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China's E-Book Protectionism

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China's government announced last week it would exercise control over the e-book market to, "develop indigenous innovation capability to create market leaders and renowned brands." The U.S. Information Technology Office says that this control seems to cover the whole e-book industry chain including content and technology providers as well as equipment and channel operators.

This is a scary development. It is one thing to be a totalitarian country and control what your citizens can access. That is who they are, and our cherished First Amendment is not part of the Chinese culture (although they actually do have an analogous but oft-violated written law covering freedom of speech). I don't like that their citizens are blocked access to content, but that is China's right as a sovereign nation.

But it is another to be the world's second largest economy and simply to take innovations others such as Amazon, Apple and Sony have created and lift them as if they are China's own innovations. It is sad that it has become a matter of national policy for China that these brands and their innovations are less important compared to the national goal of developing Chinese brands and protecting Chinese "indigenous innovation."

We run and own the International Consumer Electronics Show, the largest consumer technology tradeshow in the world, held each January in Las Vegas. We welcome the Chinese attendees and exhibitors as they are both buying and selling at the event. But as an association representing some 2,000 technology companies (including a number of U.S. subsidiaries of overseas companies), we cannot countenance any country denying entry of or stealing innovations from companies in other countries. Nor should any country use its copyright or censorship laws to deny the admission of useful technology.

If China wants to be an international superpower it should act like one, or it will overplay its hand and see the free markets of the United States and other countries less welcoming of its products.

Gary Shapiro is the president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, which represents more than 2,000 U.S. technology companies. CEA sponsors the Innovation Movement, a grassroots organization of Americans who believe innovation will power future U.S. economic growth. To learn more, watch the "Innovation and the American Dream" video and join the Movement at