China steals US designs for new weapons, and it’s getting away with ‘the greatest intellectual property theft in human history’

  • US officials have repeatedly warned about China's increasingly sophisticated military technology and about China's habit of lifting that technology from elsewhere.
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper recently warned that China was perpetrating the "greatest intellectual property theft in human history," just days after retired Navy Adm. William McRaven said China's growing technological capabilities should be a "holy s— moment" for the US.
  • But technological prowess is only one part of military dominance, and there are other areas where China is lacking.
  • Visit Business Insider's home page for more stories.

China's intellectual property theft of both civil and military information is no secret.

From alleged attempts to hack into Swedish telecom provider Ericsson to the theft of information related to the F-22 and F-35, there are several instances of China gaining access to foreign technology or trying to do so.

There are also examples of Chinese military systems looking suspiciously like US systems — the F-22 and the MQ-9 Reaper drone among them. Other elements of those Chinese systems — the software, technology, and manpower used to operate them — aren't on par with the US military yet.

But they might not be far behind, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper. At the Department of Homeland Security's National Cybersecurity Summit on Thursday, he warned that China is perpetrating "the greatest intellectual property theft in human history."

Esper told attendees that he had cautioned European allies against allowing Chinese companies to build 5G cyber networks in their countries, warning that to do so would risk sensitive national security information.

"Every Chinese company has the potential to be an accomplice in Beijing's state-sponsored campaign to steal technology," he said, highlighting China's integration of civil and military technology, an area in which Beijing surpasses the US.

"China has systematically sought to acquire US technology both through traditional espionage means, as well as through legal investments in companies," Daniel Kliman, director of the the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, told Insider. 

"The United States very much still retains a military technological edge, but it's clear that edge is eroding," Kliman said.

Read on to see how China's carbon copies stack up to US weapons systems. 

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