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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 Biden 64 percent of Iowans say 'time for someone else' to hold Grassley's Senate seat: poll Philadelphia shooting leaves 2 dead, injures toddler Ron Johnson booed at Juneteenth celebration in Wisconsin MORE, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe U.S. and Mexico must revamp institutions supporting their joint efforts Harris signals a potential breakthrough in US-Mexico cooperation Watch live: Harris delivers remarks on vaccination efforts MORE (D-Calif.) and former tech entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangYang, Garcia campaign together three days before NYC mayoral primary Adams, Wiley lead field in NYC mayoral primary: poll Republican House campaign arm says it will begin soliciting cryptocurrency donations 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 Trump officials including Fiona Hill helped prepare Biden for Putin summit: report Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? Experts see 'unprecedented' increase in hackers targeting electric grid 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 TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care 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 SchumerCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision Senate confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar MORE (D-N.Y.), Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonThe Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Court fines baker 0 for refusing to make gender transition cake Nikki Haley warns Republicans on China: 'If they take Taiwan, it's all over' MORE (R-Ark.), and Reps. Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherBiden budget includes 0M to help agencies recover from SolarWinds hack in proposed budget GOP lawmaker calls for Wuhan probe to 'prevent the next pandemic' Lawmakers introduce bill to protect critical infrastructure against cyberattacks MORE (R-Wis.) and Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoHouse Democrat: Republicans 'treating Capitol Police like shit' were 'the most scared' during riot Hispanic Democrats slam four Republicans over Jan. 6 vote in new ads Democrats want Arizona to reject mapping firm's application to redraw districts MORE (D-Ariz.) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Top admiral shoots back at criticism of 'woke' military | Military guns go missing | New White House strategy to battle domestic extremism Top admiral shoots back at criticism of 'woke' military: 'We are not weak' Cotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military 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 CrapoInflation concerns spark new political fights Yellen confident rising inflation won't be 'permanent' On The Money: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process on Wednesday | Four states emerge as test case for cutting off jobless benefits MORE (R-Idaho) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting On The Money: Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle | White House rules out gas tax hike Democrats introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for government discrimination 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.