Shift of Shenzhen’s Development from Imitation to Independent Innovation

Author: Fan Gang, President of CDI

Editor’s Note: Since reform and opening-up, Shenzhen’s development has experienced two stages. Now it is entering a new stage of imitation plus independent innovation.

The first two decades of Shenzhen’s development are characterized by comparative advantages, i.e., cheap labor and development of labor-intensive industries.

The next two decades of Shenzhen’s development are defined by its efforts to learn from and imitate advanced economies. By learning and imitation, Shenzhen was able to acquire knowledge at a rather low cost and take shortcuts to speed up its development. The collision between the knowledge stocks of different economies can lead to spillover effect and that opening-up will enable a developing country to attract knowledge flow from developed countries. Knowledge spillover does not mean stealing technologies nor violating intellectual property rights, as a huge volume of knowledge beyond patent expiration is free of charge. Thus, it is not theft but rather imitation.

Shenzhen’s development is now entering a stage of imitation plus independent innovation, necessitating international exchanges and independent creation of knowledge.