Rice: Coach en­trepreneurs to breed in­no­va­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - ANALYSIS - By CHEN YINGQUN

cheny­ingqun@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Con­doleezza Rice, the former United States sec­re­tary of state, has said China should be teach­ing young peo­ple how to be­come suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs, be­cause the 21st cen­tury will ul­ti­mately be­long to coun­tries and com­pa­nies that can in­no­vate.

Speak­ing in Bei­jing re­cently, she said eco­nomic growth, for any na­tion, is in­ex­tri­ca­bly tied to the abil­ity to cre­ate and grow new busi­ness, and “China is com­ing to this un­der­stand­ing”.

China has ac­com­plished rapid de­vel­op­ment over the past three decades, but the coun­try is now at­tempt­ing to move away from a low-cost, ex­port-driven growth model to one based on in­no­va­tion.

To aid this tran­si­tion, Rice said it was im­por­tant to ed­u­cate young peo­ple in en­trepreneur­ship, not only to cre­ate new com­pa­nies and resources, but also to help es­tab­lished com­pa­nies to con­stantly up­date and keep pace with mar­ket de­mands.

“In­no­va­tion has be­come key to gov­er­nance,” she added, as many coun­tries face so­cial prob­lems such as an aging pop­u­la­tion, ur­ban­iza­tion and pol­lu­tion, but can­not solve them by us­ing old-fash­ioned meth­ods.

“Tech­nol­ogy

is very of­ten seen as a way to solve th­ese prob­lems, but tech­nol­ogy is ac­tu­ally neu­tral. Tech­nol­ogy is not good or bad, it is not help­ful or un­help­ful.” It is how a tech­nol­ogy is ap­plied to a prob­lem that de­ter­mines whether it is suc­cess­ful or not, she said.

The key is to have a good idea, turn it into a so­lu­tion and then com­mer­cial­ize it for the con­sumer mar­ket, she said.

Rice made the re­marks last month in a key­note speech to a fo­rum on en­trepreneur­ship ed­u­ca­tion co-hosted by the Cen­ter for China and Glob­al­iza­tion, a think tank, and the Lau­re­ate In­ter­na­tional Uni­ver­si­ties, an in­ter­na­tional net­work.

Rice, who served the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion be­tween 2005 and 2009, has vis­ited China sev­eral times, as a diplo­mat and as an aca­demic with the Stan­ford Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness. Last year, she be­came an hon­orary pro­fes­sor of Hu­nan In­ter­na­tional Eco­nom­ics Univer­sity, to which she of­fers ad­vice on ed­u­ca­tion ex­changes and co­op­er­a­tion.

Al­though more ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists world­wide now “want to be a part of China’s en­tre­pre­neur­ial club”, she said it is im­por­tant that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment cre­ate a healthy en­vi­ron­ment for en­trepreneurs by safe­guard­ing the rule of law and pro­tect­ing in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights.

“As in­sti­tu­tions are re­formed in China, th­ese two el­e­ments will be crit­i­cal,” as peo­ple to­day can go any­where with an idea and they look for th­ese qual­i­ties when choos­ing a lo­ca­tion for their startup, she said.

Chi­nese schools look­ing to pro­vide en­trepreneur ed­u­ca­tion also need to not only teach the core sub­ject, she said, but also give stu­dents first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence in mar­ket­place com­pe­ti­tion as well as op­por­tu­ni­ties to share their ideas and re­ceive feed­back from industry lead­ers.

In US com­mu­ni­ties, Rice said it is al­most taken for granted that peo­ple want to start their own busi­ness. “It’s part of the ecosys­tem. It isn’t just in the DNA, it is in the in­sti­tu­tions, in the en­vi­ron­ment and in the way of think­ing about cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion.”

Not ev­ery­one can be a nat­u­ral en­trepreneur, she said, but with the right help from ed­u­ca­tors, any­one with an idea and pas­sion can suc­cess­fully start their own busi­ness, even peo­ple who would never nor­mally con­sider the op­tion, such as those with dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds.

How­ever, peo­ple must also be will­ing to fail, she added. Not ev­ery idea is a good idea, and many com­pa­nies will strug­gle, but bud­ding en­trepreneurs should re­mem­ber the old Sil­i­con Val­ley mantra about fail­ure be­ing a way to learn.

China has many good uni­ver­si­ties that can help gen­er­ate good con­cepts or ideas, she said, adding that China and the US should learn from each other’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems.

She also en­cour­aged more Amer­i­can tourists and stu­dents to travel abroad, par­tic­u­larly to China, to learn about other na­tions’ cul­tures and prac­tices.

Those who visit should also not only stick to Bei­jing and Shang­hai, but should visit western ar­eas to bet­ter un­der­stand how China is de­vel­op­ing, she added.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Con­doleezza Rice de­liv­ers a speech to a fo­rum on en­trepreneur­ship ed­u­ca­tion in Bei­jing last month.

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