> The reason China has focused so much on 'field applications' is precisely because they lacked the capability to do much original research and so specialized in applying foreign technology cheaply and at scale.
I want to say that being good in 'field applications' is a really strong side of Chinese, but they wont acknowledge that. China's official 'know-how promotion' policy is to keep pumping tenth of billions into institutionalised research, and keep people grinding cookie cutter PhDs.
For example, one of the biggest breakthroughs in making lithium batteries economically has been done in China without much publicity: the "open air process" that some no-name factory invented to make cells without shielding them with copious amounts of inert gas, and that allowed to make battery cells without sealed, fully robotised manufacturing lines.
In our own company, the two best paid employees after the boss are two middle aged guys of exceptional ability when it comes to designing plastic injections molds. They don't even have higher education of any kind besides 2 year introductory level schooling in engineering college. But when it comes to making molds, they are gods. They can make you anything from plastic bathtubs to aerospace grade composite parts in a day or two.