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Huawei’s Yearslong Rise Is Littered with Accusations of Theft and Dubious Ethics (wsj.com)
154 points by chvid 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 107 comments



I am amazed on how weak the accusations are. A ringtone? Some guy who thinks he can patent the idea of a camera attached to a smartphone?

A hitpiece like this could have been written about just about any big tech company. And it is leaving out the story of how Huawei committed its true crime: That within some fields (5G notably) it is today a lot more advanced and cheaper than its competitors.


They note that Huawei's patent contained Quintel's name in the documents. How are those accusations weak? Seems like impressively strong evidence.

Between T-mobile's tappy (resulted in indictment), Quintel's antennas, CNEX Labs, Tekelec Inc, motorola, cisco source, and Akhan Semiconductor's Diamond Glass[1](unmentioned in this piece) seems like there is quite a bit of evidence that Huawei has a company wide directive to steal IP.

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-02-04/huawei-st...


Don't forget nortel who used to employ 140,000 people including myself. Now the goverment occupies their offices.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/former-nortel-exec-warns-ag...


Huawei is a massive org which does tons of technical work, and beyond a handful of things it's already down to ring tones, which only shows how desperate the accusers are.

You might as accuse Google of ip theft due to that Oracle/Java thing. Or Americans of it since I'm sure it's happening at some level, eg Uber from waymo lawsuit.


I talked to a senior Huawei exec and he said that tappy is not a good example of IP theft. The tester literally attempted to walk out with the machine. You can't get any more sloppy then that.

Instead he said that the worker was really pressured by his bosses into delivering results.

That's not to say that there are broader problems with IP theft at Huawei though.


Trying to confirm your point: because the company was careless in letting an employee walk out, this was a lesser theft?

I haven’t heard a case where a burglar gets a reduced sentence because the house was left unlocked.

The fact that this comes from a Huawei senior exec speaks a lot about their company culture.


It seems like you went in with preconceived notions about the subject. Either way you chose maybe the least relevant example of Huawei's activities in your straw man construction of a counter argument to the article. The first two paragraphs alone detail attempts at massive exfiltration of proprietary information that dwarfs issues of a camera-phone patent.

If Huawei's crime is cheaper products, it got there on the back of millions upon millions of dollars worth of R&D costs it was able to circumvent by theft of IP. Even were I to grant your claim that "any big tech company" does this (they don't-- see multi-billion dollar IP licensing agreements as evidence that such theft is less common than you claim) but even if I granted that claim, it wouldn't make this a satisfactory state of affairs. Embezzlement is somewhat common as well, but criminals don't get a pass for that theft when they're caught as a result of ubiquity of the crime. Neither should Huawei.


> It seems like you went in with preconceived notions about the subject.

This rather seems more applicable to the wsj and you. The op points out how weak some of these claims are, which is a sign that the wsj is desperately throwing everything at the wall and hope something sticks. This figures given they're a largely conservative pub prone to supporting the gop/Trump econ policy, which I might add a disturbing proportion of techies are sympathetic towards.

What's particularly revealing about this issue is how many parrot the "stealing" talking point while at same time going on in the past about how software shouldn't be patented etc. Basically it shows they want to be able to use the ideas of others but not vice versa when they're getting beat, typical hypocrisy.


Your last paragraph makes little sense. You can advocate for a world where software shouldn't be patented, while still respecting existing IP laws.

Thinking everyone should play by the same rules, even if you disagree with those rules, is not hypocritical in the slightest.


The OP literally picked the most shallow of the IP theft claims, and nothing else, to critique the article. That is not pointing out how weak the article is, that is setting up a straw man of the article's claims in order to knock it down.

There's also no need to risk derailing a discussion of the merits of the article by inserting opinions about presidential politics. The proportion of techies supporting Trump is irrelevant to the more narrow question of whether or not Huawei has stolen IP, and if the potential theft is what has facilitated their leap in front of competition.

And yes, I did go into the article with preconceived notions because I was already very much aware of the details of their activities over the years. The OP chose to gloss over nearly every piece of content in favor of an emotional argument that people don't like Huawei because they are successful.

So let's boil this down: the OP chose the weakest example, and an emotional argument. I provided a more detailed counter argument. Your response is also an emotional one, that you don't like that people sharing my point of view tend to support Trump. Again, these do not comprise a cogent contribution to a discussion on the merits of the article.

And since you brought it up, I am heavily liberal in outlook, dislike nearly all Trump policy, and dislike the current state of IP law. That doesn't preclude me from believing Huawei acted improperly. There's nothing hypocritical is saying, "I don't like the current law, I think it should be changed. But it is the law, and breaking it is still more damaging to society and the rule of law than respecting it and pushing for change."


The most amusing part is that Huawei developed 5G tech on its own - nokia has shit and e/// is not better. Even in regards of 4G massive MIMO tech - Huawei is years ahead of other, they couldn't steal this tech from anyone - because one one had it.


It's rather more trivial to leapfrog an existing technology when you're able to steal & learn from all of the IP it's based on and then target your R&D efforts accordingly. You don't have to suffer the organizational difficulties of sunk costs, path dependency, legacy systems, etc. So even if their equipment is more advanced, they still got there on the back of massive IP theft.


Isn't this why most people on HN and in the tech community writ-large oppose patents in tech? Faster innovation happens when IP protections aren't holding back innovation.


I would myself advocate for looser patent grants. It seems wasteful that separate companies must redundantly spend resources treading down the same worn pathways. However, a system that circumvents that redundancy would require radically different & collaborative R&D arrangements to function equitably. In its absence, and in the presence of a system where single entities spend their own resources on development, IP theft is damaging. It assists in undercutting the bottom line and even driving out of business those companies that have been stolen from.


A level playing field is more important than any hairbrained theories I might(do) have about IP law. Far worse than tech patents and copyright are tech patents and copyright that only apply to some companies but not others.


By this point, the US patent system can be considered a self inflicted wound. It's not like there have been decades of activists trying to take it down.

Maybe the US could have a cheap 5G vendor, if it had abolished patents decades ago, but now it's too late, the cat is out of the bag.


Part of me hopes we will see some IP reform. I can’t imagine China sees the patent trolls and high price of drugs and thinks “yea that’s the system of the future”


Are you inferring that we let their continued violation a system we both agreed to, while following it ourselves, slide, because it kinda resembles your philosophy from a hazy distance?


If some of us were trying to reform a defective system in the first place, then yes we’d rather the world didn’t just finalize on hamstringing the pace of innovation for the future.


> Huawei is years ahead of other, they couldn't steal this tech from anyone - because one one had it.

Sources? I just spent 10+ minutes reading into this and only 2 out of the 10 i looked at suggested that and they were dubious at best. This one [0] had a decent overlook of the various companies but it didn't say anything at who was leading which isn't too surprising since I also cannot find any sources showing any company whatsoever actually deploying 5g en mass. Mostly just companies deploying lone cell towers to run tests and claim they have 5g.

[0]: https://www.greyb.com/companies-working-on-5g-technology/


That may partly be because a lot of r&d departments that used to be there are now long gone because Huawei put them out of business. Not just by stealing but because it was nearly impossible to compete with a company who were backed again and again by the Chinese government despite failing many times.


What is wrong with being backed by the government? Also, Wikipedia article on Echelon mentions a case of alleged industrial espionage by US: [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECHELON#Examples_of_industrial...


Curious, did you actually read the article? The first paragraph alone notes much more significant issues. Later the article highlights things like Huawei stealing Cisco code, including all their bugs. I'm all for being critical and trying to stay objective as much as possible, but bluntly ignoring some of these issues won't help either.


Ladies and gentlemen: products/firmware cloned so brazenly they have the same bugs, patents filed using documents from their rivals, operatives caught with thousands of confidential documents... "weak accusations".

Huawei's baggage regarding IP theft is notorious, this article is nothing new, you can easily find others all the way back to 2003 when the Cisco/Huawei feud started getting coverage.

What would be more productive is finding out if this is a case of chickens coming home to roust (now that Huawei has gone from B-grade/discount vendor to A-lister and a different level of accountability is expected), or if they're just yet another chip in the US-China trade war, as ZTE were last year.


Why is the camera attachment not a patentable idea> Huawei also holds patents for seemingly obvious things.

https://patents.justia.com/patent/20190155499 https://patents.justia.com/patent/20190158530


My friends in telcom from years ago would regularly tell us about H techs who would come install equipment. And while doing so would disassemble every rack and switch in the room and photograph everything.

Thats an unprovable allegation, but I know these folks to be reliable sources of information. Having read about the internal incentives for techs providing IP intel and outright rewarding of theft, I'm convinced.


Why wouldn’t Huawei just buy a switch? Why would the customer tolerate someone spending 10x longer on an install and taking apart all their other crap? For that matter why were they able to take apart the other switches at all? Wouldn’t that have taken the system down? Were they storing inactive equipment in their live rack? None of this makes a lot of sense.


I have no idea myself. Speculating, but at the top policy level, perhaps they did just that (why not?). At the field tech level, maybe they were photographing "just in case".

Also, I assume by disassembling racks, they were cataloging which equipment was used, and its configuration. It's akin to snooping a competitors shop to see their process, as much as their equipment.

Again, I'm foggy on details since I wasn't there, but these guys are not surprised by alleged IP theft and stories of incentivized theft after their experiences. I don't have the insight to think really hard about the motivations of the H techs, and this is just colloquial / anecdotal so don't expect yourself to be convinced.


Yeah, the only way I can see that happening is if there's a bunch of unused equipment in the room that you can take apart without unplugging - but since when do you let a bunch of foreign techs hang out in one of your server rooms by themselves? Not likely.


According to these guys, they'd come in to do an installation at 2-3AM (standard time for maintaining a cell network), but security was lax and they would be left to do their own thing mostly unsupervised. These were smaller shops that were later bought out by the big handful recognize today. They were dumb. Maybe they let it happen, but it takes two to tango.

According to the particular story that I might be foggy on, the engineer responsible for the station and surrounding stations came in to check in on the installation unannounced, and the people on site were not really aware or concerned that they were in back working. The engineer found out what was going on, and everyone shrugged, saying that what harm could they do, etc etc.


> Why wouldn’t Huawei just buy a switch?

Maybe they weren't allowed to? Telecom equipment isn't exactly mass market stuff you can anonymously buy at a local Best Buy, and a competitor would undoubtedly be squeamish selling direct to the compeition. If Huawei wanted to buy one, they'd probably need to do it through a front company. However, their IP-theft MO seems to be very opportunistic.


Anecdote. May be untrue. Don't trust everything you read online, etc.

A friend was a 7 year Ericsson employee (ending in 2012). In his opinion, Ericsson's networking equipment was universally acknowledged as having slow deployment times. Nokia's stuff was much faster to deploy. When Huawei hired the ex-Nokia engineers at 2.5x their previous salary, they asked them how Nokia did particular tasks. The engineer would say 'The best way of doing this is...' and get cut off: 'we want to know exactly how Nokia does this, not anything different'. All the Nokia customers moved to Huawei's kit. After a couple of years of extraction Huawei would fire the ex-Nokia engineer saying 'we have everything we need from you'.

Again, might be bullshit.


I remember reading an article about how a Chinese company would hire European bakers to demonstrate how they bake breads ad nauseum until they could reproduce and automate each steps perfectly.

The thinking was "they [chinese] have no imagination so they stick to known processes and don't deviate".

Don't really know what to make of that.


What to make of that is it's a racist belief that Western people hide behind to convince themselves that sure, Chinese people might be smarter, but it's a rote-memorization non-creative type of intelligence and China will never be a leader. They're wrong, and they'll be blindsided by their own racist underestimation.


I see it much more in the context of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.

Do you want to know how good authentic European bread is made? You ask European bakers to show it to you and then replicate.

Accusing a whole people of a "lack of imagination" is way too reductive a statement.

Case in point: I'm sure Chinese noodle-makers could show European cooks a trick or two, just like Europeans stole a trick or two about porcelain making from the Chinese.


I think historically that was true: at various points in history knowledge of pottery, silk making, literal tea plants and silk worms were “stolen” from China. I’m sure the current leadership remembers those lessons.


I visited the Toyota factory in japan and they talked about how they imported a Chevrolet car and took it apart to replicate it to get started.

Then there’s Japanese whisky, denim, music, etc... all extremely high end now.


Which is why this trope about China ruling the world is crap. Generally speaking they are good at copying, reverse engineering, and cheap labor. The country's MO is to steal designs and process and implement better. When the west finally figures out how to stop letting China steal/copy - then the West will continue innovating, and China won't have anything to make.


Except the same empty arguments were made against Japan, and were levelled against the nations producing the imported cotton cloth that people were starting to buy in preference to long established Lancashire cotton mills.

"Don't buy Japanese electronics or motorcycles, they only make poor cheap copies" would be commonly heard in the seventies and early eighties. They easily - and quickly - moved past that phase, as will China. They mostly already have.

In each case the complaining nations have been happy to supply tooling and equipment to enable this.


I absolutely don't know anyone who was saying that about Japanese electronics in the 1970s in my part of US flyover country. Sony was considered to be one of the very best in the world, and my family was greatly disappointed in the 1980s when Sony moved a lot of manufacturing to Mexico and they had to fix many cold solder joints on TV sets. If you wanted a good reel to reel tape deck, Teac was your first choice.

One thing left out of this formulation is that it was realized at some point, certainly by the 1970s for electronics, that the Japanese added "and improve", which no one says about the Chinese. Who are said to have a pattern more than a century old of steadily decreasing quality until the customer complains. Different culture, vastly different societal trust levels, Japan high, China low, different results.


Maybe US experience was different - I certainly remember that impression through the seventies, and the reputation mainly being with the Euro makes - Dual, Grundig, Quad, Tannoy etc.

Sony TV had reputation for poor colour. I think they modified their NTSC designs to PAL, or shared something with the US standard. Enough to be noticed by customers anyway. That reputation stuck around a while, but was fading when Walkman arrived (early 80s?), and by the end of the decade they had a solid reputation among the best TVs. Couldn't tell you when they adopted PAL "properly". By the end of the 80s, Japanese makes had cornered the mass market, and were chipping away at the higher end, and many of the Euro brands fading, or disappearing.


Sounds like it. None of the brand names you mention were known in my part of the US at the time, and I don't even recognize any of them today except for Gundig.

For TVs, Japan very conveniently for the US shares the same NSTC standard, their only issue is that half of Honshuu, the big island, is on 50 cycle power, the other on 60 cycles (both at 110-120V for consumers like the US with our 60 cycle power). So with their two biggest markets being satisfied with the same gear, I can well imagine the fragmented European market suffering.

Note also SECAM for France, countries it influenced, and apparently Eastern Europe per Wikipedia either initially so its subjects under Soviet domination couldn't receive PAL signals from across the Iron Curtain, or because it's insensitive to amplitude and phase variations from long cable or microwave links.

What about radios? While Sony pioneered the small and inexpensive lo-fi radio with their own transistors, this was very big in the 1950s through the 1960s, but by the time I was paying attention in the 1970s no Japanese company had a commanding lead in radios in the US, they were pretty much a low end commodity by then, except for shortwave sets, which weren't big in the US by then.

The first Walkman was released in Japan in 1979, the brand and general format was very big in the US by the early 1980s: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walkman

Sony and Phillips also closely collaborated on the Compact Disc, its capacity was supposedly dictated by one Sony guy's insistence that Beethoven's Ninth Symphony as conducted by Herbert von Karajan would fit on one (you have to split a movement between sides for a single vinyl LP release, that was very annoying).

They also scored a big early hit two years later in late 1984 with a very small CD player, the head of the project estimated how small was possible with current technology, made a block of wood that size, and challenged his engineers to make one no bigger. Ah, the "Discman", it was per Wikipedia and my memory very important in the early adoption of CDs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discman


Interesting, I didn't know Japan was also on NTSC. That explains the way PAL turned out. I found a reference on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinitron

"The decoder inside the UK-sold Sony color Trinitron sets ... had an NTSC decoder adapted for PAL. ... Any phase errors could then be compensated for by using a tint control knob on the front of the set, normally unneeded on a PAL set". Presumably also applied in other PAL countries too, or they entered those markets a little later.

TV's to choose in 1979 were probably British Ferguson, Dutch Philips, and German Grundig. In 1989, replace Ferguson (I think they were taken over sometime in the 80s) with Sony. Philips were the most likely to innovate and bring out new ideas, like Laserdisc (with MCA) or V2000 video recorders, that was best quality of the three, and first format to leave the market.

I also only started being aware in the 70s. Portable Radios seems a very similar picture to the US - Sony was here, but no one really had the market. So plenty from Philips, Braun - with that iconic design that gave the iPod design, Brother at the more expensive end, along with lots of cheaper makes from both Europe and Japan. ITT was about the only non-professional US make I can remember with much presence here. There's bound to be one I missed. Short wave was Grundig and Philips for the hobbyists, with a few from Brother.

Brother are still going, and doing quite well in DAB radios, especially with models that are digital versions of 50s and 60s successes. Tannoy is the common generic term for a PA system here, they moved into home audio and speakers. They're long bought out into a group making hifi and speakers, along with Quad and Wharfedale. German Dual are still around, and were one of the mid range but quality audio and turntable makers of late 70s and early 80s. Now I think just expensive turntables after a buyout or failure or two.

Walkman was, of course, huge. I think that and the ghetto blaster fashion pushed all the Japanese brands right to the front of the market in the early 80s. Even though the boombox was also a Philips idea they were never the most desired brand. Philips kept their reputation for TV though, with some of the best late-CRT models.

So Japan and Sony race ahead, Sony's former mixed reputation being thoroughly forgotten, and in the process completely transformed the market. Few of the older brands could keep up. All the Japanese makes became a success - Pioneer, Sanyo, Sharp, Aiwa, Marantz, Panasonic/Technics, Hitachi etc, even though one or two weren't very good yet! Then Sony upped the stakes with the remarkable pro Walkman models - that few could respond well to.

Japan ended up taking the reputations for just about everything except high-end hifi and notably speakers - where they struggled, but even there they made some inroads. Several Japanese brands started designing and making speakers in Europe or using Wharfedale or Tannoy. I think Panasonic/Technics and Denon may still.

I'm sure I forgot a few bits of the timeline. :)


but Japan doesn't rule the world


This stereotyping is as old as industrialisation. "Made in Germany" was originally a label forced upon the country by the UK, who wanted customers to chose their superior products over the newcomer's low-quality knockoffs. We all know how that turned out.

It was then repeated with Japan, South Korea, and now China.


If we follow this logic rigorously, how then to explain that Huawei is actually got some of the best smartphones and other products not found across the competitors?


Wikipedia article [1] says that US has been also involved in industrial espionage:

> In 1999, Enercon, a German company and leading manufacturer of wind energy equipment, developed a breakthrough generator for wind turbines. After applying for a US patent, it had learned that Kenetech, an American rival, had submitted an almost identical patent application shortly before. By the statement of a former NSA employee, it was later discovered that the NSA had secretly intercepted and monitored Enercon's data communications and conference calls and passed information regarding the new generator to Kenetech

Also, other article [2] mentions that West had earlier stolen a secret of porcelain manufacturing from China.

Are those the examples of proper, not dubious "ethics" that we should learn from? Did Europeans returned the stolen secret?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECHELON#Examples_of_industrial...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_espionage#Origins


As an aside, Huawei poured a lot of funds in R&D, and those scientists and mathematicians they hired from Russia/France etc,. helped significantly to their breakthroughs.


Accusations? They sold networking equipment with accompanying Cisco manuals. Ha.

Big picture, is the world better off with Huawei’s rise? It depends on your perspective.

If you care about the global environment, Huawei’s costs are so low because they do not have to satisfy environmental standards as they do in the west... That is the basis of most cost differentials outside of labor supply/demand.


We are reading a lot about Huawei lately and it almost all seems to boil down to how "evil" their business practices are. Is this WSJ in the Overton window spinning a manufactured consent?


Did you read the comments for the article? This has the width of the Overton Window laid bare for you. The consent has already been manufactured! Nobody dare cross the line and say how cool they are with Huawei products.

We have short memories, not so recently the Koreans were the ones doing all the IP theft, but nowadays Samsung is legit. Or you can go further back to when everything except and IBM PC (or Apple) was a clone.

Going further back, in the world of automotive, when a special product comes out, e.g. the MINI in the UK, the first thing Ford does is to buy one and take it to pieces, cost the whole package and work out how it is done.

There are places I have worked where there have been cupboards full of rival products, tested to destruction. It is called research.

What is quite interesting with the narrative is that Huawei have got there in the execution of 5G and they are allegedly ahead. Imagine if Huawei got to setup a colony on Mars first, we could complain that they stole Elon Musk's ideas and throw toys out of prams, to ignore accomplishments and execution.

Clearly the Overton Window is defined on this, and woe betide anyone that ignores it. So how does one avoid flamewar? Humour always helps. IS there any original IP in this WSJ article? Is it actually novel? Have they stolen content from other articles? Have they nicked content from the Washington Post? Their Huawei trolling is far from investigative journalism.


I just have a meta question. Was there a recent article or something that brought the term 'Overton window' into common use? I did a little digging and it seems like it's been a term for a few decades, but I don't recall ever seeing it before this year. Now I see it used all the time.


The TV Show "Billions".


That’s definitely it, timing is dead on. Thanks!


It was commonly used on Slashdot before (where I learned the concept).


Interesting. Used to love slashdot, have an account at the bottom end of the five digit range, but i cant do it any more.


I've seen it used in the internet for a few years now. Maybe there is a recent surge but people do use it relatively often when discussing politics.


More likely hypothesis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baader–Meinhof_effec

I learned about this years ago, so I've not noticed a recent uptick in usage, but when I learned about it I did.


Because it helps explain why events that would have ended any previous US Presidential administration can happen multiple times a day, but not even move the needle in the public discourse.

Obama saluted a Marine with a Starbucks cup in his hand and it was national news. Trump sided with a murderous dictator against a former Vice President yesterday, and nothing.

Anyone who pays attention to American politics lately has been experienced the Overton Window shifting a lot.


Call me suspicious, but there's a very common theme and phrasing in a lot of those comments. Manufacturing consent? You may very well think that.

The Indians and others were buying British looms and disassembling them way back. Standard practice seems to be buy a few extra to rip apart and understand.

The cliche has it: We don't learn from history.


> Going further back, in the world of automotive, when a special product comes out, e.g. the MINI in the UK, the first thing Ford does is to buy one and take it to pieces, cost the whole package and work out how it is done.

Everyone does this, here's an article from 2006 detailing this: https://www.wired.com/2006/02/teardown/

The point is, this kind of behavior - taking a stock product and disassembling it to its pieces - is not theft. The real theft that mainly originates from China (no matter if via the "legal" route of buying up Western companies or force "technology transfer" via joint ventures or via hacking) that does real damage is stealing the know-how in manufacturing which the original manufacturer has spent most of the R&D budget for.

I can go ahead, do a 360° photography of my toaster and its innards, but will I be able to construct one of my own based on this? Probably not, as I will need to figure out lots of stuff that are not visible/measurable in the final product: temperature/cooling cycles for plastic and metals, the precise construction for the injection molds that does not leave me with uneven colors in the plastic, ...

Same is valid for automotive parts or aeronautic/astronautic parts. Sure, I can buy a SpaceX engine and take it apart - but that won't help me to get the precise 3D print pattern they use for their chamber.


Where I used to work we relied on our Chinese partners to do the hard bits you describe, e.g. mold making, and kept things like packaging design in the UK.

Going further back when I used to work in the bicycle trade it was even worse, I thought that my mate doing the bicycle design would at least be able to use a CAD/CAM package, but he was working off printouts sent through from China. We didn't have the design skills in the building at all. It was more of an approval process, but we were claiming credit for the design as part of the marketing.


> It was more of an approval process, but we were claiming credit for the design

a great point. this is a really, really important comment on this whole topic. i can't help but wonder if this phenomenon is widespread.

US companies don't fear a situation where Chinese design and engineering are equal or superior. this debate about IP theft is a smoke screen.

what US companies truly fear is Chinese companies that can market and sell directly to the US market because that's basically the only profitable thing US companies can do any more.


The bicycle example is a good one in that regard. Clearly bicycles can be easily made for the mass market but getting distribution is an entirely different matter. For that you need a distributor who has distribution to lots of retailers and can provide the warranty and marketing for the product.

With the aforementioned example, the USP of the bicycle designed for the British market comes down to four holes. Bicycles designed for California do not need mudguards, in the UK we have rain and therefore mudguards matter. So get the four holes needed to accommodate mudguards and you can fairly claim that the bicycle is designed for the UK.

The rest of the bicycle product is a matter of specification, the parts are Japanese designed Shimano for the middle market (where there is sales volume and sufficient margin on units sold) and the general idea is to skimp on them and put Chinese/Taiwan made parts where the customer does not notice, e.g. the headset and bottom bracket bearings.

What has changed recently is that distributors no longer need retailers. So the brand website is nowadays with buy now buttons instead of 'find a shop' buttons. So long as the brand does not undercut retail all is good, but when shipping to the customer's door is free the local retailer is still at a competitive disadvantage. Bicycles are one of the few products hanging on, you can't sell electronics through a retail distribution model these days in the UK if you are a specialist brand, the High Street has died and you are not going to have stockists for something like a hobby level drone. With a bicycle you still need someone local to assemble it for the customer.

Where is gets interesting is when you have brands that go bust and get bought by Chinese companies. For instance, the company that made black cabs for the UK market went bust and now that is owned by Geely. They are doing great things to make the black cab electric, however, you can bet that the motor is not going to be wound in Coventry, even if the final production line assembly is done in Coventry. Same with Volvo. None of the electric Volvo cars are going to be made in Sweden by real Swedish people, they might change a few hub caps and do things that dealers used to do to cars, e.g. adding a rear spoiler and speed stripes for the 'sports' model, but the brand will be fine without it being a 'Chinese Volvo'.

In the deluxe car brands market there are things like Bentley, costing $$$,$$$ with the tank sized thing made in Eastern Europe, not Crewe. Or Jaguar Land Rover, you know that their electric cars are going to come from a contract manufacturer and not the West Midlands. But the buyers will be fine with that and wear the posh car badge as if there is nothing going on.

So long as the product has innovated and is new then everyone is happy. With British Leyland (Rover) it did not work out that way, we ended up with fake Rover cars made in China from scratchy plastics with lame engines and no crash protection that nobody in the UK wanted to touch.

The enemy in all of this is not crafty Chinese people stealing our IP it is the property speculator and the government that puts the land owning people at the top of the food chain. There have been four decades of policies that put the property speculators first so the only way to make money in the UK is through rent seeking. This works out if you can get a Ponzi scheme going but eventually it becomes impossible to have people doing things like teaching, working in shops or anything else that the rich actually need. The servants get priced out of their one-bedroom flats and cannot afford to buy.

But, we can pretend otherwise and wage war on China, selling munitions to Saudi Arabia to balance out the government books.


> The real theft that mainly originates from China (no matter if via the "legal" route of buying up Western companies or force "technology transfer" via joint ventures or via hacking)

Honestly; how can you call it "theft" if it is done via buying or a joint venture?


Depends on how you view theft. If China has been artificially keeping their currency low while the government has been pouring cash into companies to allow them to sell at a loss - causing competitors to declare bankrupcty, then buying up the assets. I'd call that "stealing" from both shareholders and the insert country of origin of the asset they're acquiring.


> Honestly; how can you call it "theft" if it is done via buying or a joint venture?

Joint ventures are compulsory. What China does is extorting market access. As for buying: Systematically undermining them by price-dumping and then buying up the carcasses isn't exactly fine business practices either.

China is definitely going to be the enemy of the next 20-30 years, pitting a ruthless dictatorship against whatever freedom and democracy will be left in the Western world.


I think you are making a mistake here. You try to present the situation as if there were restrictions for doing business only in China, and no restrictions in developed countries. That is simply not true; US also has tariffs for importing goods, and also sets the rules on what foreign companies can or cannot do.

US also has much stronger negotiating power than China, and it makes international agreements that are mostly beneficial for them. China cannot do that.

For example, if you want to sell your goods in Western countries, your country is often required to join an organisation like WTO. But to do it, you have to comply with their rules. So basically, developed countries are setting the conditions for developing countries. Of course, it is their right, but then it is nothing like a "free" trade.

Also, disrupting Huawei's or Kaspersky's business in US without any international court case, without being able to defend itself, just because government suspects something, doesn't resemble free trade too. It resembles what China does though.


Right joint venture is compulsory while the ban of HW is completely voluntary.


Despite what our parents may have told us growing up, it does matter who starts things. If we had banned HW, and China responded by requiring joint ventures for all market entrants, that would be our bad. But the opposite is the case.


Just huawei? Isn't that the case for china's rise overall? Wasn't the basis of US-China relations the past 50 years a simple transfer of technology/capital for cheap labor/lax environmental regulations? We looked the other way while china took our technology and money. And they looked away as we exploited cheap labor and lax environmental law. It was a wage, technology, capital and environmental law arbitrage. It terribly skewed the wealth/income inequality in both countries, it destroyed large segments of the US ( rust belt ), it has been an environmental disaster and it's significantly altered the global power balance. But at least the elites got ridiculously wealthy.

For 50 years, the wsj and the ny times defended this. Bloomberg defended this since their inception in the early 80s. It's odd to see the entire establishment media shift from supporting it to now suddenly attacking it. Also, you would think independent media would offer differing opinions rather than speaking with the same voice. But it's always complete support or complete rejection as if someone flips a switch on and off.

"Theft and dubious ethics" has been the basis of the US-China relationship from the very beginning and it went both ways. This is something everyone and their mother knew from the very beginning. Why did it take 50 years for the wsj and the rest of the media to figure it out.

If the wsj is concerned with "theft and dubious ethics", are they planning on an expose' of the US-Saudi relation and US-Israeli relation? Maybe in another 50 years?


Yeah, it strongly reminds me the media of USSR. They switched narratives in a perfect unison with politics like that. Sometimes they even did it ahead of politics preparing ground for changes in politics.

I wonder what the mechanics of it might be in a democratic society. It was easy to do in USSR: top-down structure allowed state to rule media by orders. But democracy is more nuanced than that I believe. At least I've never witnessed ahead-of-time switch in narratives of democratic media.


> "I wonder what the mechanics of it might be in a democratic society. It was easy to do in USSR: top-down structure allowed state to rule media by orders."

In this case I doubt there is any sort of formal command structure, or in fact any centralized orchestration at all. Rather what we're seeing is an emergent phenomenon, not unlike fish schooling or birds swarming. All the actors involved are taking cues from their peers and otherwise consume more or less the same information from the environment. Combine that with a relatively uniform philosophy or worldview and the appearance of orchestrated activity emerges.


Well, in socialist countries there was no index that would spell out explicitly what is strictly verboten. Ordinary people were expected to know that via hints and rumours. Well if the official media was calling genetics nasty names then that was a strong indicator that genetics is verboten. I guess that the media used to be more directly orchestrated.


Centralized orchestration is certainly a possibility. I think it's far from certain though, because the observed effect of uniform messaging could also be explained as emergent behaviour. Centralized coordination is probably more likely in some countries, and emergent swarming seems more likely in others.

But either way, the end result is pretty similar.


I think it is more a difference in editorial style rather than in substance: all media outlets still have an editor who in turn has to answer to the owner of a news outlet - an author can't always write just the stuff that he wants and also get his work published, don't think it works like this.

In other words I find it hard to follow the comparison of an author to a fish.

Still there is definitely more freedom in a system that doesn't censor every single utterance.


It's in all states. It just becomes more noticable in times of stress ( economic, military, societal ).

Go read about the mccarthy era, the red scare before that or the yellow peril before that. Or go read about how how china and the chinese were viewed pre-1970 to how the media changed perceptions during the 1970s with deng's visit, etc as they prepared to open trade relations. Read about how chinatowns historically were stereotyped as the worst kind of ghetto with drugs, crime, etc by the media for much of history. During the 1970s, the media turned chinatown from a ghetto to a hip ethnic enclave.

The same thing with the natives, blacks, mexicans, japanese, germans, russians, chinese, italians, catholics, irish, jews, etc in the US. There were periods where they were demonized and then some switched got flipped and the media softened or completely reversed their stance. Why and at whose request, who knows.

Go look at sino-soviet relations. They are "best buds" and their respective media praised each other. Things go sour and the media pushes anti-sino and anti-russo rhetoric. Same thing with sino-american relations. The interests of the ruling class determine what perceptions the media creates.

Remember when Bush looked into putin's eye and saw a good man? The media was praising putin for stabilizing russia and improving living conditions? It was only 15 years ago, but in media terms, it feels like a lifetime ago. How things quickly change.


I think it is the Trump 2020 campaign.

Essentially Trump has figured out he can win the 2020 election by going to war with China.

So it is anti-China all over; from smearing of political opponents to policy to information campaigning.


>top-down structure allowed state to rule media by orders. But democracy is more nuanced than that I believe. At least I've never witnessed ahead-of-time switch in narratives of democratic media.

If you're referring to "western" or american media, it's not democratic, it's primarily corporate, which is top down, ruled by orders. Straying too far outside the narrative/overton window will get you fired


In every society, there are accepted narratives everyone is expected to subscribe to. This doesn’t need to happen by coercion; humans have an innate need to repeat and strengthen the basic narratives that are part of their society.


Most financial powers when rising up have stolen technology. This is very much not unique to US-China. Maybe reading up on the history of America brazenly stealing from other countries could provide some contrast here.

https://foreignpolicy.com/2012/12/06/we-were-pirates-too/


The British were at it before the US, post-war Japan was at it. The US was built on it. The first few incarnations of US patent law only allowed US citizens to hold a patent - so foreign inventors and corporations could not protect their inventions in the US.

It's such a common phase of growth that it is surprising people are surprised at China following along.


I'm not surprised or even judgemental about it - given a choice between respecting foreign-imposed IP law and the prosperity of your own people, who wouldn't choose the latter? Especially after such wonderful things as the opium wars.

What I am surprised by is how long the US ignored the threat of moving production and knowledge to China, under the dogma of free trade.


When you have a culture where short-term returns trump long-term strategy - never mind political wisdom - it's absolutely predictable that you're going to be blindsided by the realisation that other countries can out-compete with you, and don't just exist to be used and discarded.


Neither am I.

What does surprise me is that nations and industries keep doing it expecting "this time is different". Despite the regularity across history of first supplying the tools and training - whether shipbuilding, looms, steel making or iPhone assembly and chip fab, then claim they'll never be able to design as well, and can only copy. Sometime later another industry sails inevitably off to some far flung region.

Since free trade almost nothing is considered strategic like the Chinese and others once thought tea, rubber, spices or early inventions that were guarded most carefully. Neither seems quite the right balance. :)

> opium wars

Palmerston's opium war, kicked off by an out-of-control East India Company giving themselves an opium monopoly, and the Tory party loosely falling into step. One of the two wars had parliament winning a vote against the government for entering an illegal war. Difficult to understand the thinking of the era yet at the same time feels strangely familiar.

Course the French, US and others joined in, and the US was marketing cheaper Turkish opium. Roosevelt or Hoover had an opium smuggling ancestor, I forget which of the two.


I was surprised to read that some WASPs are distantly related to 19th vent opium smuggling. For example the Forbes family made their fortune in opium and now they have a business magazine


I'd say most people were probably more hopeful that the world had moved past that modus operandi for bootstrapping growth. There are many things that might have been considered par for the course decades ago that we think of as beyond the pale today.


slightly off topic but IIRC the only time Adam Smith mentioned 'an invisible hand' in his Wealth of Nations book was to explain why English companies _wouldn't_ do this. Nothing to do with a market reaching equilibrium etc.

It was very much a cultural assumption that doing something like that 'just wasn't cricket' and no true Englishman would offshore their company!...

wiki: The only use of "invisible hand" found in The Wealth of Nations is in Book IV, Chapter II, "Of Restraints upon the Importation from foreign Countries of such Goods as can be produced at Home."


This is a classic case of common knowledge in game theory, explained here [1] and here [2].

In short, change does not happen until most people believe that everyone else believes a piece of information (the information becomes common knowledge).

That US-China relations were in such a state was, until very recently, something that everyone knew, but not something that everyone knew that everyone else knew as well. Until something becomes common knowledge, no action occurs. Once it becomes common knowledge, the change in everyone's behavior is incredibly rapid.

We've had similar "watershed" moments in the past, for example the Vietnam war and #metoo, where public opinion changed, seemingly overnight.

So yes, it's absolutely believable and predictable that WSJ et al would be singing the same tune.

[1] http://www.gametheory.net/dictionary/commonknowledge.html

[2] https://www.epsilontheory.com/harvey-weinstein-common-knowle...


Trade has made it possible to have fewer wars, I personally wonder if the fracturing of globalisation by automation technologies will lead to harder borders, a less open world, less trade and more wars. America is always looking for an enemy to win against.


I think America is less interested in an enemy to win against and simply one to dangle out in front. It's less about winning and more about continually justifying the military industrial complex. It's also probably why the conservative spectrum of political thought is has a sharp split with respect to foreign policy at the moment, with one side leaning towards isolationism and the other towards a more hawkish stance. That's not intended as a knock on conservatism, just a fairly surface-level observation.


The US economy has benifited enourmously from its trade with China; that those benifits have not gone to the rust belt is really America's own choice.


Some of the US economy has benefited enormously from its trade with China.

It's hard to imagine anything more cynical than the US blaming China for the poverty and job losses caused knowingly by US corporations taking advantage of cheap Chinese labour and resources.


It's like coal mining. What politician is going to say "Mechanization and the economics of renewables are taking your jobs", as opposed to "Environmental regulations are taking your jobs"?

The former is worse in every way, with the exception of being true.


> It's hard to imagine anything more cynical than the US blaming China for the poverty and job losses caused knowingly by US corporations taking advantage of cheap Chinese labour and resources.

Yet that seems to have become the popular narrative in many places.


No surprise the rust belt is Trump's campaigning grounds.

Americans didn't choose for the great lakes economies to collapse. It was the collective decision of the ownership class.


But didn't consumers also win from being able to buy cheaper goods manufactured abroad?


Why would anyone buy a $1000 phone when with the same amount of money, one could buy a laptop, smartphone, and digital camera (with a decent lens)?


> But at least the elites got ridiculously wealthy.

Not just the rich, it also lead to the creation of a Chinese middle-class by lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty and developing the country as proper economy [0].

A factor that regularly gets underplayed in favor of a narrative where US Americans, still living in the wealthiest country on the planet, blame the Chinese for "missing out".

Yes, just because the US is a wealthy country doesn't mean everybody there is rich, but the wealth discrepancy is a home-made problem and not something China forced on the US.

In that context, this turn on China just feels extremely weird. If you'd explain to anybody 30 years ago how China would develop, the progress they would make and how they embrace capitalism, most people would probably consider you crazy.

Even more so if you then tell them that the US would spite and fight them for it. It's like no matter what they do it's wrong: If they are miserable they need "intervention", if they are doing great they need "containment".

[0] https://www.business-standard.com/article/international/chin...


People are fine with foreign countries with good economies. What isn't fine is an asymmetric trade imbalance caused by one sided protectionism, currency manipulation, espionage, and tariffs that aren't reciprocated.


The real question to ponder is who controls that on off flip switch?


The same billionaires and billion-dollar corporations that control the media control the politicians.


The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.

Not so far-fetched now, is it?


What's the big deal here? Couldn't other countries just steal technology back? e.g. couldn't a 5-eyes country consortium just rip off Huawei's 5G technology and run with it in their own markets?


Stealing stuff is OK because other people could also steal stuff?

I don’t think that’s a valid point.


ok. but it might be a path to profitability. i mean, what is all this rhetorical heat and drama really about? it's about making money. it's not truly about ethics. US business is not exactly a lofty ethical model to hold up for global admiration. if accusing a big company of theft and security breaches can get them locked out of your market, that's one less competitor.


Morality follows money. If the US would be better off copying I have no doubt we would quickly shift our narratives to align to the new economic realities.




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