China on Intellectual Property Theft: ‘Science Belongs to All Human Beings’

TOPSHOT - A Chinese couple tests the new iPhone 7 during the opening sale launch at an Apple store in Shanghai on September 16, 2016.
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
FRANCES MARTEL

China’s state-run Global Times lamented the “hysterical” state of U.S. scientific cooperation with China on Monday, dismissing concerns that China has systematically stolen intellectual property from America and claiming that “science belongs to all human beings.”

The Global Times appeared especially concerned with growing rumblings in America’s academic community that cooperative programs with Beijing have led to intellectual property theft and are designed to weaken American research and technology. The newspaper cites the “Thousand Talents” program as being of particular concern. That program, beginning in 2008, claims to exist to facilitate scientific exchanges bilaterally.

“Our aim is to gather the global wisdom and create the China great exploit. [sic] We will make the website as the most authoritative and influential network platform to put the talents together! [sic]” the program’s website states.

“Texas Tech University recently circulated a letter alerting staff who already are participating in relationships with Chinese, Iranian or Russian talent programs, including the Thousand Talents plan, to disclose their relationships to relevant authorities of the university,” the Global Times noted “It seems blocking various channels for China to study U.S. scientific technologies has become a public campaign.”

Preventing China from expanding its intellectual property theft “runs counter to the development of science and morality,” the state publication contended, calling concerns about such theft “anti-scientific and hysterical.” “A country should protect intellectual property, but science belongs to all human beings.”

The newspaper concludes by condemning what it perceives as arrogance from the United States protecting its scientific institutions.

“Some elites in the US believe that China has stolen US experience for its own modernization, infringing so-called US intellectual property rights,” the Times notes. “Washington is extremely puffed up with pride politically and culturally. It is also severely misunderstanding the history of human development.”

While mentioning the Thousand Talents plan, the state newspaper does not list the many problems that it has caused in the United States, so many that reports last week indicated that Beijing may have even considered banning state media from mentioning that it exists at all after Texas Tech highlighted it as a potential concern giving looming sanctions. The National Intelligence Council also addressed the program in June, warning that the covert objective of the program was “to facilitate the legal and illicit transfer of US technology, intellectual property and know-how.”

The most high-profile case of intellectual property theft tied to the Thousand Talents program is the story of Xiaoqing Zheng, an engineer at General Electric. The FBI arrested Zheng in August after finding evidence that the engineer may have stolen thousands of files and other key pieces of trade secrets and handed them over to the Chinese government.

The Chinese Communist Party has increased its pressure on individuals in the sciences and technology to generate scholarly work that makes them apt for such foreign exchange programs and elevates their prominence nationwide. This, Australia’s ABC detailed this month, led to yet another issue with allowing Chinese academics into the Western system: an increase in the use of fraudulent research to get ahead of their Western peers.

The use of false peer review exercises and fake research results led the scientific journal Tumor Biology to unpublish 107 papers written by Chinese researchers in one year, the largest batch, but not the first. Bribes trade hands easily for many in the Chinese research world in exchange for help with paper research, peer reviews, or even for scientists to get their names in journal articles they had no role in writing, ABC reported.

Numerous global research studies have found China to be the world’s top violator of intellectual property. A 2017 study found that the United States may lose between $150 billion to $240 billion a year to Chinese theft. President Donald Trump has stated that he is considering using his leverage to fine Beijing for the billions lost of stolen trade secrets and manufacturing of counterfeit goods, among other activities, annually.

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