Carly Fiorina and the case for Chinese lack of creativity

By Thorsten J. Pattberg

This didn’t go down well in politically correct America: US presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, was recorded saying that she talks from experience when assuring everyone that the Chinese may best the tests, but are “not terribly imaginative.” “That’s why,” she said, “they’re stealing our intellectual property.”

The interview quickly went viral. Ms. Fiorina’s remarks about the lack of imagination and entrepreneurship among the ethnic Chinese feed on mass anxiety in America, where we are currently witnessing what the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas once coined the ‘Siegeszug’ (a victory march) of Asian students at America’s universities. East-Asian students, on average, are vastly outperforming their white, black, and Hispanic peers via SAT-scores and other IQ-related tests, not just in the US, but throughout the world.

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina

Naturally, many conservative voters worry a rising China and would like to hear, possibly from the next US president, that what those smart East-Asians are truly lacking is Western “creativity.” And we kind of see where Ms. Fiorina is coming from. Western education remains a fetish of the colonial past. During the last 300 years of European, later American, expansionism, China’s originality — its ideas and concepts —  were simply omitted or translated into convenient Western words and categories. Shengren became “philosophers.” Junzi became “gentlemen.” Until nothing “original” was left.

It’s the greatest intellectual property theft in the history of mankind, with far reaching consequences, even today: Your author once approached Science magazine, its two consecutive China correspondents (both white) in Beijing and Shanghai. Science wouldn’t in a dream think about publishing a single Chinese term. Chinese words and brands must be suppressed, crushed even, hold back at all cost. Only if a Chinaman presents proof of affiliation with the West, has Western patrons vouch for him, and writes in “pure” English, may he present his ‘submission’ to Western publishers. It’s discrimination worse than slavery, racism, or the patriarchy.

The European ‘Enlightenment’ is said to be a late consequence of the thoughts of Kongzi and Laozi. The Four Great Chinese Inventions — compass, gun-powder, paper, and print — are legendary. Less talked about are meritocracy and banknotes. As to the humanities, the Chinese have produced three of the world’s greatest “belief systems” – Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism (the latter originated in India).

Meanwhile, Americans are not having any of it. The English word “creativity” is derived from the Roman-Latin ‘creo’ — to create. It is inextricably linked to the Western notion of a creator — a divine intervention and violent disrupter. We are all living in the Year 2015 of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It’s not a coincidence that the United States, “God’s Chosen Nation,” believes it substitutes for the Maker on earth.

This sense of mission and make-belief comes at a cost. In America, for centuries, immigrants had to undergo a process of forced assimilation. Once they become completely oblivious to other cultures, they are ready to “Americanize” the world. The typical A-bot thinks learning a foreign language is a character flaw. He can’t name a single Chinese innovation, let alone a single famous person (apart from “Jackie Chan,” whose Chinese name is Cheng Long). In his mind, the Chinese must have been doing nothing else, all billions of them, throughout the last 3000 years, other than waiting for Yale and Princeton.

Unsurprisingly, our Western “press soldiers” from The New York TimesWall Street JournalThe Economist magazine, etc. (often one correspondent for every 200 million Chinese), happily manufacture stories, demonize the Chinese government, and fabricate heroes, saviors, and incidents for China, at will.

Their agenda-driven journalism is why, when educated Americans finally do visit China, they are surprised to hear about hundreds of “famous” Chinese persons and events that they didn’t even know existed, and realize that they had, for years, only read about Chinese dissidents, Chinese crimes, Chinese flaws … in short: they were made to loath China.

Just because the Chinese were deprived of much of their intellectual property; that doesn’t mean they do not have the intellectual capacity to innovate. Today, US universities are overwhelmed by Chinese performances in the sciences, engineering, and mathematics. Harvard has to openly discriminate against Asian-Americans, because it fears the exodus of its traditional student body. To give you a perspective: We have yet to find a white professor in Chinese Studies who is able to write the language.

China has already more millionaires than Japan, Germany, and Great Britain combined. Only in US politics, where the ruling elites belong to the dinosaurs, does the myth of Chinese lack of creativity hold its sway.

So, back to the US presidential candidate. Ms. Fiorina tried to comfort a largely white electorate that although their kids and grandkids, on average, may not be as smart or well-behaved in school as the East-Asians, Americans still remain the most upsetting force of disruption in the universe: “We are better at risk-taking.” Oh dear, mother planet.

Thorsten J. Pattberg, PhD, is a German scholar and cultural critic, and the author of “The East-West Dichotomy.”

Categories: AT Opinion, China

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  • Dan Kuhn

    Perhaps Fiorina spoke tongue in cheek. In any event she certainly lives up to the disruptive part of innovation she speaks of , just look at the shambles she created of Hewlett Packard. That Blue Chip company is still trying to recover from her stewardship. Who knows, if she were to become president of the USA she might just be able to do the same for the entire country.

  • vanisle1

    Thanks for letting yourself go, Mr. Pattberg. These things need to be said over and over again. We are bombarded with anti-Chinese propaganda in our media. I think editors are so convinced in their prejudices that they don’t realize they are publishing half-truths and lies.

    In any case, let’s trade: China can develop Western rule of law, and the West can develop Chinese effort and ingenuity. When Americans rail at Chinese lack of copyright and patent protection, I remember that when Dickens visited America in the 19th century, he found many unlicensed editions of his works. Strict patent and copyright laws are a luxury that developing economies can best do without.

    I noticed recently in a list of members of the Council on Foreign Relations that there were no Chinese names or organizations. Plenty of Japanese ones, however. The desire to make China an enemy starts at the top.

  • crocodilechuck

    She doesn’t have the self awareness to speak tongue in cheek. I worked with her @ Lucent.

    She’s insane.

  • Frank Montego

    Number of Nobel laureates:
    China: 8
    United States: 353

    Yeah, she’s an idiot.

  • panasian

    This Fiorina woman is full of it. Before opening her ignorant big mouth, she should have read SCIENCE AND CIVILIZATION IN CHINA by Joseph Needham which was picked as one of the 100 best English language non-fictions of the 20th century by Random House. China invented compass, rudder, leeboard, centerboard, multi-mast, watertight compartments which Europe didn’t use for their ships until the late 18th century. Without all these Chinese inventions, the European voyages of discovery wouldn’t have been possible. Also China invented not only paper but also printing including the movable type about 400 years before Gutenberg. Without these Chinese inventions, the SPREAD of Renaissance would have been extremely difficult. China invented not only gunpowder but also gun, cannon, rocket including multi-stage ones, both land and sea mines, bomb, even hand grenade. All these Chinese military technologies were furiously copied by Europeans. Can you imagine the modern military without these Chinese inventions? Also China invented blast furnace, coking – coal, so called- Bessemer Steel Process, Siemens’ Steel process, drilling techniques for oil and natural gas ( China drilled for natural gas and transferred it through pipelines for heating and lighting starting in the 4th century BC, on the other hand Europe didn’t use natural gas until the late 19th century). Without all these Chinese inventions, the Industrial Revolution would have been impossible. These are just some of the ground- breaking Chinese inventions that backward Europe eagerly copied before the Industrial Revolution. Even science was born in the 11th century in the Islamic civilization with the birth of the EXPERIMENTAL SCIENTIFIC METHOD ( all ancient civilizations were pre-scientific) The backwards Europe again copied the experimental scientific method extensively thus bringing about the Scientific Revolution in Europe. The primitive Europeans copied not only science but also math, architecture, literature, etc from the Islamic civilization in the Middle Ages. As you can see Europe was basically a copying and adaptive culture before the Industrial Revolution. Even though Europe overtook China in science in the 17th century. China was still ahead of Europe in technology until the end of the 18th century because there was disconnect between nascent scientific theories and implementing them for technological developments. Even Ancient China was far ahead of the Greco-Roman civilization in technology. According to Robert Temple, a well-respected scholar of the Oriental Studies, more than half of the inventions that laid foundations for the modern world before the Industrial Revolution came from China.

  • panasian

    The creativity -lacking U,S. was the biggest copycat in the world in the 19th and early 20th centuries. America copied other countries’ inventions, ideas without regard to patents, copyright, trademarks. Even the U.S. Treasury Department under Alexander Hamilton set up a bounty system for rewarding anybody for stealing and bringing foreign technologies to America. As a matter of fact, the 19th century American textile industry was basically based on stolen British technologies. Also Americans were infamous for illegally copying Charles Dickens’ novels and making unsafe and gross food products. You can find all this information and more by reading Aug 26, 2007 Boston Globe article named A NATION OF OUTLAWS A CENTURY AGO, THAT WASN’T CHINA—– IT WAS US and also a Dec 5, 2012 Foreign Policy article titled WE WERE PIRATES, TOO. Every developed country went through copying stage before it became innovative. Germans stole and copied from British. Americans stole and copied from Europe and Japan stole and copied from both Europe and America. Also before the Industrial Revolution the backward Europeans copied a lot of things from China and Islamic civilization.

  • tinhatter

    You sound like you have something to prove. Every race / culture has copied and adapted off others. But at moment it is the West. I can tell you from working with many people the FOTB (fresh off the boats) and their children learn by rote, but the ones brought up in the West do not, and they are smart… and think laterally. It is mainly cultural upbringing and not genes. But the USA will always (so long as we can see) offer a cultural setting to reward people of talent. If China adopted the rule of law, got rid of corruption and was a meritocracy then they would rule the world.

  • panasian

    You don’t know what you are talking about. Chinese students along with other East Asian students are proven to be very creative. You are just parroting the old tired refrain that East Asians, particularly, Chinese are only good at rote learning but not creativity. The PISA in 2012 gave a CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING TEST to the students all over the world to gauge their critical thinking abilities that lead to creativity. All the East Asian students including Chinese ones from Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taiwan, came on top beating supposedly creative Americans and Europeans. Andreas Schleicher who was in charge of administering 2009 PISA tests said “for me the real significance of these results is that they REFUTE the commonly held hypothesis that China just produces rote learning” ” large fractions of these (Chinese) students demonstrate their ability to extrapolate from what they know and apply their knowledge very CREATIVELY in novel situations”. On the other hand American students are neither knowledgeable in basics nor creative. Now I’m going to quote from a May 14,2011 New York Times article named YOUR SO-CALLED EDUCATION by Richard Arum that severely criticized lack of proper study habits and also CRITICAL THINKING on the part of American college students

    “In a typical semester, for instance, 32 percent of the (American) students did not take a single course with more than 40 pages of reading per week, and 50 percent did not take any course requiring more than 20 pages of writing over the semester. The average student spent only about 12 to 13 hours per week studying — about half the time a full-time college student in 1960 spent studying, according to the labor economists Philip S. Babcock and Mindy S. Marks”.

    “Not surprisingly, a large number of the ( American) students showed no significant progress on tests of CRITICAL THINKNG, COMPLEX REASONING and writing that were administered when they began college and then again at the ends of their sophomore and senior years. If the test that we used, the Collegiate Learning Assessment, were scaled on a traditional 0-to-100 point range, 45 percent of the students would not have demonstrated gains of even one point over the first two years of college, and 36 percent would not have shown such gains over four years of college” The way they are dumbing down many academic subjects in the American educational system and the tendency that American students avoid majoring in STEM mean that American days of dominance in science and technology are. numbered.

  • panasian

    By looking at the way Americans are dumbing down their students and American students avoiding to major in STEM, I guarantee you the following : By 2050, new number of Nobel Prizes for China :353 and the United States: 8, LOL !!!!!

  • vox3non

    I think China would be thinking along the lines of Napoleon, “Never interfere with your enemy when he is making a mistake.” After all, “Those whom the gods would destroy they first make proud.” -Sophocles

  • zheng he

    American Nobel laureates – most of them are foreigners. America sucks up most of the foreign brains and talents studying in the US.

  • magouyu

    Mr Pattbergs views are correct. I like the phrase “press soldiers”. Indeed it is not too far fetched to say every article on China is laced with negativism and the prediction of doom. There is this notion that Asians and Chinese just don’t know what to do or how to manage and govern. Its a concerted effort. I have also experienced commenting on such matters in other websites and often found my views even not posted. That speaks much about freedom of speech and democracy preached by the west. Its total nonsense at best.

  • magouyu

    In fact it will perhaps do good to have her as american president to help mess it up like how she helped did it at HP – tongue-in-cheek?

  • Doubting Thomas

    Just goes to show: If you want your thieving to be respected, steal big. Software, designer purses, movies? Small beer! We stole Texas from Mexico!

  • crocodilechuck

    I wouldn’t say she’s an idiot, but she engaged in fraud & deception while @ Lucent, and helped drive the company into the ground, e.g. by writing off payments from customers for hardware in exchange for shares in start-ups which became worthless after the dotcom crash. Why DO you think the company was sold for peanuts to Alcatel?

    Homework, Mr. Montego, please do your homework.