In October of last year, China’s biggest streaming platform, Youku, was accused of plagiarizing "Squid Game," one of the most popular TV shows in recent history.
Although the line between inspiration and plagiarism is often a fine one, there’s little doubt that the idea for the Chinese show, suspiciously named "Squid Victory," was stolen.
Should we really be surprised by this blatant act of plagiarism?
It’s common knowledge that plagiarism is very much an established business model in China. This business model poses existential risks to a number of countries, most notably the United States.
In 2012, Tencent, owner of WeChat, was accused of plagiarizing an iPhone news app. According to reports at the time, it “copied design ideas in overall layout, photo viewing and commenting” from Apple.
Last year, Elon Musk accused XPeng, one of China’s biggest electric car makers, of stealing old source codes from Tesla.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
At its core, plagiarism is a form of theft. It comes in many forms, from academic dishonesty to acts of artistic piracy. It also includes the theft of military intelligence, something Beijing excels at (more on this later). This particular form of plagiarism poses an existential risk to the United States.
Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe recently warned that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) plans to rob, replicate, and replace every one of America’s industries one by one.
If this sounds ridiculous, it really shouldn’t. Remember who you are dealing with, a country that builds cities faster than most places, including the United States, build bridges.
According to a report published by the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, the CCP has a specific goal of “achieving leadership in various emerging technology fields by 2030.” Less than a decade from now, China seeks to be a leading player in the fields of biotechnology, advanced computing, cyber warfare, and artificial intelligence.
To reach its goal of technological supremacy, the CCP is currently employing “a wide variety of legal, quasi-legal, and illegal methods to acquire technology and know-how from the United States and other nations,” according to the report.
Not surprisingly, one of the “illegal methods” is the theft of U.S. intelligence.
When you think of places where Chinese espionage might be occurring, Arkansas doesn’t exactly spring to mind. But it should.
Recently, The Federal Bureau of Investigation office in Little Rock issued a warning. According to Special Agent James Dawson, all an attempt to ensure “economic security,” the CCP is stealing “valuable information and innovation from people in Arkansas and across the country.”
For years, he warned, “China has sought methods and means to be able to deprive the U.S. of any advances that it has made in technological areas." In an effort to surpass the United States, the CCP “will spare no effort whatsoever.”
This includes working closely with academics across the United States. In January of this year, a professor at the University of Arkansas pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about patents he had filed in Beijing. A few weeks earlier, Charles Lieber, the former chair of Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, pleaded guilty to working closely with China.
This is not to say that China is devoid of original ideas; it’s not. However, the theft of ideas from U.S.-based organizations is a genuine problem that poses a genuine threat to the Western world.
As the science writer Ethen Kim Lieserpreviously warned, the CCP has made heavy investments in the J-20, an air superiority fighter with precision strike capability. The J-20 appears to be a direct copy of the aforementioned F-22 and F-35 fighter jets. Furthermore, as Lieser noted, the J-20 “has the potential to considerably enhance China’s regional military strength.”
Justin Bronk, a research fellow for airpower and technology at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies in the UK, appears to agree. In a recent RUSI report, Bronk argued that the design of the J-20 “incorporates many features which have been copied from the F-22 and F-35, including nose cone shaping, the electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) under the nose, and the side-mounted (diverterless supersonic inlet) intakes.”
This is where decades of plagiarism have taken us. It started with China copying ideas from Google and Amazon.
John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. He covers psychology and social relations, and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation. His work has been published by the New York Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, and The Spectator US, among others.