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China's Economic Espionage

Why It Worked in the Past But It Won't in the Future

(wvs / flickr)

Mao Zedong believed that revolutionary fervor could overcome technological backwardness. But when more pragmatic leaders took power in Beijing, they found that China lagged so far behind the West that the country risked permanent second-class status.

Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, launched China’s rise by reforming the economy and opening the country to the West. With this opening, however, came a long-running, state-sponsored espionage program to acquire advanced technology and accelerate the growth of China’s civil and military industries. And when Western companies first went into China, they believed that the damage from espionage was tolerable, part of the cost of doing business in the world’s fastest-growing market, and that they could “run faster” to create new technologies, thereby minimizing any loss. But what was tolerable when China was a developing economy is no longer acceptable when it is the second-largest economy in the world

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