Taiwan, Micron, and China’s Economic Theft

This article first appeared in Taiwan’s Do Post.

This last week, United States Department of Justice and Taiwanese Ministry of Justice cooperated to indict United Microelectronics Corp., China state-owned Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co. Ltd and three former Micron Technologies employees.

This is just the most recent example of China’s drive to dominate global economics and technology. Above all, it shows the sad truth of the lengths China will go to steal intellectual property. China’s “Made in China 2025” initiative should be of concern not only to the United States and Taiwan, but to every country around the world that values their intellectual property.

If China’s goal was to simply bolster their economy through technological development, that would be one thing. Instead, as Vice President Pence recently pointed out in a speech to the Hudson Institute, “to win the commanding heights of the 21st Century economy, Beijing has directed its bureaucrats and businesses to obtain American intellectual property – the foundation of our economic leadership – by any means necessary.”

The most recent charges are just one example of China’s ‘by any means necessary’ policy, but more than that, it is a positive example of what can be done between the United States and Taiwan to effectively lead the international response to deter the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing economic theft.

The immediate and proactive cooperation by the Government of Taiwan in bringing these individuals and those they represent to justice was an incredibly important sign. More than any other country, Taiwan knows the nature and scope of the CCP’s efforts to infiltrate democratic countries with the aim of stealing talent and intellectual property and influencing their politics. This example of cooperation is a strong demonstration of the potential for Taiwan and its international partners to cooperate and share best practices in meeting this challenge.

This was a win for the United States and Taiwan, but make no mistake, the challenge posed by the CCP is as extensive and broad as laid out by Vice President Pence. What makes the threat unique is the extent to which they are challenging all free societies and economic competitors through international institutions, within China, and even within our own countries. As the international community increasingly becomes aware of the nature and scope of this challenge, Taiwan will have a unique opportunity to enhance its international position, escaping the CCP’s squeeze on Taiwan’s international space.

These recent events demonstrate the positive value of cooperation between the United States and Taiwan, but also underscore the risks to Taiwan and its citizens if they are perceived to have too close an association with China. Because of the kind of activity involved in this Micron case, much of the international community is seeing China in an increasingly negative light. To the extent that Taiwan is mistaken as being a part of China (a false impression reinforced by international media, government officials, supposed experts and the name “Republic of China”), Taiwan runs the risk of being perceived as a part of the problem rather than a part of the solution.

It is more important than ever to make clear to the world that Taiwan is Taiwan and not part of China. It is a nation of free and law abiding people, who are willing partners in promoting the prosperity of all who partner with its people. And it will relentlessly protect the intellectual property of all who invest in its companies.

Both the United States and Taiwan need to be vigilant about the threat that China poses. Vice President Pence later said in his speech at the Hudson Institute “We will continue to take action until Beijing ends the theft of American intellectual property, and stops the predatory practice of forced technology transfer.” It is not just American intellectual property that China seeks to steal, and fighting back against their predatory practices is a cause that the United States, Taiwan, and countries around the world can unite behind.