Feb 25, 2006 8:06 am


Over a year ago I published an article entitled"Why China Has to Steal Technology." I explained that people living in"fear states" are incapable of the kind of free and daring thought process need for indigenous economic growth.

Now Der Spiegel reports that German manufacturers are reaching the same conclusion.

The speed of China's economic growth has been amazingly fast - fast like the hands of a well-trained pickpocket, according to some economic observers. An article in Germany's Spiegel International this month calls China out on what the publication deems to be ethically questionable economic practices."It used to be jeans and Adidas," says Spiegel."Now, though, China is becoming adept at stealing much more technologically advanced products - like passenger jets and magnetic railway systems. Is this the beginning of an economy based on thievery?" Spiegel cites a trade mission to China this week, led by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. But this time, widgets and washing machines aren't the focus of the trip."Politely put, these business executives are concerned about what some would call the German-Chinese technology transfer," Spiegel reports."But to be blunt, they're really incensed about China's growing large-scale theft of ideas and patents, trademark and product piracy. 'We have to discuss the Chinese government's attitude on this question,' Steinmeier said." While China has been in the copycat business for decades, critics say the copyright-infringement abuses have never been worse."Fully 70% of all illegal copycat products come from Asia, and most of that comes from China, in what has mushroomed into a $300 billion market," says Spiegel."And the issue is no longer just a pair of poorly copied Adidas running shoes or a plastic version of a Gucci watch. More recently, the Chinese and others have taken to pirating expensive, high-tech knowledge, allowing them to duplicate entire machines and systems." German companies have reported attending trade shows in China only to find that their own products are on display. But some of the knock-offs are so poorly made that consumers who don't know the difference mistakenly begin to think less of the genuine articles."More than half of the companies affected by patent theft have had these experiences in China," Heiko Beploat, of the German Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing Association, tells Spiegel. Some forms of copyright theft are difficult to prove, however. Spiegel points to the fact that China is launching its own magnetic levitation train service - less than two years after the rollout of Germany's Transrapid magnetic train system (a version of which is already operating in Shanghai). Spiegel says the announcement"smelled of espionage.""Suspicions are also mounting in Europe," concludes Spiegel."European Union Industry Commissioner Gunther Verheugen plans to make the issue of patent theft and industrial piracy a focal point of his agenda this year. And if his efforts are unsuccessful, the EU Commission will address these problems at this year's meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO)."

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