Many of China’s military research institutes working on hypersonics and missiles are on a U.S. export blacklist, but they are still buying specialized American technology. According to a Washington Post investigation, some of this technology comes from companies that have received millions of dollars in grants and contracts from the Pentagon.

China has a national goal of having a “world-class military” with massive progress in missile technology by 2049, when the CCP turns 100.

Hypersonics here refers to the technology that can move missiles five times faster than the speed of sound and get around defenses that are currently in place. Pentagon officials say that the U.S. and China are in a hypersonic arms race. 

The Washington Post has found that more than 300 companies in China that work on hypersonics or missiles bought U.S.-made technology. They did this by looking at contract solicitation and award documents and talking to six Chinese scientists who work in military labs and universities. These scientists talked about having almost unlimited access to American missile technology.

They do it through middle men. Some private Chinese companies will buy the technology from U.S. companies and then resell it to Chinese military groups. This happens despite U.S. export controls designed to prevent such sales that might threaten U.S. national security.

Based on Chinese government procurement databases and other contract documents, since 2019, 50 U.S. companies have sold products to Chinese missile technology groups through middlemen. Through resellers, Arizona-based Zona Technology and California-headquartered Metacomp Technologies have effectively sold the aerodynamics simulation software to the Chinese Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA). 

Nathan Picarsic is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and co-founder of the geostrategic consulting firm Horizon Advisory. He said:

“For at least the past seven years, CAAA has been a core contributor to the development of China’s hypersonic and other advanced missile programs as a hub of rocket design, test and wind tunnel expertise in China.”

“Simply put, CAAA helps the Chinese military develop advanced missiles.”

In addition, foreign technology brought in this way can be transferred easily between various Chinese military research institutes.

According to scientists in China’s military research schools and the companies that support them, American technology fills in big gaps in China’s domestic technology. It is the key to creating progress in Chinese weapons.

One Chinese scientist who works in a university lab that conducts testing for hypersonic vehicles once said:

“In this case, the American technology is superior — we can’t do certain things without foreign technology.”

Some transactions used software from top American organizations that design commercial airplanes.

Furthermore, according to a government program database, the Defense Department gave money to some U.S. companies whose products are used by Chinese military research units. This makes it seem like the Pentagon is helping subsidize the Chinese military.

As mentioned above, through resellers, Zona and Metacomp have effectively sold the aerodynamics simulation software to the Chinese Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA). 

According to federal documents, both Zona and Metacomp have R&D contracts with the U.S. Air Force. 

Both companies have also won grants from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. This is a program run by the Pentagon that aims to improve the country’s defense capabilities. 

The award records show that both Zona and Metacomp won $31.6 and $13.9 million, respectively, from the program.

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