AP NEWS

US to China: Don’t steal trade secrets the way we used to do

March 28, 2019
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FILE- This undated image provided by the Smithsonian Institution shows Samuel Slater's Spinning frame that is part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Slater of Derbyshire, had apprenticed under a leading British industrialist. Figuring his prospects were brighter across the Atlantic, Slater disguised himself as a farmer, boarded a ship to the United States, signed on with a business owner in Rhode Island and replanted Britain’s cutting-edge cotton-spinning technology on American soil. In the United States, he was sometimes called “the father of the American Industrial Revolution.’’ (Eric Long/National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The upstart nation was a den of intellectual piracy. One of its top officials urged his countrymen to steal and copy foreign machinery. Across the ocean, a leading industrial power tried in vain to guard its trade secrets from the brash young rival.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the rogue nation was the United States. The official endorsing thievery was Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. And the main victim was Britain.

Now, the United States accuses China of the very sort of illicit practices that helped America leapfrog European rivals and emerge as an industrial giant.

“The message we are sending to China today is, Do as I say, not as I did,′ ” said Peter Andreas, professor at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.