Russia up in arms over Chinese theft of military technology-NIKKEI ASIAN REVIEW

Updated: Jan 20


Beijing's rise as a major armaments exporter is a double-edged sword for Moscow

DIMITRI SIMES, Contributing writerDECEMBER 20, 2019 18:00 JST


MOSCOW -- In a rare public display of frustration between Moscow and Beijing, Russian state defense conglomerate Rostec accused China of illegally copying a broad range of Russian weaponry and other military hardware.

"Unauthorized copying of our equipment abroad is a huge problem. There have been 500 such cases over the past 17 years," said Yevgeny Livadny, Rostec's chief of intellectual property projects on Dec. 14. "China alone has copied aircraft engines, Sukhoi planes, deck jets, air defense systems, portable air defense missiles, and analogs of the Pantsir medium-range surface-to-air systems."

Rostec's complaint about Chinese reverse engineering comes at a time when the arms trade between the two countries is thriving. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Russia was by far China's largest weapons supplier between 2014 and 2018, accounting for 70% of Beijing's arms imports during that period.

Even Russia's most advanced weaponry is not off-limits. Russia sold six of its S-400 anti-aircraft systems and 24 of its Su-35 fighter jets to China in 2015 for $5 billion.

Despite Moscow's ire over Beijing's theft of technology, it is unlikely to cut back arms exports to China anytime soon. Geopolitical and economic interests provide Russia with a strong incentive to downplay Chinese reverse engineering, experts say.

DECEMBER 20, 2019 18:00 JST📷China purchased 24 Russian Su-35 fighter jets in 2015. Moscow considers Beijing's technology theft as just another cost of doing business with its cash-flush southern neighbor.   © Getty Images

MOSCOW -- In a rare public display of frustration between Moscow and Beijing, Russian state defense conglomerate Rostec accused China of illegally copying a broad range of Russian weaponry and other military hardware.

"Unauthorized copying of our equipment abroad is a huge problem. There have been 500 such cases over the past 17 years," said Yevgeny Livadny, Rostec's chief of intellectual property projects on Dec. 14. "China alone has copied aircraft engines, Sukhoi planes, deck jets, air defense systems, portable air defense missiles, and analogs of the Pantsir medium-range surface-to-air systems."

Rostec's complaint about Chinese reverse engineering comes at a time when the arms trade between the two countries is thriving. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Russia was by far China's largest weapons supplier between 2014 and 2018, accounting for 70% of Beijing's arms imports during that period.

Even Russia's most advanced weaponry is not off-limits. Russia sold six of its S-400 anti-aircraft systems and 24 of its Su-35 fighter jets to China in 2015 for $5 billion.

Despite Moscow's ire over Beijing's theft of technology, it is unlikely to cut back arms exports to China anytime soon. Geopolitical and economic interests provide Russia with a strong incentive to downplay Chinese reverse engineering, experts say.

"It's always bad when someone copies your weapons without permission," said Andrei Frolov, editor-in-chief of Arms Exports journal. "But I think it's fair to say that since Russia continues to cooperate militarily with China, this is not very critical [for Russia]."

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