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Is China's Intellectual Property Theft A Concern? It Depends Who You Ask

Jayson Derrick

One of the multiple demands U.S. President Donald Trump is making of China is to curb intellectual property theft.

The threat of IP theft is overblown, in the view of journalist Rebecca Fannin, the author of the new book "Tech Titans of China." It's a view Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is unlikely to share, based on his recent public comments. 

Fannin: China Copied, But Is Now Innovating

CNBC "Squawk Box" co-host Joe Kernen asked Fannin during an interview if the rapid growth in China's economy was made possible by stealing secrets from American companies.

During the early stages of China's economic growth, many Chinese citizens attended some of the finest American universities and worked at some of the finest companies before returning to China, she said. 

At this point Chinese companies were copying American technology, but today Chinese companies are "innovating on their own," she said. This isn't to say China isn't engaged in some form of IP theft, but the problem is overstated, Fannin said. 

Esper Cautions Europe On IP Theft

Esper said in his first major speech that China's ongoing theft of technology and IP poses a risk to the telecommunication infrastructure on which the U.S. and European allies "mutually depend."

"Competing with China allows us to have the courage to stand up for our shared values and to protect the rules-based order that has preserved the peace and enabled prosperity for the past 70 years," he said.

China and Russia have a mutual objective of disrupting the "international order by gaining a veto over other nations' economic, diplomatic and security decisions," Reuters quoted him as saying.

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