China is racing to catch up to the military superiority of the United States. It’s doing so by beefing up domestic innovation efforts in tandem with ongoing intellectual property theft efforts, according to a recent think tank report.
At the same time, the military arm of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is hindered by both the trappings of a socialist command economy and the inability to develop cutting-edge technology on its own, the RAND Corporation report (pdf) “Defense Acquisition in Russia and China” states.
“China’s reliance on intellectual property theft means its weapons are years behind, but the Chinese recognize that shortcoming and are investing in and growing organic capabilities through joint ventures and acquisition of foreign technology,” the June report reads.
The report, drafted for the U.S. Army, outlines how China is moving away from its standard model of copying other countries.
“Overall, the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] has overcome many technological barriers and is the clear pacing threat to the United States in defense acquisitions,” the report reads.
Theft and Acquisition
The Chinese innovation model for years has been to steal and replicate, which the RAND authors refer to as the “copy-replace model.” Many divisions of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are armed with replicates of other nations’ weaponry.
The report notes that Chinese aircraft bear striking similarities to their U.S. and Russian counterparts. Among the list of potential replicates are the American F-35 Lightning II and the similar-looking Chinese J-31 Gyrfalcon.
Another jet, known as the J-20 Mighty Dragon, is similar to the American F-22 Raptor. But according to the report, despite the J-20 going through relatively quick development, the report estimates that China is as far as 20 years behind the United States in military aviation.
On the ground, the PLA’s domestically produced standard service rifle of roughly the last 25 years, the QBZ-95, may soon be replaced by a copied model. The replacement, which is unofficially known as the QBZ-191, is a near copy of the Heckler and Koch 416, according to analysis from The Firearm Blog. This rifle is also strikingly similar to an AR-15.
BY DANIEL HOLL