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« Patronizing Nonsense | Main | A Glimpse into the Future? »

August 22, 2005

Comments

kwasi

There's actually been a fair amount of talk about plagiarism in both the indian and chinese scientific communities, at least in physics circles.

Personally, I've always believed that the number of exceptional talents they turn out has a lot to do with the size of the talent pool.

That being said, I'd bet money that the ruling party's days are numbered. It'll be interesting to see what kind of research they'll be turning out in the next couple of decades

Andrew

Very interesting; apparently people also complain about biological research in China. Mu-ming Poo, a famous neuroscientist who chairs both the Neuroscience program at UC Berkeley and the Shanghai Institute of Neuroscience, had an article in Nature about it:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v428/n6979/full/428204a_fs.html

He doesn't talk about plagiarism, which I suspect is less of a problem in biology, being more data-driven than mathematics (rather than steal ideas, I guess you might fake your results) - the problems for him are partly cultural (excessive deference to authority, unwillingness to criticize others), partly administrative (extensive government control, lack of merit incentives), and partly due to a lack of "critical mass" of scientists to create the "essential tension" (i.e., brutal competition) that drives scientists forward in the U.S.

Abiola Lapite

"There's actually been a fair amount of talk about plagiarism in both the indian and chinese scientific communities, at least in physics circles."

Going by the following opinion, the rot extends well down the heirarchy, right into the exam hall.

http://www.metanoiac.com/archives/2005/01/cheating_and_ch.html

Phil Hunt

"the continued oppressive and corrupt rule of the Chinese Communist Party will be a huge obstacle"

Hmmm. It hasn't been an obstacle to their economy; over the last quarter century they've had consistent 8% growth rates.

While it might be reassuring to believe that oppressive regimes are necessarily uncompetitive and will therefore fail due to their internal contradictions, the evidence does not appear to support that conclusion.

Abiola Lapite

"Hmmm. It hasn't been an obstacle to their economy; over the last quarter century they've had consistent 8% growth rates."

Go read Paul Krugman* on the Asian crisis (look for the phrase "Total Factor Productivity"): catch-up growth of the sort China is experiencing doesn't require anything by way of innovation, and it doesn't take much to grow at 10% a year when your income per head is only $2000.

"the evidence does not appear to support that conclusion."

No, that only appears to be the case because you don't know your growth theory and empirics. I suggest you pick up and study a copy of Romer's "Advanced Macroeconomics" (see right) or Barro and Sala-i-Martin's "Economic Growth" before making such pronouncements.

I can safely predict that China's per capita growth will gradually and steadily decelerate over the next two decades, just as was the case with Japan and Singapore, and by the time per capita growth has dropped to Western levels, China's citizens will almost certainly still be enjoying a standard of living appreciably lower than those of the United States or even Europe.

*Yes, he did used to be a legitimate economist a long time ago.

Phil Hunt

"""catch-up growth of the sort China is experiencing doesn't require anything by way of innovation, and it doesn't take much to grow at 10% a year when your income per head is only $2000."""

If, as you say, "it doesn't take much", then why do most countries with the same per capita GDP as China have a lower growth rate?

To answer your other point, you're right that catching up doesn't require much innovation, but it does require a country to be ruled in ways that are conducive to economic success, which is not an easy thing to do (if it was, all countries would be rich).

"""No, that only appears to be the case because you don't know your growth theory and empirics. I suggest you pick up and study a copy of Romer's "Advanced Macroeconomics" (see right) or Barro and Sala-i-Martin's "Economic Growth" before making such pronouncements."""

There are several lists of fallacious arguments on the Internet, and 'appeal to authority' is near the top of the list...

"""I can safely predict that China's per capita growth will gradually and steadily decelerate over the next two decades, just as was the case with Japan and Singapore, and by the time per capita growth has dropped to Western levels, China's citizens will almost certainly still be enjoying a standard of living appreciably lower than those of the United States or even Europe."""

You can predict all you like, but how can you know your predictions will come true? The only way you can be confident is if you already have a long and sustained history of making correct economic predictions over decades. I suspect that you have no such history, and I also suspect that if I wanted to I could find many economic predictions from the last few decades that were far from the mark.

Abiola Lapite

"If, as you say, "it doesn't take much", then why do most countries with the same per capita GDP as China have a lower growth rate?"

Because they are atrociously governed. Read the literature, the answers are there for you.

"To answer your other point, you're right that catching up doesn't require much innovation, but it does require a country to be ruled in ways that are conducive to economic success, which is not an easy thing to do (if it was, all countries would be rich)."

Nonsense. Countries as badly ruled as Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria and Mozambique have seen growth rates in the range of 10-12% on those few occasions when their rulers could restrain themselves from complete misrule for a bit.

"There are several lists of fallacious arguments on the Internet, and 'appeal to authority' is near the top of the list..."

This is incredibly, incredibly daft. Perhaps you ought to look up the "appeal to authority" bit yourself - the books I mentioned ARE authorities on this subject, unlike yourself. What's next, you'll accuse me of an "appeal to authority" if I point you to a biology textbook for an understanding of genetics?

"You can predict all you like, but how can you know your predictions will come true? The only way you can be confident is if you already have a long and sustained history of making correct economic predictions over decades."

I have a pretty darned good record thus far, for the few decades I've been around to make predictions, and unlike you, my notions are thoroughly informed by lots of evidence and plenty of effort expended on understanding the main theories of growth that exist.

"I suspect that you have no such history, and I also suspect that if I wanted to I could find many economic predictions from the last few decades that were far from the mark."

You can suspect that the moon is made of green cheese if you please - the bottom line is that you're far out of your depth and lack both the humility and the common sense to simply resolve to go to a library and learn what you're talking about. You couldn't tell endogenous growth theories from the Solow framework if your life depended on it, nor could you know what the economic policies of Park's Korea or Yoshida's Japan were if I put you on the spot, and I'm sure you've never even heard of the Plaza accords or the voluntary export restraint agreements of the 1980s, yet here you are arrogantly lecturing me about "fallacies" which are anything but and "suspicions" you pulled out of your backside as if you had a clue.

Your bluster is in inverse proportion to your knowledge, and all your huffing and puffing does is make you look incredibly stupid. Are you constitutionally incapable of registering that someone might actually know more about a subject than you or something? I actually took the time to point you to worthwhile material to read to correct your ignorance, and all I get for my efforts is this steaming pile of rubbish you've thrown up here.

Scott Wickstein

I love Abiola's smackdowns. I'm occasionally tempted to write something stupid myself to see if I could provoke one.

To the topic in hand; my own observation of Chinese resident in Australia, many of whom are here to study at our universities is that they are a supremely pragmatic people, who will do what is necessary to get to where they want to go. An unorthodox interpretation of scholarly ethics is the least of sins to people that are driven to get ahead.

I wonder how they fare with this sort of thing in the former Soviet Bloc nations?

dsquared

China is a vast country, but that subset of its population who might even in principle be the sort of people who might gain PhDs is probably no bigger than the population of the USA (I'm assuming heuristically that anyone who lives in China who either doesn't live in a city or lives in a city but in the agricultural industry is basically living a Third World lifestyle - most Chinese cities include rural counties so the "urban" population materially overstates urbanisation. There are 369m "urban" Chinese of whom at least a third are not really urban in this manner).

I am not aware of any work in economics or finance that has been done in the Chinese university system which is not more or less complete rubbish. There are lots of good Chinese economists, of course; the USA is full of them.

dsquared

on the other hand I would not necessarily regard this as conclusively establishing the proposition that

[it's hard to believe that a world-class research environment can be built up overnight, especially in a country as politically stifling as China]

because there certainly was a lot of excellent work done in the Soviet Union

Abiola Lapite

"there certainly was a lot of excellent work done in the Soviet Union"

The Soviets were excellent in mathematics and physics, especially once their necessity for weapons design was realized, but elsewhere their accomplishments were often less than stellar: the Soviet Union never managed to make much progress in biology after the Lysenkoist disaster, and their essentially non-existent accomplishments in the field of computing is yet another glaring example.

David B

Hmm. Yau's criticisms sound to me applicable to careerist academics the world over. E.g., judging people by the number and not the quality of their publications - well I never!

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