2020 Democrats raise alarm about China's intellectual property theft

2020 Democrats raise alarm about China's intellectual property theft

Democratic presidential candidates raised concerns about China's theft of U.S. intellectual property at Thursday's debate, shining attention on an ongoing source of tension between the two countries. 

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Biden offers well wishes to Lebanon after deadly explosion MORE, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisMichelle Obama supporters urge Biden to pick former first lady as running mate Michelle Obama wishes Barack a happy birthday: 'My favorite guy' Harris endorses Democrat in tight California House race MORE (D-Calif.) and former tech entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangIs this the end of the 'college experience'? Biden campaign to take over 'Supernatural' star's Instagram for interview Hillicon Valley: Justice Department announces superseding indictment against WikiLeaks' Assange | Facebook ad boycott gains momentum | FBI sees spike in coronavirus-related cyber threats | Boston city government bans facial recognition technology MORE all highlighted their worries about whether China is stealing U.S. intellectual property as they discussed the ongoing trade war between the two countries while promising to tackle the issue if elected president.

“The problem isn’t the trade deficit. The problem is they are stealing our intellectual property,” Biden said about China.

ADVERTISEMENT

Suspicions that hackers from the country are stealing innovation, trade and military secrets have contributed to tensions between the two countries.

According to the findings of a 2018 investigation by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Chinese intellectual property theft costs the U.S. between $225 billion and $600 billion annually.

Multiple intelligence agencies have identified Chinese theft of intellectual property as a national security threat.

2018 report on foreign economic espionage from the National Counterintelligence and Security Center noted that China “could erode U.S. America’s long-term economic advantage” if its cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property continues. 

The annual Worldwide Threat Assessment published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in January expanded on the Chinese threat, with former Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsTrump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet America's divide widens: Ignore it no longer Trump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down MORE emphasizing in the report that “China presents a persistent cyber espionage threat and a growing attack threat to our core military and critical infrastructure systems.” 

And a report from CNBC’s Global CFO Council, which represents around $5 trillion in market value across various sectors, found in March that 1 in 5 North American-based companies had been a victim of Chinese intellectual property theft in the past decade. 

The reported intellectual theft was cited by President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE as a reason to continue the ongoing trade war between the two countries, and the need to reduce Chinese theft of intellectual property is one of the few bipartisan areas of agreement on Capitol Hill. 

On Thursday, a group of lawmakers from both parties took steps to encourage the Department of Defense to shine a light on Chinese operations within the U.S., particularly cyber-espionage issues linked to military operations.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package Meadows: 'I'm not optimistic there will be a solution in the very near term' on coronavirus package Biden calls on Trump, Congress to enact an emergency housing program MORE (D-N.Y.), Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonOn The Trail: The first signs of a post-Trump GOP The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Brawls on Capitol Hill on Barr and COVID-19 Hillicon Valley: Tech CEOs brace for House grilling | Senate GOP faces backlash over election funds | Twitter limits Trump Jr.'s account MORE (R-Ark.), and Reps. Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherCongress has a shot at correcting Trump's central mistake on cybersecurity Cheney battle raises questions about House GOP's future House-passed defense spending bill includes provision establishing White House cyber czar MORE (R-Wis.) and Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden's latest plan on racial inequality Overnight Energy: Official says protesters not cleared from Lafayette Square for Trump | Trump administration blasts banks refusing to fund Arctic drilling | 2019 coal production hit lowest level since 1978 Park Police chief testifies protesters were not cleared from Lafayette Square for Trump visit MORE (D-Ariz.) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Marines find human remains after training accident | Fourth service member killed by COVID-19 | Pompeo huddles with Taliban negotiator Trump participates in swearing-in of first African American service chief Overnight Defense: Embattled Pentagon policy nominee withdraws, gets appointment to deputy policy job | Marines, sailor killed in California training accident identified | Governors call for extension of funding for Guard's coronavirus response MORE requesting he take steps to address Chinese threats.

They also specifically requested that the Defense Department publish a list of companies in the U.S. that are owned or operated by the Chinese military.

“The CCP [Chinese Communist Party] has adopted a strategy of ‘Military-Civilian fusion’ to achieve its national objectives, enlisting Chinese corporations and universities to harness emerging civilian technologies for military purposes,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“If Beijing cannot develop technology on its own, it attempts to steal it from the United States using cyber espionage, intelligence assets operating in the United States, and state-directed companies that acquire American firms to transfer proprietary information,” they added.

Other legislation in both the House and Senate introduced this year seeks to limit Chinese theft of intellectual property, most notably the House and Senate versions of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. 

Bills have also been separately introduced, such as the MICROCHIPS Act, which would assist in protecting the supply chain for critical technologies against Chinese threats. The bill, introduced in July by Sens. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoTop GOP senator urges agencies to protect renters, banks amid coronavirus aid negotiations Chamber of Commerce, banking industry groups call on Senate to pass corporate diversity bill Senate panel advances Trump Fed nominee who recently supported gold standard MORE (R-Idaho) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Intel panel approves final Russia report, moves toward public release Former Virginia House speaker Kirk Cox mulling run for governor Mini-exodus of Trump officials from Commerce to lobby on semiconductors MORE (D-Va.), has not seen action. 

Now 2020 Democrats are joining the fray.

Yang, who has made tech issues a major part of his presidential campaign, recalled at the debate how a CEO friend of his had seen "pirated U.S. intellectual property" being used by workers "to the tune of thousands of dollars per head."

Yang argued that he would make sure to pursue a deal with China "that addresses the concerns of American companies and producers.”

Harris, meanwhile, promised to hold China accountable.

“They steal our products, including our intellectual property. They dump substandard products into our economy. They need to be held accountable,” she said.