Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

China's Progress Is Not in Theft of Trade Secrets

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

China's Progress Is Not in Theft of Trade Secrets

Article excerpt

For nearly a decade, China has tried to create a strong culture of innovation among its technology researchers. The party line: Be creative, discover new ideas, and accept temporary setbacks like a Steve Jobs.

Imagine the shock then on Monday when the United States indicted five Chinese military officers for allegedly stealing secrets from several American companies such as Alcoa and Westinghouse. In accusing China of massive cyber-espionage, the US is challenging Beijing to live up to its own goal of becoming a global leader in science and technology by 2020.

"Success in the international marketplace should be based solely on a company's ability to innovate and compete, not on a sponsor government's ability to spy and steal business secrets," US Attorney General Eric Holder said in announcing the indictments.

The alleged thievery involved hackers at a spying operation near Shanghai extracting such information as nuclear plant designs and the price for solar panels from the US. The military is involved because it has a heavy hand in state-linked enterprises that dominate the Chinese economy. Many of those enterprises have lately begun to falter in global export markets.

The five suspects were named and their pictures put on the FBI's most-wanted posters - although they are unlikely to face trial in the US. The main point of the indictments is to shame China into ending its official campaign of pirating intellectual property from abroad and to speed up innovation at home.

China has many successful technology companies, such as Alibaba, Lenovo, and Huawei. But none are in the Top 100 Global Innovators (the US has 45). And much of China's progress since 1980 has been based on borrowed technology, either stolen or coerced out of foreign companies seeking to enter the large Chinese market.

As its economic growth slows, China needs to move up faster in the world's high-tech supply chain in manufacturing and software. …

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