The US won't label China a currency manipulator, but Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sure comes out swinging on theft of US inventions. Such theft includes a plan to force foreign electric-carmakers to hand over their technology.
Timothy Geithner refuses to call China a “manipulator” of its currency rate, as many in Congress want him to do. Yet the Treasury secretary spares no words about another unfair trade practice in China: The theft of software, movies, technology, and other American innovations that deprive the US of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Here’s how Mr. Geithner described Chinese stealing of American intellectual property rights during congressional hearings Thursday:
“Rampant,” “widespread,” “huge,” “negative,” “piracy,” and (the word with the most punch), “unacceptable.”
Just a day later, China again showed how unethical it can be in the outright taking of inventions. The Wall Street Journal reported that Beijing is asking foreign automakers that want to make or sell electric cars in China to, in effect, hand over their secret technology. (Call it grand theft electric auto.)
China seeks to dominate the world electric-car market by 2020, using a policy called “indigenous innovation.’’
Such tactics are akin to the subtle but coercive methods that Japan often used during its postwar rise as an economic superpower. China is following the Japanese model in many ways, but in its theft of foreign copyrights, trademarks, and patents, other nations, including the US, and corporations, must stand up to stop it.
With one-fifth of the world’s population, China is simply too big to get away with setting a standard for industrial robbery. This Chinese practice is “aimed at putting us at a competitive disadvantage,” says Obama’s chief enforcement official for intellectual property rights, Victoria Espinel.
To be sure, many parts of China’s government are trying to crack down on piracy, such as the counterfeiting of foreign brands. Laws are passed, say US officials, but enforcement remains weak.