Growing fears that China may surpass the United States in innovative technologies, especially renewable energy, are grounded in legitimate facts. For one, Chinese patent filings are expected to eclipse the United States by the end of next year, according to Reuters, and the country has already become the second largest contributor to international science journals.
Entrepreneurship, although slower in growth, is also on the move, and China's tech sector is virtually equal to that of the United States, according to a September survey by the U.S. Small Business Administration
However, recent interviews with two of the United States' most revered tech entrepreneurs, Bill Gates and Peter Thiel, reveal insight into how the U.S. views itself as an innovative power.
Speaking to Rolling Stone magazine, Gates asserted that "innovation is not a nationalistic game." While it is true, he argued, that many of the great American technological advances have stemmed from competition with Cold War rivals or emerging foreign markets, innovation benefits humanity as a whole, not just the nation that developed it.
"If tomorrow some other country invented cheap energy with no CO2 output, would that be a bad day or a good day? For anybody who's reasonable, that would be the best day ever," he told the magazine.
Meanwhile, PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel recently spoke to the Boston Globe about the state of American entrepreneurship, claiming innovation and IP must stem from personal ambition - a trait that is complicated by skyrocketing student debt.
"One of my concerns is that [student debt] is starting to discourage genuine entrepreneurship," he said. "People get super-tracked toward safe things, so they can pay off their debts."