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China: Around The Nation

A talent for invention? China’s media tries to lay claim to other countries’ discoveries

State-run outlets’ attempts to take the credit for things developed in US, Japan and Europe attracts derision from social media users

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 2:54pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 August, 2017, 7:26pm

Chinese state media has praised the country’s “four new great inventions” – even though none of them actually originated in China.

In an article published last Friday, Xinhua drew parallels between ancient China – which created the compass, gunpowder, paper and printing – and modern China. It said the country could boast of “four new great inventions”: high-speed rail, electronic payment, bike sharing and online shopping.

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The list was based on a survey that the Silk Road Research Institute at Beijing Foreign Studies University conducted earlier this year.

The institute asked China’s foreign students coming from 20 countries along the route of the “Belt and Road Initiative” to choose China’s top “four new inventions” that they wanted to bring back to their home countries.

“Among the four, high-speed rail and online shopping aren’t from China, but we bring the inventions to the world’s top level with our intelligence and innovation, and make them China’s calling card,” Xinhua’s article wrote.

The fact is none of them were invented by China.

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The first modern high-speed rail, known as the Tokaido Shinkansen, operated in Japan in 1964. The US started testing e-payment systems in the 1990s.

Bike sharing can trace its roots back to Europe in the 1960s and online shopping emerged when Englishman Michael Aldrich connected a TV to a computer with telephone lines to sell groceries online in 1979.

CCTV attracted derision online after it reported on the “four new inventions” in a tweet on Saturday.

“Does China even know the Meaning of Invention? All are Copied from Japan, USA & other parts of the World,” one user wrote on Twitter.

“Your grasp of world history is breathtakingly absent,” another wrote.

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On frequently censored Chinese social media, web users also questioned the credibility of such “new inventions”.

“To me, it looks that Chinese state media is showing the rest of the world the government’s ignorance of intellectual property rights,” one person wrote.

“Trump just signed a memorandum to investigate China’s theft of intellectual properties. And CCTV seems so cooperative on the US side. Does it have any political awareness?”