They also skip a lot of stuff that we went through.<quoted text>
They have so many other problems to address with their new wealth, I'd be surprised if they spend much of it re-inventing the wheel. Their hardware seems impressive though. The real shame is not inviting them to participate in the ISS or other international cooperative projects. Space exploration needs to be a 'human effort' above and beyond politics.
Rewind about 240 years to the Lancashire cotton mills and you'll see the start of the Industrial Revolution. It soon swept the western world and we moved forward in a blaze of manufacturing, innovation and invention. When the dust had finally settled on the Industrial Revolution a hundred years went by before the we embarked on what people are beginning to call the Technological Revolution.
Go to China and you'll see both the Industrial and Technological Revolutions happening simultaneously - it's scary. China is moving fast and they're skipping stages of development that we went through. Take telephones: we had years of using landlines with phone cables networking the country before the advent of cellphones. Now cellphones are eclipsing landlines. In China, they pretty much skipped landline phones and went straight to cellphone usage. Cheque books is another one: we used cheque books for years before ATM machines and debit/credit cards became widespread. China has completely bypassed the use of cheque books.
Anyway, to get to the point. I think it's safe to say that our innovation was at it's best when we had a strong manufacturing base. To me innovation and manufacturing go together. Our manufacturing base is nothing like it was - it's all gone east. Not just to China but also to India. I really feel that in the years to come most innovation and new ideas will be coming from the east.