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Libertarian and IP Answer Man: Does China have “more fierce” competition because of weaker IP law?

A friend asked me for my comments about a video with the clickbaity title “Harvard Economist Reveals Shocking SECRET About China In 2023“—in particular, regarding the third section, “Fierce Competition,” about how China handles IP vs. the U.S. My brief, dashed off response is below:

Well, the title of this video makes it look click-baity. I think he is confused. Here are my thoughts just from quickly watching the first few minutes of that section.

First, he is correct that competition is good for innovation. But … then why does he say “I’m not saying it’s better.” I mean yes, that is better. Competition and innovation are in fact better. If China was in fact innovating more and had more competition because of some institutional factors, yes that is something we should praise and seek to emulate. But he does not show that this is the case.

Second: he simply asserts without proof that competition is more “fierce” in China. What does this mean? How is it measured? WHY is it more “fierce”? Isn’t competition “fierce” in the US too?

Third: he simply asserts that China’s IP is “more limited” than in the US, and/or that Silicon Valley “frowns” more on copying. What does this even mean? What is his proof? China is a signatory to the major patent and copyright and trademark treaties, and in fact has a developed patent, copyright, and trademark system. American and western firms, as well as local Chinese firms, routinely file for patents in China and they are granted, just as in the US, and they can be enforced in the courts there, just as in the US. So I am not sure what he is talking about.

I wish China would ignore IP law. But they don’t. All the commie countries have and have had IP. Russia, North Korea, Cuba, Red China. This is not surprising since IP is in fact socialistic. See https://c4sif.org/wrongaboutip/#ip-socialist-ussr

There is in fact more piracy in China, probably because it’s a developing and poorer nation, but all that means is that China cannot completely enforce IP law. Neither can the US: there is also piracy and infringement in the US, it’s perhaps just less pervasive. But in both countries, as far as I know, there are strong IP laws (unfortunately), and both countries enforce those laws to a certain degree (unfortunately), but neither system’s IP regime can completely stop all piracy (fortunately). This latter point is similar to drug laws, which both countries also have, where certain narcotics are outlawed, but illegal drug use still persists since the state can never get anything perfectly right, even in enforcing their own evil laws (a good thing). Perhaps the US penalties for IP infringement are more draconian than China’s (a bad thing) but AFAIK there is a strong and enforceable set of IP rights in China just as in almost every other country (unfortunately).

This does fly in the face of ancient Chinese wisdom, as captured by the title of the book To Steal a Book is an Elegant Offense (of course, copying is not “stealing”, but let that pass. See Stop calling patent and copyright “property”; stop calling copying “theft” and “piracy”). But unfortunately, China has adopted western style IP law, so its laws are contrary to the spirit of this ancient insight.

Understanding that IP is pervasive, even in China, also helps to explain why American pundits and politicians routinely lie by accusing China over and over or “stealing American IP.” The charge is simply bullshit and false, and—is doubly wrong, because if China were “stealing” (i.e. infringing) US IP (which they do not; it’s impossible to do this; IP laws are territorial) this would be a good thing not a bad thing precisely because competition and innovation and copying is a good thing. (For more on this see More of the “China is Stealing Our IP” nonsense and other posts here.)

So I think this guy is right that competition and innovation go hand in hand; this implies that IP is bad, which it is. But he gives no evidence for his contention that competition is more “fierce” there, nor does he coherently frame it or define his terms; nor does he explain why it is more fierce; his explanation that they have weaker IP makes no sense, as they do not; and his refusal to be in favor of more competition/less IP makes no sense at all. I guess we should not be surprised that a bunch of clickbait bullshit is full of shit. I assume he’s trying to sell something but I can’t bear to slog through any more.

If you think other parts of the video address some of these deficiencies and are worth watching, let me know.

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To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.