CCP Continues to Steal Intellectual Property From US Firms in China: Ambassador Burns

Communist China wants to replace the United States ‘as the dominant country globally. ... We don’t want that to happen,’ says Mr. Burns.
CCP Continues to Steal Intellectual Property From US Firms in China: Ambassador Burns
U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns speaks during a climate finance roundtable discussion at the U.S. embassy in Beijing on July 8, 2023. (Mark Schiefelbein/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Frank Fang

U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns says American firms face multiple challenges in China, particularly the lack of intellectual property (IP) protection.

In an appearance on CBS News’s “60 Minutes” aired on Feb. 25, Mr. Burns said IP challenges were one of the concerns he had heard from U.S. companies operating in China.

“There is still intellectual property theft from American companies here,” Mr. Burns said.

Asked whether every American company fears IP theft in China, he replied, “Yes.”

For years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been stealing IPs and trade secrets from companies and institutions with the aim of turning China into a technology and IP powerhouse. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, in a report published in 2018, found that “Chinese theft of American IP currently costs between $225 billion and $600 billion annually.”
The American Chamber of Commerce in China, in its latest annual business climate report published on Feb. 1, found that cybertheft and IP theft by employees were among the most important IP challenges that its members faced in 2023. Other IP challenges included insufficient protection offered by the text of IP-related laws and regulations in China, difficulty prosecuting IP infringements in court or via administrative measures, and expectations of technology transfer arrangements with business partners.
In October last year, intelligence chiefs from the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance—Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the United States—jointly warned about the Chinese regime’s IP theft.
Mr. Burns also commented on the Chinese authorities’ raids of consultancy and due diligence companies during an anti-spy crackdown last year and how Beijing implemented a revised counter-espionage law on July 1 last year.

“They’ve passed an amendment to their counter-espionage law. And it’s written in such a general way that it could be that American business people could be accused of espionage for engaging in practices that are perfectly legal and acceptable everywhere else in the world,” Mr. Burns said.

As for the raids, the ambassador said that Chinese authorities “want to control data” about Chinese people and Chinese companies.

‘Most Dangerous Relationship’

The ambassador said he expected the U.S.-China competition to continue into the next decade.

“This is the most important, most competitive, and most dangerous relationship that the United States has in the world right now and will, I think, for the next decade or so,” he said.

The ambassador elaborated that the current competition is unlike the Cold War when the Soviet Union had a “very weak economy.” He added, “We’re dealing with an adversary, a competitor in China stronger than the Soviet Union was in the 1940s, ‘50s, ’60s, ‘70s, and ’80s.”

Mr. Burns did not characterize the U.S.-China competition as the new cold war, as some lawmakers and experts have labeled it. Instead, the ambassador labeled the competitive relationship between the two nations as “a competition of ideas.”

“Our idea—America’s big idea of a democratic society and human freedom—versus China’s idea that a communist state is stronger than a democracy. We don’t believe that,” Mr. Burns said. “So there’s a battle here as to whose ideas should lead the world. And we believe those are American ideas.”

New technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) are driving the current military race between the two nations, he added.

“Our companies and tech experts are competing in AI and biotech and quantum mathematics. All those technological advances will lead to a new generation of military technology,” the ambassador said.

“Our two militaries are vying for military supremacy—who’s going to be the most powerful in the most important, strategic part of the world, which is the Indo-Pacific.”

Ultimately, China wants to replace the United States “as the dominant country globally. ... We don’t want that to happen,” Mr. Burns added.