China has the faith in the future that Americans used to have

The Chinese are now an astonishingly optimistic people. Eighty-six percent of Chinese believe their country is headed in the right direction, compared with 37 percent of Americans.

The Chinese now have lavish faith in their scientific and technological potential. Newsweek and Intel just reported the results of their Global Innovation Survey. Only 22 percent of the Chinese believe their country is an innovation leader now, but 63 percent are confident that their country will be the global technology leader within 30 years. The majority of the Chinese believe that China will produce the next society-changing innovation, while only a third of Americans believe the next breakthrough will happen here, according to the survey…

It would be nice if some leader could induce the country to salivate for the future again. That would mean connecting discrete policies — education, technological innovation, funding for basic research — into a single long-term narrative. It would mean creating regional strategies, because innovation happens in geographic clusters, not at the national level. It would mean finding ways to tamp down consumption and reward production. The most pragmatic guide for that remains Michael Porter’s essay in the Oct. 30, 2008, issue of Business Week.