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China has used both theft and legally purchased US military technology to raise its military to near equal status with the US. employing a vast and unprecedented industrial espionage effort over decades, China has stolen hundreds of billions of dollars worth of US military R&D.

But what is worse is that US manufacturers have often legally sold China equipment, engines and technologies supposedly intended for “dual-use” (civilian-military use), that end up almost exclusively in the hands of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

China has long been an expert at reverse engineering, having copied every sort of Soviet design they were ever sold or given. It should have been clear to the US government and industry that China would do the same thing with US military hardware and technology.

Some glaring examples of both approaches are highlighted by National Interest. They include:

  • The Type 726 “Yuyi” hovercraft is an exact clone of the US Navy LCAC. The Type 726 is identical in appearance to its American counterpart but is smaller and carries less cargo.
  • NORINCO, the China North Industries Corporation, has been making and exporting an unlicensed copy of the AR-15 assault rifle known as CQ for decades. Today the PLA Special Forces and the People’s Armed Police Snow Leopard anti-terrorism unit use copies of the AR-15/M-4 carbine rifles.
  • One US Humvee gifted to China and several commercially purchased vehicles were used to reverse-engineer the vehicle. The Dongfeng corporation calls its version the EQ2050. Unable to copy the engine, the US Cummings corporation provide the Diesel engines for dual-use – but China used them almost exclusively for its military vehicles.

There are many more examples of China stealing and copying advanced US military tech, including China’s new Y-20 military transport produced from stolen plans for C-17 Globemaster III, the Chinese J-31 fighter seemingly copied from the US F-35 and F-22 stealth fighters, and the J-20 fighter also produced from stolen plans of the US F-22 Raptor.

China even has its own version of the US F-16 gained from plans sold by Israel in the 1980s or 1990s of a planned – but canceled – Israeli version called the Lavi. These plans gave China unprecedented access to technologies first developed for the F-16.

Ending China’s theft and “legal” acquisition of US military technology must be a US national security priority.

Paul Crespo is a national security expert and communications consultant. As an officer in the US Marine Corps, he served as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at several US embassies worldwide. Paul was also an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Miami and a member of the Miami Herald Editorial Board. He holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. Paul is CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security consultancy, and a Contributor to American Defense News.

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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2 years ago