POPULAR concern about free trade with China has focused on the loss of manufacturing jobs in America and Europe. Policymakers have an additional worry: that China’s rise is hurting innovation in the West. This fear is among the small set of issues that unites American Democrats and Republicans. In 2016 Barack Obama’s commerce secretary said that China’s state-driven economy would weaken the world’s innovation ecosystem. Donald Trump’s advisers allege that China makes it harder for foreign firms to invest in innovation by squeezing their returns. Mr Trump’s trade team was expected to raise this complaint, among others, with Chinese officials during talks in Beijing on May 3rd and 4th, as The Economist went to press. There is one problem. Data suggest that competition with China has coincided with more innovation in America, not less.
The relationship between competition and innovation is complex, even before considering trade with China. Economists agree that the...Continue reading