Topic outline

  • General

    China has ambitious plans to become a knowledge-intensive economy and to dominate in global high technology value chains. In this seminar, we analyse the strategies applied, the major actors involved and the opportunities and pitfalls confronting China's National Innovation System (NIS). We discuss the country's innovation capacity and how the NIS contributes to China’s international competitiveness. After establishing the basics, each session will present a theory in combination with a prominent case. Over the course of the semester, you will obtain a glimpse into the very individual innovation challenges facing entire regions, Chinese SOEs, private companies, think tanks, universities and entrepreneurs. 

    This seminar is part of the module ‘Challenges of Sustainable Development in China’ and is for students of the master programmes China Language and Economy (CLE) as well as China Business and Economics (CBE).


    • Assignment icon

      • Best submit your essay abstract before Friday the 16th of December 2022, so I have enough time to provide feedback before the Christmas break
      • Should you need more time, please send me a short email and propose a new deadline 
      • To submit, enter the text directly into the form (no PDF opload possible)

    • Assignment icon

      • Best submit your essay before the 13th of January 2023, so I have enough time to provide feedback before the examination period
      • Should you need more time, please send me a short email and propose a new deadline
      • Upload you essay as a PDF with your name in the file name!
      • 1.500 words +/- 10 percent

  • 1. Introduction | 21.10.2022

    The aim of this first session is to get to know each other, to lay down some rules and to present the structure of the course. We will explain some important facts about the course and what standards we expect from Master students in Würzburg as part of oral exams. You will realise that while challenging, National Innovation Systems provides you with a solid foundation for analysing innovative processes and players in China.

  • 2. What is Innovation and How Can We Measure It? | 28.10.2022

    In today's class we will be covering the basics: what is innovation, what different types of innovation are there and how is innovation different from invention? We will look at some concrete examples of companies that have pursued these different types of innovation to great success. As usual, the class will start with a quiz, so make sure you read the texts and prepare, because today will be particularly interactive! 

  • 3. China's National Innovation System (CNIS): An Overview | 04.11.2022 (ONLINE)

    In today's class we will be exploring China's National Innovation System from a more general perspective. We will first understand what authors mean when they discuss National Innovation Systems. We will then look back over four phases of Chinese innovation policies as a preparation for next week's more in-depth treatment of Chinese legislation on innovation. Finally, we will examine indicators to measure regional innovation ecosystems in the PRC. 
  • 4. State Steering: Chinese Innovation Policies | 11.11.2022

    Today, we will be examining what distinguishes industrial policies from innovation policies and how China designs tools to steer the country's innovation system. In the first part of class we will jointly discuss theories, types and tools of industrial policies. In so doing, we will ask ourselves what types of instruments are most advantageous for the purpose of stimulating innovation. Then, in the second part of class, you will work together in groups to dissect Chinese innovation policies. The goal will be to identify who the policy is addressed to, what instruments it advocates as well as the role of the market and state in driving innovation. 

  • 5. China's Intellectual Property Rights System | 18.11.2022

    In today's class we will be examining the differences between tools to protect intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, geographical indicators and copyright. We will then uncover how China organises its intellectual property system and who is in charge of administering the different tools. The final section of class then treats a specific case, namely Lego's disputes with copy-cat enterprises in the PRC, as well as the legal options available to them in Chinese courts. 

  • 6. Entrepreneurship in China: An Overview | 25.11.2022

    In today's class, we will be diving into the exciting world of entrepreneurship in China. As usual, we will begin with a discussion of important concepts in entrepreneurship theory and establish the difference between inventors and entrepreneurs. In the second section we will overview the history of entrepreneurship in China from the establishment of the PRC to the present day. Thereafter, we will stay in the present to visit some of China's most vibrant start-up hubs and get to know some of the most successful male and female entrepreneurs in China. The final section, titled 'The Pitch' will then prepare you for a special task I am going to set you for the Christmas period. 

  • 7. Universities in China's NIS | 02.12.2022

    In today's class, we will be taking a closer look at universities as locations for innovation and research. We will question our own existence, what we are doing and the point of it all. We will being our lesson with a theoretical justification for the existence of universities and their role in countries' national innovation systems. We will then examine the different types of research and development, as well as how universities contribute to each type. Then we will head to China to visit some of the country's elite institutions. We will discover how much China's system of higher education has changed, what incentives exist for conducting research and the resulting consequences for innovation. We will end today's class with a case of why (maybe) China's fetish for rankings and quantitative targets may lead to adverse outcomes for the country's innovative potential. 

  • 8. The Pavitt Taxonomy and Regional Innovation in China | 09.12.2022

    In today's class, we will encounter one of the classic taxonomies to categorise companies according to their technological capabilities: the Pavitt Taxonomy. Named after the economist Keith Pavitt, the taxonomy distinguishes between four types of companies, each with unique characteristics and capacities to innovate. We will then discuss different means to conduct research on regional innovations in China and discover regions where innovation flourishes and areas where room for improvement yet exists. To end the class, we will connect the Pavitt taxonomy to four companies from one of China's most successful hubs for innovation: Shenzhen. 

  • 9. Creative Destruction and Chinese State-Owned Enterprises | 16.12.2022

    In today's class we will ask ourselves how creative and how destructive is China's economy. The topic of discussion today is of course Joseph Schumpeter's 'creative destruction'; an endogenous growth model that places technological innovation at the centre of human progress. We will then investigate the role of Chinese SOEs in the country's national innovation system and ask ourselves, how creative are these giants of industry,  how are they protected from destruction and why? We will end today's class with a closer investigation of China Mobile and its struggles with productivity in an industry subject to continuous transformation. 

  • Creative Destruction and Chinese State-Owned Enterprises Ctd. | 23.12.2022

    We will begin today's class with a little bit of fun: your elevator pitches. I look forward to seeing how creative you have been in conceiving a company and designing a pitch! Since we are perennially behind schedule, we will use the rest of class to catch up. This means, no text to read for today's lesson: a small Christmas present from me:). Since it is the 23rd of December and some of you will have already embarked on your journey home for the holidays, today's lesson will be offered in hybrid form. The password for the Zoom meeting is: 

    170024
  • 11. Disruptive Innovators: Chinese Unicorns | 13.01.2023

    In today's class, we will be revisiting and strengthening our understanding of disruptive innovation. We will encounter a new model of disruption, differentiate between different kinds of disruption and wonder why innovators face a dilemma over what type of disruption to pursue. We will then ride on decacorns, unicorns and gazelles, both in China and globally to uncover their role as disruptive innovators. Finally, the case study for today's class will pursue recent Chinese legislation on establishing disruptive innovators in key industries. 

  • 12. Diffusion Theory and Chinese Think Tanks | 20.01.2023

    In the first part of today's lecture we will be investigating whether the hugely popular diffusion theory can be applied to Chinese innovations. In doing so, we will discover what type of adopter you are and what factors drive you to adopt innovations. In the second part of class we will then dive into the murky world of Chinese think tanks. We will investigate why think tanks in China are experiencing a 'Golden Age' and what plans the current leadership has for the country's think tanks. In the final part of class, we will then bring diffusion theory and think tanks together in a case concerning one of China's most successful think tanks: the Peking University’s Institute of International and Strategic Studies. 

  • 13. Innovating the Chinese Energy Transition | 27.01.2023

    Today's class will explain how state-owned monopolists use a mixture of in-house R&D and competition among subsidiaries and private companies to stimulate innovation in China's grid infrastructure. You will learn about China's most significant innovative contribution in the field of energy, Ultra-high voltage power lines, why they are so important for the country's domestic energy transition and what state-owned enterprises plan on doing with this technology on the global stage. 

  • 14. Question and Answer Session | 03.02.2023