Innovation and Development in China and the Pearl River Delta


Roger R Stough (George Mason University)
5 May 2017 (Friday)
3:30 - 5:30 pm
HKUST Business School Central, Rm 1501-02, 15/F Hong Kong Club Building, 3A Chater Road, Central

HKUST LAPP Distinguished Lecture Series

Co-organized by HKUST Institute for Emerging Market Studies (IEMS)

Key insights

In his Distinguished Lecture, co-organized by IEMS and the HKUST Leadership and Public Policy Program (LAPP), Dr Roger Stough (George Mason University) remarks that China’s huge economic growth was built on several key advantages. His lecture, “Innovation and Development in China and the Pearl River Delta" explains how China developed rapidly by exploiting the demographic dividend, opening-up the economy and successfully imitating advanced economies. 

With slowing growth rates since the 2008 global financial crisis, China has been rushing to move up the global value chain and adopt an innovation driven model. However, without a strong ability to self-innovate, China cannot sustain the rapid economic growth and achieve the societal outcomes it wants. In particular, some Chinese regions around Shanghai and the Pearl River Delta have showed limited success at indigenous innovation. According to Stough, there are ten main barriers to innovation in China. These barriers range from economic factors, such as education and investment, to civic factors such as governance, corruption and institutional factors. 

Praising various innovation parks around China as well as here in Hong Kong, Stough recommends that Hong Kong pay close attention to mega-city evolution in Guangdong province. He suggests that a committee be created to investigate and oversee Hong Kong’s integration into the greater PRD economy. 


Mainland China has long (since opening up in 1979) envisioned creating an economy driven by indigenous innovation. Its experience of huge economic growth until recently has been erected on a variety of advantages: low skilled but boundless labor; opening up the economy to imports and exports; and, successfully applying imitation innovation. Despite these advantages and huge success in creating one of the largest economies in the world, the rate of growth began to slow as the 2008 global recession unfolded. Without a strong ability to self-innovate China concluded that it would not be able to sustain strong economic growth and desired societal outcomes. In the past few years there are signs that some parts of China are having some success at indigenous innovation. The evidence of this appears to be concentrated in two geographic clusters: the Shanghai region; and, the Pearl River Delta. The presentation discusses the emergence of self-innovation capacity in several innovation centers in Guangdong Province’s Lower Pearl River and how China managed its advantages while at the same time driving development through the development stages faster than any other country in the world. Achieving indigenous innovation at a high level is essential to the continued economic growth of China.

About the Speaker

Dr Roger R Stough’s research specializations include innovation and entrepreneurship, leadership in regional economic development, economic modeling and transport analysis. He has been involved in development related research in China, Korea, India, Pakistan, Turkey and Europe. He published several hundred scholarly and professional works, 45 books (including edited volumes); with sponsored research of more than $80 million. He has supervised and participated on numerous Ph.D. dissertation committees. His students hold various university, government, think tank and corporate positions including some presidents of their organizations. Dr. Stough served as President of the Regional Science Association International (RSAI) (2007-2008) and as co-editor-in-chief of the Annals of Regional Science (ARS) 1994-2011; President of the Technopolicy Network (TPN) (2002-2013). Dr. Stough holds a BS in International Trade, Ohio State University; a MA in Economic Geography, University of South Carolina; and, a Ph.D. in Geography and Environmental Engineering, Johns Hopkins University. He holds an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree from Jonkoping University (Sweden).

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Guangzhou night by wallace_Lan / Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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