William Wang is a senior engineer. He has worked in China’s aviation industry for more than 20 years. Recently in an interview with Chinese-language media Da Ji Yuan, he talked about all kinds of problems around China’s aviation industry.

Stealing tech know-how across border

For more than 20 years, Wang worked in the R&D and manufacturing sectors of the Chinese aviation industry. He works both in the military and civil aircraft. He revealed that Chinese fighter jets basically copy models of the former Soviet Union, Russia or other countries.

The Chinese would buy or steal tech data and then reverse-engineer it to examine the original product. Then they would add more advanced technology to make a new aircraft model.

However, Wang noted that some reverse technology is not very mature, and there are a lot of technical issues in designing and manufacturing aircraft. This poses quite a few hidden dangers.

Stealing tech data during cross-border partnership project 

Aviation expert William Wang said that Chinese officials will not exclude any means to steal foreign intellectual property rights. They would defraud funds to set up projects and develop products in cooperation with foreign partners. They would use all resources available to steal tech know-how, even using public security and national security. 

Wang cited a case where the Chinese national security personnel bribed Russian experts to steal the relatively advanced aircraft technology in project cooperation between Russia and China.

William Wang provided another example: a partnership project between a state-owned enterprise and a foreign firm. 

The state-owned firm sent engineers to join in the R&D overseas to steal technical information. 

The Chinese firm leaders even told the employees to collect as much information as possible. This information includes documents about technology, management, and institutional systems. After stealing, the firm would hire professionals to translate and modify, so it would then become its own document. Some even apply for patents in China.

Wang pointed out that plagiarism and theft of intellectual property rights exist in many fields in China under the CCP’s rule. 

U.S. struggle to fight back China’s property theft

About 80 percent of all economic espionage charges by the U.S. Department of Justice are against China. One 2017 estimate calculates up to 225 and 600 billion dollars a year as the cost of stolen trade secrets, pirated software, and counterfeiting that China has done to the U.S. The CCP’s ambition to steal U.S. intellectual property has only become more aggressive.

In 2020, FBI Director Christopher Wray said counter-intelligence and espionage from China pose the “greatest long-term threat” to the U.S. economy. 

According to Financial Times, citing an FBI agent in Silicon Valley, Chinese theft occurs in various fields of technologies, such as biotech, nanotech, agricultural technology, and quantum computing, among others. 

According to the FBI, every 12 hours on average, there would be a new counter-intelligence case against China.

Corruption curbs the development of domestic aircraft technology

Aviation expert William Wang revealed that many factors hamper China’s domestic aircraft tech development. These include design and manufacturing capabilities, company management models, and organizational structures. But above all is corruption. 

Wang said that within Chinese state-owned firms, preferential treatment is common. Corruption is severe. Therefore, most bureaucrats who can climb up the ladder follow the unspoken rules. They like to treat guests with gifts and flatter, but they cannot do down-to-earth research on their business. This gradually formed a deformed structure in which laymen manage experts. Truly capable technicians were often left to no use. They are under pressure from many aspects. They were resentful and finally had to walk away.

Setting up an internal feedback system puts everyone at risk

Civil Aviation Administration of China – the Chinese civil aviation authority – recently announced that the civil aviation industry would need to set up a safe internal feedback system. Employees would need to report security risks around them. This order follows the news that the China Eastern Airlines crash in March was intentional. Someone in the cockpit has controlled the plane to dive, killing all 132 people on board. 

About this internal feedback notice, Wang said that the Chinese aviation authority is worried some pilots might have extreme mood swings. This can lead to extreme actions. So they want pilots to watch over their colleagues to spot any problems early and prevent them.

Wang points out that this is not new. This kind of internal feedback system has been in place for many years in state-owned enterprises. In his previous company, each department would have to report many unstable factors in the undergrad room or unit every week.

For example, employees are not happy with the company’s policies. They want to leave. They have conflicts with other employees or family conflicts. Or they may want to go to Beijing to petition because of some social conflicts. All of these will be listed as unstable factors. 

The companies would monitor employees through regular chats or observation. They would try to understand key personnel through so-called “heart-to-heart” interaction. Attendance is also a factor. If the monitored person does not come to work, they will be investigated. Over time, this system creates a work environment where everyone is at risk of being reported.

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