China has long supplemented legitimate transfers and domestic innovation with industrial espionage helping to compete with the U.S. or the U.S.S.R. in the production of advanced military technology.
People’s Republic of China (PRC) has a well-established habit of pilfering weapons technology from Russia and the United States, reported The National Interest.
Beijing’s spies have become ever more skillful and flexible in their approach over the years and helped China steal or copy, in whole or in part, five advanced weapon technology systems.
These consist of J-7, J-11, J-31, UAVs, and night-vision technology.
In 1961, the Soviets transferred blueprints and materials associated with its new MiG-21 interceptor to China. The Chinese worked from the blueprints and other materials, and eventually produced the J-7, a virtual copy of the MiG-21, reported The National Interest.
The Chinese eventually sold the J-7 (F-7 export variant) in direct competition with the MiGs sold by the Soviets.
1990s saw several huge arms deals between Moscow and Beijing. One of the most important involved the sale, licensing, and technology transfer of the Su-27 “Flanker” multirole fighter.
Russians claim that the Chinese began violating licensing terms almost immediately, by installing their own avionics on Flankers (J-11, under Chinese designation), reported The National Interest.
American analysts suspected that China was stealing information associated with the F-35. The likely reality of this theft became clear when information about the J-31 stealth fighter became available. The J-31 looks very much like a twin-engine F-35, without the VSTOL capabilities of the F-35B.
The J-31 also presumably lacks much of the advanced avionics that have the potential to make the F-35 a devastating fighter, reported The National Interest
In 2010, China lagged woefully behind the United States in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology. Since that time, the Chinese have caught up, and are now producing drones capable of competing with US models on the international arms market.