The Simple Alternative

Characteristically, now that Chinese hackers have demonstrated their willingness and ability to threaten Western intellectual property, the Wall Street Journal has pricked up its ears:

We hope China’s behavior proves self-defeating. Economic transactions are about mutual benefit, and nobody should continue doing business with a counterparty who continually rips them off. The signs are that the U.S. government may finally be getting up the nerve to respond with more than quiet, feckless pleading.

Better defenses are imperative. Naming and shaming the Chinese entities responsible, as Mandiant has done, are also important, and targeted sanctions against individuals and institutions will probably be needed. Chinese officials need to understand that if they want their current economic relationship with the U.S. to continue, they must stop their cyberattacks.

I honestly have never understood the idea of equating “intellectual property” with tangible property. However, if you take that idea seriously isn’t the effective response to the Chinese government’s either allowing or actively aiding its citizens in stealing property that belongs to Americans and there is no other means of enforcing those property rights, letting Americans steal Chinese property? One day a week could be “Steal Chinese” day. It would give an entirely different meaning to “Chinese takeaway”.

Update

To illustrate why I think that the mild, temperate remedies suggested by the WSJ are meaningless nonsense, let me ask one straightforward question: why is Apple still doing business with Chinese companies?

7 comments… add one

  • Icepick

    Hey, isn’t that what Antigua is going to do to the USA? LOL

    And Apple continues to do business with Chinese companies for the obvious reason that it beats paying Americans to do the work, or buying better robots. But as the robots get better they’ll be more likely to remove manufacturing from China. When China starts losing its manufacturing base that should make it really fun to live in Japan….

  • sam

    “letting Americans steal Chinese property”

    Well, from what I’ve read, would it be stealing if you take back from a thief what he stole from you in the first place?

    I saw the Chinese official on TV claiming that the Mandiant report was a catalog of falsehoods. The absolutely first thought into my mind was, “Jesus Christ, nobodeeee believes that.”

  • And Apple continues to do business with Chinese companies for the obvious reason that it beats paying Americans to do the work, or buying better robots.

    Nah, that’s not it at all, ‘pick. The amount of money they save by doing the manufacturing in China isn’t the biggie. Probably less than $50 a unit. The real reason is that they think (incorrectly) that they’re opening up markets in China. It’s the sales not the savings that are the motivators.

  • sam

    You know, at one time I was collecting news stories about the shit the Chinese have pulled, from poisonous drywall (Ice knows about that, living in Florida), to adulterated baby formula, to…

    I tired of the monotony of the effort.

  • There are a number of factors that go into those things, sam. For one thing China doesn’t have a robust system of civil law to enforce things like environmental regulations, intellectual property law, labor regulations, and so on. Sure, there are laws on the books. Enforcement is notional.

    Another factor is cultural. Theirs is a shame culture rather than a guilt one, like ours. If you’re not guarding your property well enough that a thief can’t take it, as they see it they’d be fools not to.

  • Icepick

    Yeah, Chinese drywall is practically synonymous with the housing boom of the previous decade.

    Theirs is a shame culture rather than a guilt one, like ours. If you’re not guarding your property well enough that a thief can’t take it, as they see it they’d be fools not to.

    What kind of culture do the Italians have? I was watching an Italian movie from the 1950s, Big Deal on Madonna Street, and the movie just seemed to assume that every Italian was likely to commit theft if given a reasonable opportunity. I’d be inclined to think that was just the culture in that particular movie (much like a Tarantino movie exposes the culture inside Tarantino’s head), except that I know a little about the history of post WWII Italian politics. Maybe the movie was pure slice-of-life!

  • It’s the sales not the savings that are the motivators.

    If I can sell just one $0.10 pencil to everyone in China….

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