Damn I came in here to say the same thing and feel sad at myself now too.
So not to be racial but from an American standpoint I liken it to hiring an American who happens to be Chinese versus an engineer from China.
For the first, they are American, their family is here, their life is here - where would they flee to?
For the latter, they're here temporarily most likely. So why not take the risk and get a big reward?
Well the issue is because of this stereotype, companies may not differentiate between the two, or may even pass up an amazing engineer from China because of their racial (well nationality) bias.
I remember reading about a couple incidences of American engineers(?) being falsely accused of stealing secrets which led to them being fired and shamed.
Those are just people, let's not lower our standards
I currently sell to autonomous vehicle (AV) companies and spoke to a number of them. I believe that (most) chinese-money backed AV startup set up "R&D" offices in silicon valley purely for the tech/IP transfer back to China. Just to give you an example, an engineer at one of them boasted to me how his colleague, who used to work at a brand-name-AV-company-you've-heard-of, copied code & provided access to all of it internally.
Although innovation in China might seem like a wild west to many Westerners, there's plenty of it happening there. It's impressive, extremely fast paced (10xSV), and deadly cut-throat. They know they're behind the US in AV and are playing catch up, with VC certainly knowing of & backing such approach.
Circling back to this story - just check who's backing XiaoPeng Motors/xmotors.ai: $700M in funding from GGV, Alibaba, IDG, Foxconn & others. All their R&D is in China, with a very small office in Palo Alto. What do you think the office here is for? I don't believe this fellow Xiaolang Zhang acted without Xiaopeng's "encouragement".
All of this being said, there are plenty of smart and honest engineers working on both sides of the Pacific to push the humanity forward. One could think though, maybe the more know-how transfer, the better for the entire world?
Now this was a hardware product with a weekly data feed, so not only did someone at the JV feed all the specs and source code to the Chinese company, they sent them weekly updates.
Needless to say, when confronted about this the company didn’t seem too surprised we found out, nor did the understand why everyone was so upset...
The common argument "there should be no anti-circumvention provisions" is compatible with a criticism of the described activities because the described activities would violate other provisions besides anti-circumvention provisions.
The common argument "patents should be weaker" is compatible with a criticism of the described activities because the described activities would be illegal due to copyright laws, trade secret laws, trademark laws, and contract laws. It's not even clear if there were any patents involved in this situation.
The less common argument "copyright should be abolished" could still be compatible with a criticism of the described activities because the described activities could be illegal due to trade secret laws, trademark laws, and contract laws.
I don't often hear criticism of trade secret laws or trademark laws.
B) I find nothing morally wrong with the idea that the company that finances, and the dozens of engineers that build an industry leading hardware appliance should be the ones who profit from it’s sale. I also don’t find any moral problems with the idea that an ongoing intelligence feed requiring the work of 6-8 highly trained specialists in their field also generate money solely for those engineers and the company.
Both of the above statements completely ignore the fact that this was an incident of trade secret theft. I don’t believe I ever mentioned copyright, nor do I see that as a primary violation here.
I'm almost at the point where I want to just flag articles like this because they have in recent months become a sordid data point pulling down the signal to noise ratio that is usually commendable on this site.
Occam's razor suggests that the person was motivated by greed, either his or the new firm's. Somehow, cultural attitudes about "cheating" being somehow explanatory here is absurd but that has become a key topic in this section. Why?
Not quite. This is stereotyping.
I’m not looking at data, so I don’t know the answer, but dismissing an apparent cultural/political tendency to engage in IP theft or espionage as “racist” is simplistic. HN loves to generalize about Americans and American companies and their practices, yet to do that with China is somehow racist? Regarding Chinese students — how do you think they get permission to study in the US? Chinese people don’t have unlimited freedom of travel. You have to be “approved” before they’ll let you study abroad. That “approval” has a lot to do with the political reliability of that person. So while it is fair to say all Chinese don’t agree with this sort of thing, it is fair to say that the Chinese that end up in US graduate programs represent a set of those who have demonstrated adherence to the CCP mindset.
Race doesn’t have anything to do with the discussion; it’s a cultural-political question and, culturally, mainland communist Chinese have a different viewpoint than international IP law upholds.
You rarely hear of a British person stealing secrets or British companies blatantly stealing sensitive IP. Is that because it happens far less frequently or because it doesn’t get reported?
It seems as if the Chinese way of doing business supports these sorts of situations and it seems that the Chinese cultural attitude towards IP is at odds with the very idea of IP. It’s fair to point that out. Flagging a legitimate story because you don’t like the racial implication is itself racist — you seem to be suggesting that we ought not to discuss this if the perpetrator is of a certain nationality because it might reflect badly on the country and it’s people. Censoring something because you object to the conclusions that might be fairly drawn is to limit the range of intellectual discussion.
Despite the seeming cooperation, China views the US as an adversary. It would be naïve to discount the critique of Chinese practices as simple racism.
We literally heard a story of a white American doing this exact thing just last year. Nobody complained about America's cultural/political tendencies. Even though there's plenty of academic cheating here. It was just about that white guy. The racism is in the double standard and confirmation bias.
That's the big deal. It's not racism, but of course most Chinese did not choose this organisation as their state, and they are where the rubber meets the road.
Or to put a more direct answer on: yes, Chinese steal IP at a much higher rate than others.
That said...my experience with Chinese graduate students has been incredibly disappointing. While they made up the majority of our graduate computer science program, most had no respect for academic conduct guidelines. I experienced this both as a student and a teacher, even having to meet with two Chinese students during my office hours to explain that they couldn’t turn in assignments they copied from others. They had explicitly asked me if this was okay, so I was happy to inform them.
I would venture to say that there is a cultural disconnect with the Chinese when it comes to the idea of intellectual property. I obviously cannot speak from experience, but it seems the political atmosphere in China probably contributes to this a lot.
I would love to learn more about how Chinese engineers (in the USA and abroad) feel about this.
Last note: has anyone looked at the website or Twitter account of the company this person is moving to? Their website is completely devoid of any actual information, and their Twitter account is a mix of horrible car mock-ups and announcements about their company raising millions in venture capital. ???
I would much more strongly link it to the fact that academic success and workplace success leads to high economic again and societal standing. This is fostered at an early age and progresses all throughout life. The gaokao  is a striking example of just how much pressure goes into academics in particular:
> Suicides are a regular feature of every exam season; a 2014 study claimed that exam stress was a contributing factor in 93% of cases in which school students took their own lives. Last year, a middle school in Hebei province fenced off its upper-floor dormitory balconies with grates, after two students jumped to their deaths in the months leading up to the gaokao.
Given that many classes don't have an impact on the end career (or at least, many feel this way), it's unsurprising that students would rather cheat on the "less important" work that they just need to pass, versus what they actually find valuable.
I don't think it's correlated to IP. Just societal expectations and norms.
When they received their graded exams back the cheating student came up to my friend yelling at him for making him miss points due to the answers he copied from my friend being incorrect.
Of course we embellished the story over the years where the guy was yelling all kinds of things and about how he ruined his life, etc.
In my undergrad days, long ago now, cheating was rampant throughout the (overwhelmingly white and male) CS student body.
One professor, whom I admired, got fed up with this. He handed back a particular assignment to his class, ungraded, with the code of conduct stapled to each student's submission. He then pointedly told the class that if anyone needed to come and tell him anything after class, he would be in his office. This move was the talk of the dorms for weeks.
But nothing really came of it. This stern warning no doubt caused some fear and anguish among those affected, but that was the extent of it. Nobody got expelled, flunked the course, or had their record damaged in any way.
This is just an anecdote. I certainly don't have any data on the prevalence of cheating, or on differences in attitudes toward cheating, among Chinese versus other students. But I'd be surprised if there is a measurable difference. In my experience, everyone is completely shameless and nobody faces any real consequences even when they are caught red-handed.
That's why exams exist. Make them hard. People who do the homework will succeed. Others won't.
We're too afraid of making people fail.
I’m ideologically against exams. For many they are stressful, and they don’t represent any real life scenario as you will always have access to reference material on the job.
Good. They should be stressful. I don't want people who can't handle stress being doctors or engineers. Out in the field they will have to make decisions that will not just be "look it up in the reference manual."
And it's not like you can't have reference materials on exams. All of my engineering exams were open reference. It didn't matter.
However, I only ever TAed for undergraduate courses, where a much larger portion of Chinese students were from the subset with international educations / who were better able to culturally assimilate. And going to a school that was hard to get in to, typically you need to be very impressive to get in as a Chinese international student (or from a powerful family, preferably both) regardless.
At a similarly selective program for graduate school, the Chinese students were, for lack of a better term, more "Chinese" culturally and more insular. I wouldn't be surprised if cheating were worse. But there's also the fact that graduate CS programs are less discerning of international applicants' credentials/pedigree
(Another anecdote) I just finished my CompSci bachelor (majority white) and everyone talks about copying each others work like it's casual conversation. Only friends share work with each other when they can be sure to alter it enough. Everything you said there, being widespread, blatant, not caring, shameless, were the exact same descriptions of those in my program.
If anything, it sounds like it's more politically incorrect to generalize white people as having these traits because I've only ever heard people generalize Asian/Chinese students. Why is it when one group does it it's okay, but another it's wrong?
>Students from China were singled out by many faculty members interviewed. “Cheating among Chinese students, especially those with poor language skills, is a huge problem,” said Beth Mitchneck, a University of Arizona professor of geography and development.
and the second quote is anecdotal. it might be easier to spot the cheater who doesn't write english well if their papers are obviously better written than the student speaks.
it would simply be more difficult to catch cheaters who speak and write english fluently.
it's possible that chinese students cheat more in school, even a significant amount more, even their style of cheating may be drastically different, but I still find it somewhat strange that that gets so much focus in a system that is like what cycling used to be:
And everyone talks about it! Why else would we, on an article about _industrial espionage_, get to uni students copying homework?
Acting like this is some sort of chinese predilection instead of a thing that happens all the time everywhere is not intellectually honest.
I'm simply saying that it shouldn't be framed as a problem with Chinese culture because it is a problem in all human cultures. That's all.
But I tend to view it in the context of Feynman's remarks about Brazilians (who I've also had the pleasure of working with and being enlightened by) .
Even if there is some cultural resistance, there will always be exceptions, depending how you choose to select from that data.
Personally, I value those traits that choose certain value over others. Being right (with the qualification of being right, rather than appearing right) is essential for a good engineer.
I don't think any country has a monopoly on good engineers or on bad. The best we can do is engage these like minds and cultivate a shared appreciation of the Good.
I think politics (from the education level up) makes it hard to question the cultural norm, I find there are plenty of folks who hold "correctness" a higher value than compliance.
All this said as a white guy looking in and lucky enough to have found aligned mentalities among the folks I've worked with.
The podcast (I listened to it a long time back) goes into how the Hoverboard invention was fueled in late-night drinking sessions by Chinese engineers / businesspeople trying to make a more accessible and more fun and less dorky Segway. All those people bounced ideas off each other and made incremental improvements to get to the form that was commercialized by umpteen companies. Maybe this product was developed in a prototypical "Chinese model" where ideas are cheap, widely shared or purloined, improved on, reverse-engineered, etc. -- with the obvious downsides of rushing low-quality products to market that are subject to exploding batteries with no accountability.
Back when I did business in Asia, we had a cultural training session before our group went over. We were told that in certain Asian nations, especially China but to a lesser extent South Korea and Thailand, the concept of copying someone else's work or intellectual property as a bad thing is foreign. Instead, the cultural feeling is that copying someone else's work is a subtle way of honoring them and their work.
Our consultants said that South Korea was growing out of this phase in its development, the way Japan did decades earlier. In both nations because the growth of home-grown ideas gave intellectual property cultural worth.
Perhaps over the next 30 years, China will also learn to respect other people's property as it develops into a modern industrial power.
This was a couple of decades ago, though. Things might be different now.
> learn to respect other people's property
Are these two not conflicting? If they feel inspired to use other's work as a way of honoring them, isn't that similar to them respecting their work?
I'm just confused because it sounds like most of the time it's a matter of perspective. If you think from the way you've been brought up that what they're doing is disrespecting other's property, but they see it as respecting - is there a right/wrong?
Life is messy.
As I said in the original comment, other countries have felt the same way, but their views changed as they began to value intellectual property more. Is that right or wrong? The truth is fluid.
Being a TA for undergrad courses this pattern is very common. Other group that consistently gets caught was guys from ME. East Europeans cheat but they almost always put enough effort to make it hard to catch.
Thing is that universities do not prosecute this at all. I have seen people graduate who I think never submitted their own assignment at all.
Additional thing is that “community” usually has all the tests for last 10 years and profs don’t change them that much. So they memorize the whole thing which is enough to get passing grade.
There was one Math prof that I adored who would put clever traps into his tests. Every single time he would catch people.. and they would not learn. Still graduated.
Said prof I mentioned had this thing where he would give basically identical test to test in lets say 4 years ago. But there would be couple tiny changes, like index of summation using j instead of k, maybe addition -1 term somewhere.
Like clockwork EVERY single time at least 15-20 people out of class of 100 would get nailed. Since he had tenure and been around for like 30 years he did not give a shit he would fail them all. So all of these guys would take this course as correspondence course in other school.
It's now roughly 50% Chinese and this has caused some issues, although it's not something that can be discussed.
I always thought this was a bit strange because I’m sure most software developers could transform a piece of source code so that it would not appear to be a copy.
Sounds like the cheat itself would make a decent project for the compiler class.
The culture in universities are generally more relaxed with processes being more open as compared to high schools. This is more pronounced in China with college entrance exams being the most stressful and rigorous process that decides your future. So when students join colleges (China or US), they would no longer feel restricted by the rigorous curriculum and exams in high school. Like a spring that has been pressed for very long time, they would "bounce back" and neglect their school work, sometimes going too far into cheating.
While this issue in generally applicable anywhere, China's college entrance exam makes it worse for Chinese students entering college. On top of that, overseas colleges are farther from their families and friends so they feel even less restrictions and easily steer into wrong paths.
The other point to consider is that part of the overseas Chinese student body consists of rich kids whom their parents sent to overseas in search of better education. They might not have the same aptitude as others who studied hard and passed exams to go overseas hence resort more to cheating.
That's kinda selective bias. Only these students have higher chance of making it to the U.S. lol
It seems weird to us but it’s worked well for them. And while our system might seem better, or at the very least “normal” it certainly has its flaws (i.e. patent trolling).
There is probably some middle ground we could come to in the future but the US is completely unwilling to budge from its position. The Chinese simply don’t even understand what that is. How can someone own an idea? Especially one which is just a fundamental truth. Think about that for a second. Think about it as if you were a child. It’s kind of strange. We grow up in the US being taught that we can own just about anything, and to the exclusion of all others, and then we develop systems to promote and protect this. That’s definitely something you can do (as we do) but there is nothing natural about it.
I wouldn't say everyone thinks this way but the cultural mindset is definitely there. You also have to understand that they don't use american software in China really - things like youtube, amazon, facebook are all under the great firewall. They have baido, taibo, alibaba, wechat, etc. You can still get rehosted content elsewhere though from those sites.
As a side note, if I ever want to find the latest version of a computer science textbook in PDF format its almost always hosted on a chinese person's github account.
It's quite an interesting read.
“Apple grew more suspicious after seeing his increased network activity and visits to the office before he resigned, according to the complaint.”
May I remind everyone that not so long ago another guy was caught red-handed downloading autonomous vehicle IP from a major SV firm to take with him to a new company. He was a white American.
I don't recall hearing much about rampant cheating at top U.S. universities as a cultural norm where "note-sharing and consulting teaching fellows was widespread." Or how lack of respect for academic conduct guidelines at top technical universities was so deeply ingrained in the culture that "many students... turned in identical solutions" while seeming confused by the very concept of "what constitutes cheating."
I don't recall hearing anecdotes from ex-TAs about how while they are of course encountered tons of honest white guys, frat bros as a group have a reputation for being notorious cheaters that just don't seem to hold themselves to the same standards of intellectual honesty that we do. Must be the high-pressure, status-obsessed cultures they come from.
No, the commentary here was mostly focused on just that one white guy.
Currently we allow innovative firms to pay a lot of money for engineers who then develop unique and great products that carry a premium. This applies pretty much across the developed world.
If "IP theft" is allowed to occur at any decent scale, every market will rapidly become a race to the bottom, and premium products will simply cease to exist, with a lot of casualties in both the companies involved and the engineers doing development.
So what does it have to do with China, and Chinese nationals ? Well simple: the Chinese government has large-scale corporate espionage as a stated goal  and has gotten caught red-handed in more than a few cookie jars, for example  ... that is seriously at odds with the goals of, frankly, every engineer and company worldwide (even Chinese ones). Note that in most cases, this appears to be not "actual" corporate espionage, but it is actually the state organizing large-scale corporate espionage (and sabotage in some cases), then going out to Chinese companies and actually forcing them to use the stolen data.
The predictable response is of course that engineers, companies, management and even unions will start systematically boycotting anything to do with the Chinese state, and that includes Chinese nationals' job prospects. This does not reflect on them, except insofar as they support this disgraceful state policy, but there is no alternative.
The ideal solution would be that Chinese people start sabotaging and striking and ... until the Chinese state gets the message. That's what SHOULD happen. After that, trust can be earned again. When the Chinese state starts cooperating and imposing large scale fines on companies caught duplicating products with stolen data, then this can end.
Obviously the current situation cannot exist for any real length of time without ever more serious consequences.
Now I get it, the Chinese state is trying very hard to confuse acting against their spying with "racism" (funny that given their ethnic and religious policies in China that that is not considered disgraceful. This is Hitler berating countries for not treating Jews well (which, incidentally, he did do, hell, he even had a point))
I fear that one day we will wake up and realise that we are behind, to discover that our friends in China have been innovating.
We have had this already with internet infrastructure. Whilst half of the USA and rural UK struggle along with internet served over fifty year old copper cables, in Eastern Europe, after the fall of the wall, countries such as Estonia were able to leapfrog typical Western infrastructure and lay fibre to the door for everyone. They might not have done so with Estonian made Cisco routers, however having this leapfrogged infrastructure in place fostered an environment of innovation - Skype being from Estonia.
In automotive there is a real risk for Western auto companies that they will not be able to compete with the electric cars that will be coming out of China. Chinese electric cars could be cosy and a really nice space to be in during one's commute, like an extension of one's living room and a good place to get work done. Meanwhile Western alternatives might still be trying to be yesteryear's status symbols, e.g. 'sporty' cars where the fake exhaust note, theoretical time around the Nurburgring and whatever else excites geriatric Top Gear presenters 'matters'.
A new generation of Western consumer might not want these 'dad cars' and just might prefer whatever comes out of China. There may be cheap plastics in these cars, they may not even have self-driving, but the sum of the parts, price and reliability might trump Western alternatives. We have had this before with VW and Japanese compact cars gouging out the U.S. Big Three. There was no rocket science in the VW Beetle but it was a better buy than what Detroit was offering at the time. Putting up tariffs and complaining about the Japanese merely copying didn't really help.
As much as we'd all like if every country to got along with one another, if we find ourselves in that position I'm sure the intel agencies will get it in gear.
Maybe the war on terror has to die before we really turn and see the threat that China poses.
Why do all that when you can skip to printing money by knocking off something that already sells?
They can, but why should they when the world will innovate for them? They have nuclear weapons and most of the world's manufacturing base already, they do it because can get away with it.
1.The government do promote innovation in a violent way and lays-down a lot of infrastructure. Start-up has hence became fashionable to do and they did produce a lot of useful product for domestic consumption which is a different playing field. A lot of time they don't need to go global (china have a bigger mobile game market than the US for instance) and that is part of the reason a lot of the products are not visible to the world.
2. Form my experience with Chinese start-ups they haven't accumulated the design thinking and attention to detail as SV does. They also lack the history of CS as the INTERNET got popular in china in the late 1990s. One exception of such lack of richness is DJI as the founder is dedicated and brought good culture.
So in short the Chinese are trying very hard, government are helping. They have the brain power but lacks richness and system to make real innovation, also sometimes they have no need to go global.
It's dramatically faster and cheaper to steal than to invest decades and countless billions of dollars doing it the hard way.
The only way China can fully stand toe to toe with the US in the next two decades or so, is to aggressively plunder beneficial IP wherever they can. There has been no serious consequence for them doing so the past 30 years of their rise. It's not below their dignity, because the mission overrules all. They'll continue doing it until the cost is too high; their calculation is probably that by that point they will already be fully self-sustaining as a superpower. At that point they'll show you the door if you have a problem with it (or worse).
China very carefully plays by the hide your power and bide your time strategy. Xi recently admonished state media about bragging too heavily; that's all about playing down their strength. China's ideal is to play it down until they're strong enough so as to be beyond a reasonable challenge by other powers (at least in their sphere of influence, Asia broadly).
Engineers and innovators growing up in such environment are naturally not adverse to cutting corners to reach their goals quickly.
However I have to add that, given the huge population of China, the top 0.1% can still be enormous, and once China learn to discard its shardy attitudes, they can race ahead rapidly.
I'd argue they're probably right, barring some massive financial crisis.
There are more middle class people in china than there are in total in the US - they're buying cars, taking vacations, and generally being a huge driver of consumer goods throughout the world. I don't see the US keeping up except at being 1. already rich, and 2. generally home to new innovations. We'll be the R&D lab of the world, but we won't be the primary economic driver.
China should on average has 4x more people stealing tech than US, based on pure population numbers.
Even Chinese are 75% less likely to innovate, that's as many innovators as the US.
> Their other homegrown products such as WeChat and Xiaomi seem pretty competitive and very catered to the local market.
Well obviously they can based on the second sentence you wrote.