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 BidenThe media have fallen out of love with Bernie, but have voters? Top Zelensky aide refutes Sondland testimony The great AI debate: What candidates are (finally) saying about artificial intelligence MORE, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe media have fallen out of love with Bernie, but have voters? Krystal Ball: Media turns on Buttigieg, will this end him? Senate Democrats demand Trump fire Stephen Miller MORE (D-Calif.) and former tech entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate The great AI debate: What candidates are (finally) saying about artificial intelligence Poll: Biden leads Democratic field, Warren drops to third place 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.

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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 CoatsFormer US intel official says Trump would often push back in briefings Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Intelligence agencies have stopped collecting cellphone data without warrants: letter 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 TrumpSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate US sending 20,000 troops to Europe for largest exercises since Cold War Barr criticizes FBI, says it's possible agents acted in 'bad faith' in Trump probe 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerKrystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments MORE (D-N.Y.), Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Lawsuits pose new challenge for TikTok TikTok's leader to meet with lawmakers next week MORE (R-Ark.), and Reps. Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherStatesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges Colorado rep planning sunrise run to possible sites for military memorial Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising MORE (R-Wis.) and Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoTrump officials defend use of fake university to lure foreign students ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks Lawmakers press for ICE reforms after fake school report MORE (D-Ariz.) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperIraq's riots threaten Iran's plan for Middle East dominance Sunday shows — Nadler: A jury would convict Trump in 'three minutes flat' Florida Republican says Pensacola shooting 'has to inform on our ongoing relationship with Saudi Arabia' 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 CrapoThe job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' Lawmakers battle over future of Ex-Im Bank Eleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid MORE (R-Idaho) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Watchdog report finds FBI not motivated by political bias in Trump probe Ex-Rep. Scott Taylor to seek old Virginia seat 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.