Friday, May 29, 2015

China Didn't Invent Industrial Espionage

The U.S. Justice Department last week charged six Chinese scientists for stealing trade secrets and engaging in industrial espionage on behalf of China. 

A separate case, announced Friday, involved the former chairman of the physics department at Temple University, a China-born U.S. citizen who allegedly passed along semiconductor technology while working at an unnamed American company.

Such cases often are held up as evidence of China’s perfidy and unscrupulous dealings in the global economy. But before getting into high dudgeon mode, the U.S., and for that matter, almost every Western nation, might wish to remember their own, no-holds-barred campaigns to swipe industrial secrets.

In fact, one of the first cases involved the theft of industrial secrets from China. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Chinese alone possessed the ability to produce high-end “hard-paste” porcelain, an expensive material beloved by Europe’s elites. In the 1680s, a French Jesuit, Pere d’Entrecolles, traveled to China, where he saw the kilns and likely read technical works on the subject... more