GE-CHINA VENTURE PROBED
Pentagon technology security officials met with General Electric officials on Sept. 1 to discuss security concerns related to the transfer of jet avionics technology to China.
The meeting was called after congressional staff pressed the Pentagon to review whether China could divert U.S. commercial jet technology to military systems, as Beijing has done with missile, jet and satellite know-how.
GE spokesman Rick Kennedy said the meeting with officials of the Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA) was prompted by press reports criticizing GE’s joint venture with the state-run Aviation Industry Corp. of China, or AVIC.
“This doesn’t involve military technology,” Mr. Kennedy said.
The meeting is one of several GE has had with administration officials, including earlier sessions with Pentagon, Commerce and State Department officials.
The Pentagon has been under pressure for months from members of Congress concerned about China’s record of diverting civilian technology for military purposes, and its reputation for abusing intellectual property.
Rep. J. Randy Forbes, Virginian Republican, expressed concern about the joint venture.
“The American people have the right to be appalled that one of their largest corporations is giving away our technological edge and a large segment of our jobs to our nation’s largest military and commercial competitor,” Mr. Forbes said in a statement.
Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he has serious concerns that China will exploit the technologies involved in the joint venture for its military buildup.
“China has a history of close cooperation between its civil and military sectors,” he said. “The GE-AVIC joint venture has not been adequately reviewed by the Department of Defense and I am not convinced that there are appropriate safeguards in place to prevent the transfer of GE avionics technology into military applications.”
The GE-AVIC deal also is raising political concerns among some in Congress about possible government favoritism toward GE: Company chief executive Jeffrey R. Immelt heads the Obama administration’s jobs and competitiveness program.
The Pentagon has not formally reviewed the technology transfer involved in the GEAVIC joint venture because no formal export licenses were sought, and GE insists its safeguards are sufficient to protect any data leakage.
However, defense officials are concerned that helping China develop commercial avionics will boost its large-scale jet fighter program, which includes a new J-20 stealth jet first flown in January.
According to a DTSA statement to Congress in June, when GE first discussed the Chinese venture in 2009, “DTSA technical experts raised questions about the technology as well as the industrial and intellectual property security at the proposed facility [in China].
“DTSA expressed reservations about the GE self-determination that the proposed technologies would not require a license,” the statement says. “At the time, GE did not provide any detailed descriptions of the technology involved in the joint venture.”
The statement noted that “China traditionally has a history of cooperation between civil and military sectors [. . . ].
“DTSA opined that there was the potential/possibility for China to exploit civil technologies for use in its own military modernization.”
GE officials said technology will be protected from diversion to the Chinese military by an agreement prohibiting Chinese military officials from taking part in the venture, a measure that security officials say will be difficult to enforce.
The DTSA statement also indicated that the office of the director of national intelligence has information about AVIC’s past involvement in illicit arms proliferation, and details of the suspected Chinese involving in the cyber-theft of U.S. data from defense contractors involved in the new Joint Strike Fighter.
In 2004, China acquired from Boeing military navigation technology used on advanced U.S. missiles and warplanes from gyroscopic microchips used on the guidance systems of Boeing 737800 jets sold to China.
Wang Qingjian, a senior colonel posted to the Chinese Embassy in Japan, worked with Japanese intelligence by allowing long-range electronic sensors to penetrate his office by opening his office window and installing electronic bugs in the offices of the ambassador and defense attache there.
Jia Shiqing, a PLA air force officer who spied after he was denied promotion to be head of the Air Force Military Training Department. Jia downloaded secret military reports to flash drives, which he hid in a body cavity while transporting them to spy handlers.
Lu Jianhua, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who sold secrets to the U.S., Russian, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese governments.
Gen. Jin also discussed the Chinese intelligence operation to entrap a Japanese code clerk at the consulate in Shanghai who had frequented a pornography shop.
Gen. Jin is considered a hardliner, based on his 2005 comments urging Beijing to attack Taiwan if Taipei succeeds in joining the United Nations or the World Health Organization.
Get on the bus: In this 2008 file photo, U.S. soldiers scurr y toward a Chinook chopper that will take them to their mission in Paktika Province, Afghanistan.