If economist Yasheng Huang is right, the West shouldn’t be too worried about China winning the battle for technology leadership. It’s not that China can’t innovate; it produced the “four great inventions” — gunpowder, paper, printing and the compass — hundreds of years before the West. Rather, as Huang convincingly argues in his new book, “The Rise and Fall of the EAST,” the social and political construct imposed on China since the Sui Dynasty (581-618) has throttled the creativity that is essential to innovation.

The Rise and Fall of the EAST, by Yasheng Huang. 411 pages, YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS, Nonfiction.

A professor of global economics and management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and author of magisterial assessments of the Chinese economy, Huang blames the “keju,” the imperial national civil service exam, for this decline. In their effort to govern a large and unruly state, successive Chinese leaders used the exam (E) to promote ideological conformity and obedience to the emperor (an autocrat, A), which promoted stability (S) and inhibited technological innovation (T).