Beaufort, N.C.

June 10, 2019


Recently with the American/Chinese trade war, it has come into question if China will move ahead of the U.S. as a world power. This should cause people in government (state and federal) and business to take an “objective” look at what worked for America to rise to its world power position. An objective evaluation of what is working for China should also be considered.

As a retired engineer who worked in telecommunications through the U.S. boom years of the ’70s, ’80s, and early ’90s, I witnessed the tactics of Chinese companies such as Huawei. I am in complete agreement on penalizing China and leveling the playing field. However, it will take more than tariffs and trade blocks to compete with China in the future.

Huawei is a fine example of what we should be doing. They have a reputation for intellectual property theft, but in the case of 5G (next generation internet) they are leading the U.S. by possibly two years. One reason is their investment in R/D (Research/Development).

Huawei invests 14% of their revenue into R/D and 45% of their staff works in R/D. Relative to overall revenue, Huawei is actually spending more on R&D (14.2% of revenue) than Microsoft (12%) and Amazon (10.4%), and isn’t far behind Google (14.9%). There are only a few U.S. companies that make this level of investment in R/D, and Huawei is the biggest R/D investor in telecommunications.

When I was a young engineer working for ITT through the ’70s and ’80s, we had a similar R/D commitment with a 5-to-10-year R/D plan. This all started to decline in the early ’90s and continued an ongoing decline. Strategies moved in the direction of buying technology (acquiring startups, etc.) and only a one-year plan with the primary focus on the company’s stock prices.

Over this time frame we lost customers to competitors like Huawei as well as our technical lead. Stock value fell from around $200/share to $15/share. Acquired companies with new technology failed when the staff of the companies moved on with the big money from their stock options. The lesson here should have been obvious — invest heavily in internal R/D, have a long term plan and acquisitions doesn’t always replace invention.

China is a world leader in solar power even though the U.S. created the photo voltaic cell (Bell Labs in the ’50s) and had the potential to be the leader. As recently as 2012 an American solar energy company named Solyndra went bankrupt and defaulted on a $500M R/D loan. The media and politicians focused on the default versus the fact that China (government) had invested over 10 times that sum in R/D and won the whole market. Same lesson, invest heavily in R/D and have a long term plan but also be objective and leave politics out of the decision making process.

Another issue that seems to be overlooked is investment in higher education. It is sad that 70% of American higher education graduates leave with student debt. As a Vietnam veteran, I managed to get through college via the G.I. Bill, though I still had to work part time. I am certain that I have paid back much more in taxes than was paid to me via the GI Bill. Also, back then the cost of higher education was relatively lower than today. The government funded the G.I. Bill, instituted following World War II, probably contributing more than realized to our rise to a technical lead in the world during the ’50s and ’60s.

China is focused on education. In 2010 costs in China for a college degree were $400 to $2,200 per year which included books, room/board and meals. In the U.S. for a college degree, costs average around $35,000 per year for private institutions and $10,000 for state institutions ($26,000 out of state students). The U.S. costs do not include books, room/board, and meals. Germany’s higher education is free and they are one of the most productive countries of the EU.

College degrees aren’t the only investment in higher education that the government can make. Vocational education is obviously in demand by the building industry which repeatedly stated they cannot get the carpenters, plumbers and electricians needed. Even in the world of automation there is an unsatisfied demand for trained technicians to service the machines and computers used in today’s industries.

Countries like China and Germany, with both government and business sectors working together, have been investing in both vocational and college educations for years.

The point is that government funded higher education (vocational and college) is an investment in the future with a payback (paid taxes, innovation, job creation, productivity, etc.) that far exceeds the expense for higher education. Comparing this to payback on the current U.S. student loan program is a no brainer.


(13) comments


Well said Mr. Tyrell, this country does not have the vision to understand that an educated population is the benefit to us all. The main problem though is greed from the 1%, our corporation structure is flawed where only quarter results matter to provide multi-million dollar bonus to the executives. Long term only means the end of the next quarter, they have no desire to invest in R&D any longer. They also have no interest in the education investment (taxes) required to fund national education, which is why they own politicians like Trump.

David Collins

Those countries that give free higher education do not extend it to everyone. Plenty of big time competition for those education slots and not all majors are included as well. They try not to waste resources on non-productive students or career choices. As far as higher college costs go here , the more students in the US that get a free ride, the higher the cost for that ride will go. Pretty much endless supply of money in the taxpayer funding trough. Student loan debt , my favorite subject for today. These students , the same ones that are allowed to vote because they are so grown up , take out these loans for a major that can not ever give enough of a return to repay the loan. This is crazy stupid and also crazy predictable. What were they thinking ? They were not , because they are still students that have not grown up. Still , they can vote. Think about that and what we have allowed to be created. Should keep more than a few up at night seeing that these idiots will become our next leaders.

Core Sounder

far too many kids have gotten loans to go to school only to use it to buy new cars, smart phones, drugs etc and end up dropping out of school along with not paying back the money. Too many in this Country have learned its far easier to get money for taxpayers to support themselves than going out and finding a job. Think we have enough college educated folks as it is since so many are having trouble finding a job plus the fact that millions of jobs have been created for them due to gov regulations.

Livin in Paradise

Please provide your facts for your statement, otherwise its nothing more than opinion. Both of my daughters have student loans. The largest amount you can borrow from the Dept of Education is around $12K a year for undergraduate degrees. Tell me, after tuition, room/board and books how much is left over for trips and cars ?? I'll wait for your reply. My oldest has a Master's degree in Speech Pathology. She had in excess of $100K in student loans. After a little more than 4.5 years, her balance is under $40K. My youngest also has a Master's degree and is working for the government in an effort to pay off her loan via early extinguishment for her service. Please stop making generalizations on things you obviously know little about. All I'm hearing is whining and its not by the younger generation. It people like you.


Do you suppose the Chinese and possibly even the Germans are more about a real education. Is a real education what all those over-paid higher "educators" and institutions all about? How about we pay real educators for a real education. Push STEM and needed vocational educations and let the rest figure it out for themselves. Put the $ wasted on the rest in R&D. Most nowadays want something for nothing. Gimme, gimme. Don't believe that was what the GI Bill was/is about. Might need to rethink things.


Colleges are more into profit than education. Then we have the online college now, where folks can earn degrees in the comfort of their own home. Problem is, certain fields don't lend themselves to such an approach. Those who went to college and did the clinical or field work, practical hands on training, are much better prepared. However, it is cheaper to produce a student graduate (product), quality ignored. We will soon see the disaster pending over this. Then we have the degree bearing idiots, those who can regurgitate text book citations, but cannot solve real world problems. Higher education must be used with common sense. But then, we lost that a long time ago, it seems.


Core S. What are these kids you speak of? Students are not eligible for a loan if they do not make academic progress. Also, the loan is made payable to the school, not the student so none can use it to by a car nor anything else. I look at my grandchildren and know that they and their peers will be driving our economy when I am no longer able to work. They need the best education we can give them and that means funding education, period.

David Collins

Years ago when they were handing out Pell Grants like candy, some would accept, enroll and then withdraw. At that time the refund went to the individual. At this time, the refund is returned to the program. Always plenty of folks that will play the system. Always plenty businesses that call themselves colleges that make grand claims how their programs will change lives and all that. Sadly the reality is that these are really low bar careers that you could get the same pay for flipping burgers. This is called, putting lipstick on a pig.

Core Sounder

Give me a break NC-Native-Son. Education expenses include tuition and fees; books and supplies; and general living costs. I realize that tuition and fees are paid to the school but these kids also get money to live on and that might even include transportation back and forth to school as well as other living expenses. Many kids have been caught using their loans to take vacations. Just because the laws requires the loan to be used for educational related expenses only means very little to many of these kids. We all know about the tremendous fraud in the food stamp program because of people having absolutely no respect for our laws. The scary thing to me though is we allow them to get by with it.

David Collins

Can vacations be educational ? The Dominican Republic appears to be a truly educational experience at this time. Doesn’t it ?


Awe, the American dream. Best sales pitch ever.

John Bonney

One quick look at the graduate programs at NC State would tell you that the Chinese are already here. Displacing taxpaying citizen's children in our graduate programs. Our State schools sold out to the highest bidders long ago. In the 70's it was the Iranians who filled up graduate programs. Money and profit over the State's (ignorant backwoods deplorable's) population. Nothing new.


You mean Trump is right? We're being taken for a ride? We're educating some of our worse enemies, they spy on us and steal our technology all the while? And, they are probably filling classes that are worthwhile.

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