Home » Aviation » Trump Technology Tariffs Against China Designed to Protect U.S. Military Advantage

Trump Technology Tariffs Against China Designed to Protect U.S. Military Advantage

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross at the White House on March 22, 2018. Image via CNN

THE PENTAGON — The Trump Administration announced tariffs and other restrictions on China’s high-tech industry Thursday. The implicit message is the actions intend to guard the U.S. military’s technological advantage in a 21st Century battlespace.

The new order imposes tariffs on about $50 billion worth of specific products from China, authorizes filing a World Trade Organization case against China, and puts limits on Chinese investment in U.S. technology companies to protect them from being forced to share intellectual property with Chinese partner firms.

“We have a tremendous intellectual property theft situation going on,” Trump said in a White House signing ceremony, explaining the reason for Thursday’s action.

Trump’s lead trade official detailed the U.S. complaint against China. The nation has a policy of forcing technology transfers between U.S. companies and Chinese partners as part of doing business in the nation and acquiring U.S. technology through cyber theft, U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer said at the ceremony.

Significantly, the tech-industry representative standing with Trump at the White House signing ceremony was Marillyn Hewson, president and chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin, the defense contractor building the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, among other Department of Defense weapons programs. Trump handed Hewson the pen used to sign the order.

Hewson said protecting intellectual property is “a critical area for the aerospace and defense industry.”

The Chinese Shenyang J-31 which was unveiled in late 2014. It’s widely believed the Chinese based the design on the Lockheed Martin F-35 designs

Lockheed Martin is developing some of the Pentagon’s most advanced weapons systems, including the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter already being operated abroad by the Marine Corps and set to bring the carrier strike group its first stealth aircraft in the coming years.

An F-35B launches off the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1) on March 11, 2018. US Navy Photo

The Navy and the Pentagon clearly prize the technological edge these technologies would bring the U.S. military, with Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer saying in December at the U.S. Naval Institute Defense Forum Washington that “our technological advantages are real. Those advantages, though, are diminishing. You can be sure there are some countries and some non-state actors out there working hard to bridge these technological gaps. And that is why my goal is to never send our troops into a fair fight.”

Part of the reason that technological gap is shrinking is that China is eyeing the very technologies that companies like Lockheed Martin make, looking for ways to either hack the contractors to steal blueprints and other information or tasking the country’s scientists and engineers with replicating new foreign systems. The end result is a long list of Chinese systems clearly based off U.S., Russian or other nations’ weapons.

The Chinese government openly states that its strategy to close technology gaps between the Chinese military and rivals is to acquire technology developed by others and adapt it to their needs. The current Chinese Five Year Plan bluntly states the nation’s plan is to develop technological innovation by improving the nation’s ability to create home-grown products and by relying on the work of others.

“We will strengthen basic research, bolster primary innovation, innovation based on the integration of existing technologies, and innovation based on import and assimilation,” according to a translation of the plan.

Intellectual property, Hewson said, “is the lifeblood of our companies, and so we very much welcome this action.”

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    It’s a drop in the ocean and about 20 years too late.

    But I suppose it’s better than the default genuflecting American industry and politics has been doing before China for the last couple of decades.

  • Marcd30319

    It’s widely believed the Chinese based the design on the Lockheed Martin F-35 designs.

    If you believe your lying eye, of course. ;P

  • Hugh

    Decades ago there were statements that Russia and later China were copying Western plane and ship designs, and that examining info in public sourced magazines were giving them 10 or more years catch-up. For example the Russian “Concordski” 40 years ago looked like a close relative of the Concord, but crashed during test flights and exited the scene.

    Now that Ukraine is apart from Russia, who makes jet engines for the Russians, and for the Chinese who just copy everything they have already received??

    • William Sager

      The simple truth is much of industrial espionage is straight forward in that many companies invite whole teams of foreign dignitaries to tour facilities. Needless to say these tours are often packed with specialist who record or remember every detail they see and return home with the intent to copy everything. And when that fails you buy 51% of a company building the product you need.

  • Mr. Speaker

    DoD should stop hiring foreign born engineers and scientists and bar foreign born contractors in its quest to meet diversity requirements.

    • Cato

      If they are US citizens they should have the right to be hired. And diversity is has little to do with this issue, even if it is emotionally satisfying to assert it. We sometimes buy U.K. or Israeli technology and diversity has nothing to do with it.

      • Matthew Schilling

        Communist China doesn’t equate to Great Britain, and it is an insult to our intelligence to imply it does.
        Also, along with everything else they touch, Leftists have degraded what is implied by the term “U.S. citizen”. There are too many CINOs now. (Citizens in Name Only)

    • wilkinak

      Maybe more Americans should get engineering degrees and skip the gender studies curriculum.

  • MDK187

    Finally. Good for first move but needs to be escalated a great deal.

  • tteng

    J-31 has not been inducted into Chinese AF nor Navy. The above photo (of J-31 landing on carrier), I believe, is CGI.

  • Ravikumar

    Better late than never! More stringent actions are required to make any serious impact to reverse Chinese policies!

  • Jim DiGiacomo

    The Chinese have certainly copied every weapon system they received from the Russians but you have to give them some credit for innovation. Their anti-ship ballistic missiles are certainly superior to our Harpoon missile and most military experts agree they may be ahead of us in hypersonics. They produce far more scientists and engineers then we do so we shouldn’t underestimate them.

  • MaskOfZero

    You would think that the Chinese actually knew how to build a high performance jet engine which is reliable–but they cannot. That’s why they still buy Russian engines.

    There is more to military tech than appearances.

    Various writers speak of the advanced capabilities of Chinese military technology–without actually knowing anything about the real capabilities and reliability of Chinese tech.

    Everyone seems to rely on Chinese propaganda in order to assess Chinese tech.

    The so-called ‘stealth’ jets are not really stealthy, and you could find them in a blue sky by their smoking Russian engines alone.

    Even Russian engines are not that reliable–certainly not as reliable as US engines according to Russian maintenance reports.

    Both Russia and China are putting on a full-court propaganda press to convince the US that their technology is equivalent or superior to US tech–it isn’t.