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China Lays Claim To Four Great New Inventions That Have Existed Elsewhere Before ( 193

dryriver writes: The BBC has an interesting story about Chinese state media increasingly touting "4 Great New Inventions" in modern China that were not invented by Chinese inventors or in China at all. The original term "four new inventions" harks back to the "four great inventions" of ancient China -- papermaking, gunpowder, printing and the compass. The new claim, however, appears to be that China actually invented high-speed rail, mobile payment, e-commerce, and bike-sharing, which is not true at all -- all 4 were invented or pioneered in other countries, all of them decades ago. The provenance of the claim appears to be a Beijing Foreign Studies University survey from May 2017, which asked young people from 20 countries to list the technology they "most wanted to bring back" to their country from China. The respondents' top answers were high-speed rail, mobile payment, bike sharing, and e-commerce. Since then, Chinese media and officials have drawn on this to promote these technologies as China's "four new great inventions" in modern times.

China has certainly adopted these "4 great inventions" on a bombastic scale of late. China now has the world's largest high-speed rail network -- about 25,000 kilometres (15,500 miles) -- and aims to double it by 2030. China's total mobile payments in the first 10 months of 2017 stood at $12.7 trillion, the world's largest volume, according to China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. And with more than 700 million internet users, China is also the biggest and fastest growing e-commerce market in the world, according to a 2017 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers. In February, the vice minister of China's Ministry of Transport said that there are 400 million registered bike-sharing users and 23 million shared bikes in China. That much is true. But did these 4 great new inventions emerge from China itself? It would appear that that part is untrue.

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China Lays Claim To Four Great New Inventions That Have Existed Elsewhere Before

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  • 1984 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Atmchicago ( 555403 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @10:05AM (#56372423)

    This is straight out of 1984.

    Everything melted into mist. Sometimes, indeed, you could put your finger on a definite lie. It was not true, for example, as was claimed in the Party history books, that the Party had invented aeroplanes. He remembered aeroplanes since his earliest childhood. But you could prove nothing.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @10:20AM (#56372515)

      During the Cold War, the USSR had stuff saying they invented all kinds of stuff. China is doing just the same. This is just repressive governments doing what they do best, which is historical revisionism.

      • What's that a running joke in Star Trek? Chekov would claim that you hadn't really heard Shakespeare until you'd heard it in the original Russian version or the like.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Russia wouldn't just claim invention -- they would wait until after someone invented it, then claim they invented it first.

          • by Maritz ( 1829006 )

            Russia wouldn't just claim invention -- they would wait until after someone invented it, then claim they invented it first.

            Is that what you meant to say? I'll be charitable and assume not.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        During the Cold War, the USSR had stuff saying they invented all kinds of stuff. China is doing just the same. This is just repressive governments doing what they do best, which is historical revisionism.

        Great, now they will lay claim to inventing historical revisionism.

        • Great, now they will lay claim to inventing historical revisionism.

          The best part about this is that they can claim it over and over...

      • But let's be honest, this is not merely an exercise of a totalitarian regime; both the left and right in US politics are constantly involved in trying to rewrite historical facts for their own purposes.
        What's wrong with China doing it is their effective MONOPOLY on the flow of information to their people, meaning obvious bullshit isn't revealed for what it is.
        The problem is somewhat mirrored in the US however by the excessive number of information sources, meaning discerning actual authority worth listening

      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        Hmmm....why does that ring a bell? Why, why, why?

      • Quick, who invented "the telephone"? Alexander Graham Bell? Nope. He was just a CEO with the connections & persistence to get approval to string wires over public right-of-ways. The 19th century's equivalent of today's Arduino & RasPi-using "Makers" had been sending sound over wires for YEARS. They were just unusable, impractical, or useless as commercial products.

        Ditto for "electric light". Arc lights existed in France at least 50 years before Edison was born. What Edison "invented" was "the electr

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Think of it from the Communist Party perspective.
      High speed rail existed as TGV [] , Intercity-Express [] , Transrapid [] and Shinkansen []

      Only China could bring all the advanced tech together and make it in China as a low cost export.

      People from 20 countries see the absorbed foreign tech working in China and like what they see. A company in China presents the tech as innovat
      • Hey you ignorant sloth! High speed trains are invented by Ze Gemansz!
        ICE's predate TGVs! and those french suckers stole the technology from Ze Germansz! Everyone knows that
        But I love to ride a TGV from Karlsruhe to Paris ... 2:30h ... in a car it is 5:30 :D /s just kidding

      • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

        I feel like they made mobile payments work too.

        The e-commerce (pretty universal) and bike sharing (I'm assuming Copenhagen invented that) are pretty rediculous claims.

        • I would say Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, and Japan were leaders in mobile payments. They had it before the iPhone came out!

      • Re:1984 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @11:12AM (#56372831) Homepage Journal

        China's high speed rail isn't even innovative though. They imported all the technology from Japan, and tried to build their own but it proved too unreliable. They have some domestic models now, but much of the tech is still Japanese and some European, and their trains are not actually any better. They run a little faster than the Japanese ones, but the Japanese ones are only limited to that speed due to noise concerns.

        To be fair their did build the Shanghai maglev, which was quite impressive for the time. But for some reason they decided not to go with maglev technology for the nationwide networks, probably cost or reliability concerns. It's actually a little bit sad to ride it now, the cabin is worn and a little neglected it seems.

        The rate at which they built the network is incredible, but it's old established tech and really maglev is the only way it's going to get any faster now, which would mean ripping up all the track...

        • The Shanghai maglev was purchased from Germany, China just built the track:

          "The train set was built by a joint venture of Siemens and ThyssenKrupp from Kassel, Germany and based on years of tests and improvements of their Transrapid maglev monorail."


    • Re:1984 (Score:4, Funny)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @10:28AM (#56372561) Homepage

      Or Steve Jobs -

      "Good artists copy, great artists steal."

      China does seem to have a thing about Apple.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      1984 was a year. Nineteen Eighty-Four was a warning mistaken for an instruction manual.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, yes, hugely insightful, absolutely (- sarcasm, if you haven't already guessed).

      It is of course absurd to claim that China invented those four things - but it is different from so many absurd claims made in the West, really? The combination of lack of real insight in your subject and wishful thinking almost invariably leads to this sort of embarrassing nonsense. Like when people spot the image of Jesus in a piece of toast or a skidmark, or see the number 666 in everything. Or for that matter, when they

    • If you think this is bad, just imagine what it's like for the average citizen in North Korea.
      ..but yes, it's bad, and with China now having a de-facto dictator, it'll just get worse.
      Again I ask: how much more crap can the Chinese citizens take before there's a revolution?
  • ... trump Trump?

  • What a shame... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @10:07AM (#56372437)

    That the current leadership so desperately plays the "nationalist" card at every opportunity; China has invented many things in the past, (gunpowder...) but of course that was under different management.

  • Maybe China also invented copyright piracy and stealing intellectual property.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ask the estate of Charles Dickens, the USA didn't have a bookselling industry so didn't allow copyrights of books. When they did start to have their own industry however...

      Oh and Hollywood is based and there entirely and solely because of their abuse of patent and cipyright. The current plethora of tiny production companies "federated" to big companies is based on that past: by the time a film using Edison's patents was spotted and the law sent to California to bring them to justice, the company folded afte

      • How come you whine about them pretending they invented stuff when you did it first

        I have never pretended to invent anything.

  • by Mnemennth ( 607438 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @10:10AM (#56372451) Journal

    ...they have the resources and the drive to perfect them and make them a part of daily life for their citizens, thereby changing the current paradigm and effectively OWNING the idea for the foreseeable future as they infect those around them with the same new minimum "standards of living".

    Gee, I wonder where they learned THAT from?!?

    I am not my pants. No, I am not your pants either.

    • "perfect them"

      hahahahahaha, you've got to be kidding. it might seem that way, but it's only because any negative criticism is censored. rofl

    • Yes, I do fully understand that this is known as "cultural imperialism". And yes, I do also understand the irony as I type this from the comfort of my air-conditioned home in the heartland of America on a PC built from 99% China-manufactured components.

      " "(Holy Testicle Tuesday!)

    • Exactly. Railways were invented[1] in the UK, yet today we have one of the worst rail systems in Western Europe. Of the original 'four great inventions', China was famous for not really doing anything with gunpowder other than making fireworks (Chinese science was severely hampered by failing to invent glass, which is a prerequisite for a lot of chemistry and therefore metallurgy).

      [1] Somewhat debatable, depending on what you regard as the original railway, but mostly true.

    • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

      Real questions (not rhetorical, I don't know the answer).

      How have they perfected e-commerce beyond what I do in the US?

      How have they perfected bike sharing beyond dozens of European cities?

      • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

        The easier thing to answer the first one would be to go around it the opposite way. They have almost nothing that is worse than what you do in US when it comes to e-commerce, and almost everything better. Wechat payments are universal and easy, deliveries are extremely fast taking hours rather than days within major cities, availability is "everything you see on aliexpress, amazon, etc and then some" and prices are excellent.

        It's economy of scale, and China has incredible megacities and produce most of the

  • by huckamania ( 533052 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @10:12AM (#56372461) Journal

    Bike sharing? Come on China. I know I want my country to import facial recognition technology so I can be tracked all day. I also think my country is falling behind in turning coral reefs into mini-military bases to secure oil rights. I also like how you've managed to build out an internet that allows Man in the Everywhere attacks.

    Don't be ashamed of who you are. Be proud of your accomplishments. You have a huge fan base in the 'I'm a citizen of the World but have yet to leave my own country' crowd.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I also think my country is falling behind in turning coral reefs into mini-military bases to secure oil rights.

      Oh please, Shah of Iran? Iraq invasion? Blind eye to "good buddy" Saudis?...and that's just off the top of my head.
      This is like Hitler calling out jaywalkers.

      I also like how you've managed to build out an internet that allows Man in the Everywhere attacks.

      Definitely China bullshit on this invention.
      Patent goes to NSA, GCHQ and company.

    • >> 400 million registered bike-sharing users and 23 million shared bikes in China

      If they were good Communists it would be 400 million shared bikes. So yeah...I'll give them "we invented bike sharing" unless the Soviets want that honor.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @10:18AM (#56372495) Homepage Journal

    How many companies (or countries) shoot themselves in the foot, denying themselves the benefit of an idea because it was "not invented here"?

    If vanity stands in the way of doing the sensible thing, you can either learn to be humble, or you can confabulate a rationalization. Maybe America should do the same thing; we can even claim it's our own idea.

    • The problem is nationalism. Everyone is trying to show that they are superior to the other because of X.
      However most innovations are not made in a bubble.
      Ford didn't invent the Automobile, he mass produced that automobile better then the others at the time. The automobile was made and perfected and changed over hundreds of years, across many countries. Then other countries had picked up Fords ideas and made it better for their needs.

      Today with a more global environment it is even harder to say someone inv

      • The problem is nationalism. Everyone is trying to show that they are superior to the other because of X.

        That's not nationalism.

      • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @10:58AM (#56372729) Homepage Journal

        Japan is a counter-example. Nationalism never stopped them from adopting something foreign if they think it's good.

        Take ramen -- we think of it as quintessentially Japanese food, but in fact it's actually Chinese -- or at least the all-important noodle is. The Chinese in the 1500s developed an alkaline noodle that remains chewy in hot broth rather than falling apart. These only started to appear in Japan about a hundred years ago, and it was only about thirty years ago that it reached its current status as an iconic national dish.

        This is something I really admire about Japan: it's ability to adopt things from elsewhere and make them their own. Ramen are Japanese because the Japanese took Chinese lamian and transformed it into something new through their mania for refinement. It's a lesson other cultures could learn.

        • Japan is a counter-example. Nationalism never stopped them from adopting something foreign if they think it's good.

          How convenient, but in what way exactly is that different from refusing something foreign you do not like?

          Japan used to be extremely isolated and wary of outside influences pre-1850s, many novels till 1970s exhibit hostility towards other cultures/races, extremely tough asylum conditions exist as of today.

          Assimilate I can agree, Japanese society rarely accepts foreign customs and you make it s

      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        The automobile was made and perfected over hundreds of years? Errr....I presume you intend to include yer basic ox-drawn cart as an automobile. Hell, why stop there, go back to chariots and Egyptians...although they probably stole the idea from Assyrians...who stole it from the Persians who stole it from...what do you know, the Chinese.

  • by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @10:18AM (#56372503)

    Communist dictatorship lies, bigly.

    Some people shocked, oddly.

    Next you'll be telling me that "republic" doesn't mean real voting and stuff there ...

    • Actually republic does not mean real voting.
      Only some small group is voting on stuff that matters ...
      We are not in a fucking democracy, you should have noticed that by now.

      • "Republic" only means there's some alternative to a king or emperor. It does not mean there's a representative democracy. You know how there's often political partisian strife and people argue over things? At one point the debate was "Should we have a king? Should the nation be his, with everything in it being his property?" Now, any sort of alternative is going to have the power a little bit more spread out that one guy, and to that effect it'll be a little more democratic. But an alternative system where

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Apple invented the mp3 player, the smartphone, music production on computers, the tablet computer

    America of course saved everyone's ass in world war 2, invented the computer, won the space race, founded a nation based on freedom (black slaves, ethnic cleansing of native americans?) , invented free speech, invented american food like Pizza, Hamburgers and French fries.

    Oh wait they didn't...

    • And Al Gore invented the Internet. And ManBearPig for good measure.
    • won the space race

      Why is this in the list? If the "winner" isn't the U.S., who is?

    • Without lend-lease, it's possible that England would have fallen and doubtful the Soviets would have blunted the Nazi invasion of Russia as quickly as they did.

      Without the Marshall plan, it's possible that WWIII would already have taken place.

      Still, haters gotta hate.

      • By the time lend-lease was providing significant materiel to Britain, Hitler had changed his focus, and Britain was not seriously threatened with defeat.

        Similarly, the Soviets resisted the most dangerous offensives without significant equipment from the West. The Soviet counteroffensives would have been much less effective without Lend-Lease. Providing that stuff to the Soviet Union saved lots and lots of Western lives.

        The Marshall Plan did a tremendous amount of good.

  • China has no face. No face at all.
  • The article states "According to the Worldwide Rail Organisation (UIC), the first high-speed train service began in 1964 - Japan's Shinkansen or bullet train. There had been significant speed records set before in Europe "

    However, invention is not the same as regular service. And while most of the development happened in Europe (such as the 210 km/h German EMU record in 1903, the 1930s German and British steam records, the 1950s electrical engine records in France), the South Manchuria Railway was the fa

  • by p51d007 ( 656414 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @10:38AM (#56372621)
    They will believe THEIR country invented it. Just as with any repressive non open government, the people only know, what they are told if they cannot seek information from outside of her country. I remember, after the collapse of the USSR, some reporter was asking a newly freed person that came to the USA about his experiences. He said when he went to an American supermarket for the first time, he knew that his government, had LIED about the United States, his entire life. North Korea, thinks their "leaders" are Gods, because they know NOTHING else. China is a more open place in places like Hong Kong, and areas around Peking/Beijing, but, they have state controlled media, limited access to news OUTSIDE of their country, so, it's understandable that many in their nation, would believe they invented a lot of things, which we know is incorrect.
    • Well,
      in eastern germany we had this kind of joke:
      A customer is entering a department store, looking around he is approaching a clerk and asks: "Do you have no shirts?"
      The clerk answers: "Oh, Sir, you are completely wrong here. Here we have no shoes. No shirts you can find on second floor upstairs"

      • Good joke, but kind of difficult to tell in English. It is easier in German ?

        • Yeah, I guess in german it makes more sense as looking at an empty shelf and asking a clerk "Habt Ihr kein Brot mehr?" (You have no bread anymore?) is a kind of idiom. Obviously not very smart when you look at a empty shelf in a bakery.

  • Bicycles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pz ( 113803 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @10:52AM (#56372699) Journal

    I've been to Shanghai recently. They have bicycle sharing on a scale that is vast. They are incredibly popular, to the point that there are large heaps of bikes --- heaps, not neat rows --- at the front gates of factories where workers have left them as they report in the mornings to their job. The bikes are everywhere. Two years ago, when I visited the same location, this was not the case.

    In my home town in the US, we have bike sharing as well. Nice neat rows of locking stands that are prissy in comparison. The stand across from our apartment seems to have a service truck pull up to it each week, so they appear to need frequent maintenance, too. With the Chinese version of the system, you scan a QR code on each bike and off you go. The bikes in China are basic, utilitarian kinds. Sure, you could steal one, disable the locking mechanism (a simple angle grinder would suffice) and try to keep it as personal property, but then you'd have to go to significant measures to prevent someone else from taking yours as a rental. The place is saturated with them, at least in the part of Shanghai where I was.

    Did they invent bike sharing? No, clearly not. But they figured out how to do it on such an immense scale that it has changed society there.

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )

      Did they invent bike sharing? No, clearly not. But they figured out how to do it on such an immense scale that it has changed society there.

      I don't believe china figured out a magical formula for it - its more that its filling a void that no longer exists in the west. Our societies are already heavily setup for cars and public transport which has left limited need for bicycle sharing. Probably would have been great for my grandfather 80-years ago.

      For bicycles in particular we also have an issue with drivers not being used to having bicycles on the road and often believe they don't have a right to be there making it dangerous.

  • by aicrules ( 819392 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @11:17AM (#56372857)
    What a lame choice of inventions to rip off credit for...I mean if it's supposed to harken back to the "four great inventions" this does those actual inventions a HUGE disservice. High-speed rail is at least somewhat interesting, but compared to papermaking? Gunpowder? Forget about it.
  • They haven't caught on to the trick of patenting prior art by appending "using the Internet" yet.

  • Do the re-writers of history do so first and then later become victorious because of that?

  • Given my experience working with Asian and Indian colleagues, I have noticed certain "differences" in language and logic/reasoning skills that I can only attribute to neuro-development (aka: how the brain develops while learning specific language mechanics and cultural normatives). So I have to ask, not knowing a Chinese-language: how does "invent" and "invention" translate between actual Western languages?
    Because I've seen a lot of empirical evidence to the effect that Asian peoples (Oh, boy, here comes th

  • I freely admit that I don't speak Chinese, but I find BBC to be a questionable source as well. Could it be some Chinese word that means both "inventions" and "advancements"?
    • Just as I suspected: BBC is trolling. Using Google Translate to translate "invention" from English to Chinese and then back to English, shows that the Chinese word for "invention" also means "creation" and "contrivance". Certainly the claim that the bullet train (built in China) is a Chinese "contrivance", it would not be nearly as controversial.
  • by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2018 @12:59PM (#56373589)

    It's comforting to know that while we may have a clusterfuck on our hands with our political system in shambles, partisan conflict tearing the nation apart, clusterfucks of healthcare, retirement, and education... other nations have their own problems and are generally just as fucked up as we are.

    China certainly had "The Bad Old Days" of dictators leading to starvation and cultural purging. I thought they were passed all that. They were growing like mad once they finally accepted capitalism. But with Winnie the Pooh now having a president-for-life position, it looks like the nation is starting to rot. And wow is it fast. To sustain this level of delusion that they're re-writing RECENT history... they'll simply have to silence not only the intellectuals who know better, but god-damn near anyone who looks outside their borders. Hopefully they won't force the intellectuals to the western farms. Again. If so, hey, there's a post-doc position waiting for you over here.

    Or is this just all propaganda?

  • You forgot about quatro-triticale.

  • I expected to see "small Pacific islands" on the list too.

  • I read Chinese news everyday. I do not recall the state media or social media there claim these four technologies were invented in China. They did claim there are numerous improvements to high-speed train such as laying high-speed tracks on hash terrain and that's likely true too.

    Even the example cited in this story, I do not see that they were claiming the tech is invented in China. It is like nothing wrong that people would want to bring back rocket tech from the US even though (rudimentary form of) rocke []

  • Email, Bitcoin, XOR, ...

  • Antikythera Mechanism [] supported e-commerce and mobile payments. So they're clearly talking bollocks.
  • Lets see here, Printing was invented in Korea. Papermaking was invented in Egypt. 2 out of 4 aint bad I guess...better than 0 for 4.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye