When it comes to protecting intellectual property in China, the United States often feels that its pleas are falling on deaf ears. Its best hope is that China recognizes that copyright protection is in its own interests. To achieve that, Washington needs to push for changes from within.
After a fruitless decade of lobbying China on intellectual property, Washington has reached for the microphone. This week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a high-profile international forum on intellectual property in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province and best known as both China’s manufacturing hub and the global centre for intellectual property theft.
Guangdong understands it cannot hold on to both titles forever. Its reforming leader Wang Yang has vowed to build an innovative Guangdong, but he and his deputies understandably do not want to be criticized in public. The U.S. delegation included high-ranking officials such as Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, but the very man they hoped to engage with didn’t show up.
Foreign pressure can help, but changes rarely happen in public. First, both parties need to agree on what they are trying to achieve. As a manufacturer for the rest of the world, China has historically seen little upside in protecting copyright. The United States needs to convince Beijing that, if it wants to develop its own products, then protecting copyright is important.