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Counsellor Wang Jingsheng: Creativity and Craftsmanship are Twin Sisters and Both Indispensable

Date: 2017-09-22
At the 2017 National Governance Forum held on September 21, Wang Jingsheng, Counsellor of the State Council, gave an exclusive interview to sike.news.cn. In the interview, he underscored the importance of craftsmanship, believing that products made with craftsmanship and professional dedication are closely related to the dignity, survival and development of a nation. He described creativity and craftsmanship as twin sisters and said that while innovation leads to progress, quality is the foundation. He also argued that a nation that loves reading tend to be creative. If the Chinese nation can be a nation good at learning, we will have a bright future.

The following is the transcript of the interview:

The Chinese people are vying to buy foreign products, showing that we are yet to be fully able to produce high-quality goods.

  Sike:
The keyword of the National Governance Forum is quality. This year’s government report also lays emphasis on the importance of promoting craftsmanship. In the age of quality, why should craftsmanship be underlined? How is craftsmanship important to quality?

  Wang Jingsheng:
This is a very interesting question. In my opinion, the soul of the age of quality is craftsmanship. Without craftsmanship and products embodying craftsmanship, there will not be the age of quality to speak of. The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is the goal we are working for. What is rejuvenation? It is about reviving past glories and restoring our confidence by doing things that can win people’s respect.

When it comes to the Chinese civilization, people naturally think of diverse schools of thoughts in the Chinese history. But how many of them come to understand China through those ancient classics? Very few. More of them develop their interest in China through Chinese products and crafts. This is what we have learned through the Silk Road. The Silk Road was a route for the exchange of goods, which aroused immense interest in Chinese culture and civilization. Their admiration to China comes from Chinese products.

 The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation can be realized through two things. First, the depth of its thoughts and philosophies. Second, craftsmanship. Our nation can only win respect through the high quality products made by ourselves. I once said, “The civilization of a nation is measured by the quality of its products. The reputation of its products also bears on the dignity of the nation.” If the Chinese nation wants to restore our dignity, we must have craftsmanship and produce high-quality products.

Although China is a big county of trade, why the Chinese people still go abroad to buy? It means that our products haven’t made it to high-end markets, still less become goods of choice to consumers. We are yet to enter the age of high quality, which is also a driver of industrial upgrading in China.

Many people think industrial upgrading is about developing new growth drivers and making innovations in science and technology. This is important. Another important way is to improve quality. We are pursuing structural supply side reform. Yet the key is to ensure effective and high quality supply, not ineffective supply.

Entrepreneurship propels Shenzhen to the forefront of innovation in China.

  Sike:
As the Chinese economy is upgrading, creativity and entrepreneurship are both important. What do you think of the relationships between craftsmanship, creativity and entrepreneurship?

  Wang Jingsheng:
Very good question. Creativity and craftsmanship, as I understand, are twin sisters, either of which is indispensable. Creativity spurs craftsmanship in line with trend of times. But quality is another guarantee and safeguard of innovation. Innovation is reflected in technology and design. For a product, the most important thing is quality. Therefore, innovation is the driving force and quality is the foundation. A balance must be achieved between them.

While promoting mass entrepreneurship and innovation, we must focus on craftsmanship. However, people tend to make innovation in a hurry and for innovation’s sake, without paying attention to doing in-depth research and dig into the details.

To get into the age of quality, we need to have support in three areas: creativity, craftsmanship and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is a top level design vis a vis creativity and craftsmanship. Without first-rate entrepreneurs, there won’t be first-rate teams. Without first-rate teams, there won’t be first-rate products. Take Shenzhen for example. Shenzhen is a pioneer in innovation in China. Why is Shenzhen successful? This has much to do with entrepreneurship. In Shenzhen, 90% of the innovative companies are private ones, 90% of the capital from the private sector, and 90% of the patents are created by companies, not universities. This is different from some cities. Yet it is what makes Shenzhen innovative. Without the entrepreneurship of business persons like Pony Ma and Ren Zhengfei, there wouldn’t be Tencent and Huawei.

A Culture of Professional Dedication is Crucial for Fostering Craftsmanship.


  Sike:
There is a view that craftsmanship is an economic topic in the global context of manufacturing upgrading, but a cultural topic in the historical and social context. Indeed, we have encountered some cultural problems. Jobs are divided into different categories, decent and well-paid jobs for instance. As we promote craftsmanship, how can we address these cultural issues?

  Wang Jingsheng:
This is a topic that calls for closer scrutiny. Let me start with a story. There is a line in The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas fls to testify to the quality of Chinese products. When someone said to the Lady of Camellias “I am a royal”, she replied “How dare you claim to be a royal since you could not afford Chinese tea?” Chinese black tea was regarded as a symbol of social status. Back then, many Chinese exports, including porcelain, tea and bronzeware, were seen not merely as goods for daily consumption, but symbols of a luxurious style. They were very influential, as Karl Marx said.

Karl Marx believed that when economic consumption reached a high level, it was no longer about trade in prices, but a cultural act. This is something we should think hard about. Since it is a cultural act and products are made by men, is craftsmanship only for products? I believe it is more than a concept for products. More important, it is about shaping the soul of people. A person must have craftsmanship in order to pursue lofty ideals, improve oneself and succeed professionally. It is hard to imagine a person who lies and commits frauds has a noble character. On the contrary, if a person is down to details, strives for excellence, puts fame before fortune, and manage product quality as one’s own faith, this person would be a reliable one to work with. If a nation can act like this, this nation would also be one that can be counted on. So craftsmanship is about more than improved product quality, but an improved national character and an ideal spiritual world.

Why are people who love reading also creative?

  Sike:

You once said craftsmanship, creativity and entrepreneurship are all closely related with reading? How do you think we can create a conducive culture to promote innovation?

Wang Jingsheng:
When I do research on reading and innovation, two seemingly different topics, I come to recognize a surprising fact that those countries which are among the top on the world’s reading ranking are also among the most innovative countries. Let me give you an example. Israel, the US, Switzerland and Germany are strong in innovation. They happen to have the largest population who love reading. Last year’s statistics show that the Israelis read 64 books per year, which is a very big number. This country is also a world leader in innovation, boasting the largest number of Nobel Prize winners. I cannot help but asking why a nation that loves reading is also the most innovative? In a sense, people are inspired and come up with new ideas as they read. In this process, they also seek answers. So reading is very important for innovation.

Why should people read to have craftsmanship? Reading calms people down. Shenzhen is among the first Chinese cities to encourage people among the public. Why? In such an advanced market economy as Shenzhen, many people, especially the young people, tend to rush for quick results. By encouraging reading, we could help people get a peace of mind and change the social atmosphere. Great results have been achieved. Shenzhen also scores high in per capita reading and innovation. In the book What is Innovation Driven Development, I express the view culture drives innovation and culture provides important support for national innovation strategy.

Reading is indeed what is needed for the rejuvenation of our nation. To rejuvenate, we must be good at learning. We often talk about sustainable development, but the most important and the key is sustainable development of the people. In other words, we must put people first. How can we realize sustainable development of the people? The only and simple way is to read.

  Sike:
In this fast-changing Internet age, fewer people choose to read books. As we prefer fragmented reading, our ability to read deeply seems to be weakening. How can we change it?

  Wang Jingsheng:
  This is the difference between fragmented reading and purposeful reading. Personally speaking, fragmented reading is needed sometimes, especially for young people. To be well-informed is not bad at all. But it should never replace purposeful reading. Even if you possess a huge amount of information, it is still useless if it cannot be turned into something you can live with. This is why I said we should be proud of reading and take it as a life pursuit. We should take delight in reading and make it a way of life. I also believe we should make use of reading and discover the world and make innovations through reading. Some people hate the idea of reading for practical purposes, seeing it as too worldly. In fact, this is something we should not avoid. After all, people create social wealth through reading. There is nothing wrong for young people to innovate and start business through reading. This is part of people’s life.