By Alan Murray and Geoffrey Smith
September 22, 2017

Good morning.

Can China innovate?

That was the question we addressed last night at a Fortune dinner in San Francisco. The three guests interviewed by my colleague Adam Lashinsky—Ying Wang of Fosun KZ Capital, Hans Tung of GGV Capital, and Jonathan Woetzel of McKinsey—all answered with an unqualified “yes.” China is no longer just a fast follower, they said. It is now at the cutting edge of innovation in many areas. Tung noted that one out of three “unicorns”—startups valued at more than $1 billion—is in China, not too far behind the 42% that are based in the U.S..

The panelists credited the world’s largest and most demanding consumer market, as well as a permissive regulatory environment, for driving innovation. Asked what new technologies developed in China would first make their way to Western markets, Tung cited dockless bike sharing and “biowearables”; Wang talked about an on-demand technology for doctors and hospital services; and Woetzel pointed to drone makers DJI and eHang.

Wang did note one downside to the innovation ecosystem in China—an education system that doesn’t encourage independent thinking and creativity. I’d add another: state owned enterprises whose government funding discourages risk-taking.

Burgeoning innovation in China is the reason Fortune is holding its first ever Brainstorm Tech International conference in Guangzhou in December, prior to the Fortune Global Forum. We’ll highlight innovative startups from across China who have developed businesses that have applications in the rest of the world.

Among the attendees confirmed for the Forum are the big five Chinese tech CEOs—Alibaba’s Jack Ma, Baidu’s Robin Li, and Tencent’s Pony Ma, Terry Gou of Foxconn, and Huawei’s Ken Hu. Others confirmed to attend include Stuart Gulliver of HSBC, Alex Gorsky of J&J, Carlos Brito of AB InBev, Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup, and Chuck Robbins of Cisco.

You can find more information about Brainstorm Tech International here, and the Fortune Global Forum here.

More news below, and enjoy the weekend.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
Alan.Murray@fortune.com

 

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