Chinese new challenge to evolve from the condition of “Factory of the World” to a nation that can export ideas is currently the main topic in every discussion about society or future.
The leap will be huge, if China will be able to make it, because a society that can make this jump towards the future is usually a system that has a strong past.
Unfortunately tradition, history and ideas themselves have been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution so Chinese development today is on one hand willing to move forward, on the other scared of the new.
New ideas, new ways, new production methods represent the future but also a possible financial danger for the system.
The whole design industry is scared of making the leap that countries like Japan or Korea and even India have made decades ago; the average Chinese student, now professional, has not been taught how to build ideas.
In a country that kept its population under siege for years is very difficult to change the system in just one generation.
Imagine that you were working as a farmer and one day somebody tells you that now you are an engineer and you are going to build bridges (and become rich), but no worries because you can learn by doing and mistake is tolerated. But then after another ten years the same people tell you that now you have to walk with your legs and you need to develop your own ideas because that’s the way it goes and the money is finished. You would probably fell that you are still a farmer and in some cases prefer to go back to your old life. Don’t be scandalized, if you are around my age, probably the generation of your grandparents has faced the same change.
This example is not so far from reality: Chinese education is not at all prepared for that. During university, future professionals are taught about styles (European, American, Ancient Greek) and how to use softwares (usually old), but they find themselves totally unprepared when, at the end, they have to design an office or a product. In the meantime the government has closed the borders so it’s very difficult for Chinese nationals to go abroad, see things, improve their culture and open their minds. The nation has promulgated protectionist laws to protect Chinese companies (that consequently don’t grow) and is not investing at all on English education.
New ideas are then the new fear, people are scared of change, scared of loosing the small amount of comforts and benefit that they were given during the last years and design culture is usually making one step forward and two backwards because replicating is still more simple and economically attractive; especially in a nation that benefits of rules that nourish this system.