During April and May I spent 30 days working In Beijing. I had the chance to visit a part of the world I had never seen and the opportunity to experience designing in the Orient. I was tasked with working on a new research and development project with some of my chinese counter-parts and with the vice president of the company, LJ (legend).

I approached my trip with an open mind but with an understanding of the western stereotype of creativity in China, the manufacturing powerhouse of the world. The phrase ‘they can imitate, but can’t innovate’ popped up time and time again but my experience was to the contrary. The Chinese designers (and especially my boss LJ) are some of the most open minded and creative individuals I’ve had the pleasure to work with.

That said, I also experienced an awful lot of this imitation whilst I was in China and conversely, there are some hugely innovative forms of creative imitation. I got a real kick out of the proliferation of the apple logo. (did you know they made lighters?)

Eventually I came to the conclusion that a better way to encapsulate this phrase was ‘they imitate, so they won’t innovate.’ In China copyright, Intellectual property and any form of authorship is seen as some kind of quaint little joke as apposed to a legality.

It’s safe to say, China got rich off of imitation, but it’s that same practise that will limit their potential in the future. It’s ignorant (and just straight up racist) to suggest the Chinese aren’t creative but it’s true to say that the current climate makes these creatives insular and overly-cautious about collaboration – the key to innovation.

In the west it is an excess of copyright and IP that are limiting creativity. In China it seems it is not only the lack of these regulations but an active thirst for imitation and undermining.