最近,在梅赛德斯-奔驰的指导下,加上外部供应商的零部件,比亚迪汽车的质量、安全性及造型均有显著提高。

Chinese firms might even leapfrog current technology and make the internet-connected electric vehicles of the future. Not only car firms, but China’s internet giants and manufacturers like Foxconn are investing huge sums in this idea. Day Chia-Peng, a technology expert at Foxconn, thinks there are four reasons why Chinese firms could lead the world. First, thanks to its expertise in making electric motors and electronics, the country has top-notch suppliers. Second, electric vehicles lend themselves to being made by a number of smaller firms, so today’s car giants may lose their grip. Third, e-commerce, another area in which China excels, is changing the way people buy cars. And fourth, the involvement of China’s “BAT” (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) internet trio and Xiaomi may give it an edge in developing such cars.
中国企业甚至可能超越目前的技术,打造出未来的联网电动汽车。不止车企,中国的互联网巨头以及像富士康这样的制造商也正在这一创想上投入巨资。富士康的技术专家戴佳鹏认为,中国企业可以领先世界,有四点原因。首先,在制造电机和电子产品上的专长令中国拥有一流的供应商。第二,电动汽车适于由小型公司制造,所以如今的汽车巨头或许会失去控制权。第三,中国擅长的另一领域——电子商务——正在改变人们购车的方式。第四,中国的互联网三巨头“BAT”(百度、阿里巴巴、腾讯)及小米的参与可能会为中国研发这类汽车带来优势。

On the minus side, the absence of academic freedom is an important brake on Chinese innovation. China’s universities, just like its SOEs, are run by party committees. This politicisation limits the flow of ideas. So, too, does the Great Firewall, which chokes access to global websites and popular collaborative tools like Google Docs.
也有负面因素,缺乏学术自由是阻碍中国创新的一道大坎。中国的大学和国有企业一样由党委管理运作。这种政治化操作限制了思想的交流与传播。防火墙也一样,阻碍了人们使用全球网站及像谷歌文档这类流行的协作工具。

Chinese firms have come a long way. What holds back the country’s innovators today is not lack of resources. It is certainly not lack of resourcefulness. The greatest obstacle is the oppressive hand of the state.
中国企业已走过了漫长征程。如今,令该国创新者裹足不前的并非资源的匮乏,显然也非才智的欠缺。最大的障碍是政府的紧箍咒。