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Innovation Race

By Alan Ng | November 11, 2022

For the last century, the United States has undoubtedly been the global innovator of almost everything imaginable: technology, industry, and medicine, to name a few. However, Luke Livingston’s Innovation Race warns us of a looming threat that could not only supplant the U.S. from its decades-long top spot but could represent a fundamental global economic shift.

Livingston’s documentary opens with the history of American innovation. The first threat came from Russia when they launched Sputnik into orbit around the Earth. This threat to national security prompted the U.S. to enter the space race and send a man to the moon. Now with Russia long out of the picture, China is making inroads in space exploration by successfully sending a rover to the surface of Mars. They have much bigger plans to come.

Innovation Race shows how China suddenly became a significant leader in global technology. For decades, the country was primarily known as a manufacturing nation. Because of its cheap and abundant labor force, it was an attractive place to build and produce various products, i.e., “Made in China.” Soon their savvy business (and political) leaders started taking advantage of the situation by demanding that companies share their blueprints and plans with China. This meant that as one China manufacturer produced your product, a new Chinese company soon emerged with a high-quality identical knockoff.

Then China engaged in corporate espionage infiltrating U.S. universities on research tours, only then to copy and steal the research. From the stolen research, China has become an aggressive innovator on its own. Not only did the plan work, but to protect themselves, China established its own patent process that rivals the U.S. and exposes many of the holes in our system.

“…a looming threat that could not only supplant the U.S…[but] represent a fundamental global economic shift.”

The documentary is split into two tracks. One is how the United States naturally lent itself to the ideas of innovation and how low the barriers are to not only create a better mousetrap but to personally profit from it as well. Innovation Race offers an informative overview of our patent process and points out weaknesses and loopholes in the process.

The second path serves as a warning that U.S. innovation dominance is being threatened by China and the underhanded tactics that brought them to this point. It’s clear that if we continue to turn a blind eye, it’s over. Ok, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but this story can be pretty chilling for any political junkie.

Is it all true? Livingston is not at a loss for credible witnesses. The filmmaker interviews over two dozen experts in innovation and U.S./China relations, with the likes of Delaware Democrat Senator Chris Coons and Kentucky Republican Representative Thomas Massie for a little bipartisanship. Other notables include Brig. Gen. Robert Spalding, expert Patent lawyer, and judge Paul Michael, author of The Great U.S.-China. Tech War Gordon Chang and many inventors had their ideas and intellectual property stolen over the years.

Innovation Race is a bit of a political piece but does go out of its way to reach both sides of the aisle while presenting facts about China and its global aspirations. Yes, maybe the United States has been too lax as a result of dominating innovation for so long. There’s a danger that China will pass us up, and we won’t see it coming. Now the question is not just figuring out our next step but whether we’re still committed to excellence and innovation anymore.

For screening information, visit the Innovation Race official website.

Innovation Race (2022)

Directed: Luke Livingston


Starring: Senator Chris Coons, Thomas Massie, Gordon Chang, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Innovation Race Image

"…presenting facts about China and its global aspirations."

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