By Vladimir Fedorov | VOR
The passions around the US Congress’ suspicions of espionage activity of the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE have yet to settle down when a new scandal on the same basis flared up. The US authorities have arrested a Chinese citizen who planned to smuggle carbon fiber out of the country to be used by the Chinese Air Force.
That material is used by the US defense and aviation industries. The Chinese told an undercover intelligence officer that the material was required for the planned test flight of a fighter plane. The Chinese citizen was arrested during the transfer of the sample.
His lawyer claims somebody framed an honest entrepreneur. If the court finds him guilty of violating the law that limits the export of carbon fiber, he could be sentenced to a 20-year prison term.
It is no secret that industrial espionage is widespread all over the world. China is also involved in it, says Vladimir Yevseev, the director of the Center of Socio-Political Studies: “It is absolutely clear why China does it. It wants to catch up with the world and it is ready to do it.
China managed to make copies of all types of the Russian ground forces’ weapons. Now it is working on a domestic version of the portable surface-to-air missile complex Stinger. China has managed to make a copy of the long-range cruise missile X55 and the Topol missile complex. China’s capabilities, as far as making copies goes, are unlimited.
One must understand that China first makes a copy, but then it will be ahead of everybody. That is what the West is really afraid of.”
In that respect China’s interest in new materials used in the US aviation industry is quite understandable. This area is one of the priorities of China’s military-industrial complex. It faces the task of not only catching up with the US, but also of being able to compete with the US in the air.
This is where in particular the escalation of the fifth generation fighter aircraft program is coming from. Two prototypes of the new aircraft are being created in parallel – one in Chengdu, and the other one in Shenyang. They compliment each other and each has its own market niche and military task. As experts believe, the Shenyang version of the fighter aircraft is specifically designed to be based on aircraft carriers.
In that respect experts point out that China is the only country in the world that is working on two parallel programs to develop the fifth generation aircraft. Neither the US, nor Russia has allowed itself such a luxury. The European Union decided not to work on fifth generation fighter aircraft at all.
On the other hand, China’s breakthrough in developing its Air Force can be delayed due to the problems with the engine. China does not have at its disposal the whole chain of technologies for an independent production of the engines for the fifth generation aircraft.
Even for the fourth generation fighter aircraft that are the basis of the Chinese Air Force, the majority of engines are purchased from Russia. Thus it is possible that China would require foreign assistance. The US and Europe will never transfer such technologies to China that have double application – they are covered by the export embargo.
In addition, it is not in the US’ interest to strengthen its main competitor in the sky over the Pacific Ocean. In this case new espionage scandals are not out of the question.