Main Engine Cut Off

The Saga of Boeing, Global IP, and China

I absolutely abhor this headline—“China Maneuvers to Snag Top-Secret Boeing Satellite Technology,” as it makes it sound like there’s a satellite in space literally maneuvering to grab another—but this is an astonishing story from Brian Spegele and Kate O’Keeffe for the Wall Street Journal:

Workers at a Boeing Co. plant in Los Angeles are nearing completion of a new satellite, which uses restricted technology relied on by the U.S. military. It was ordered by a local startup that seeks to improve web access in Africa.

In reality, the satellite is being funded by Chinese state money, according to corporate records, court documents and people close to the project.

About $200 million flowed to the satellite project from a state-owned Chinese financial firm in a complex deal that used offshore companies to channel China’s money to Boeing.

Days before the August 2016 deadline for signing a manufacturing contract with Boeing, several new board members of Global IP arrived unexpectedly in Los Angeles. Led by a Chinese lawyer who represented China Orient, the state-owned asset manager, the directors demanded to be allowed to study the contract, according to the Global IP founders.

This story is so crazy that it nearly sounds like an entrapment scheme—not that something like that has happened before.

What a name for a startup that is allegedly being co-opted by the Chinese government to steal intellectual property, though! Global IP!

This is a pretty good piece of evidence to argue both for and against working with China in space: you can say they’re maliciously trying to steal information, or you can say that they’re clearly committed to getting this information and will always find someone to use toward that goal, so why not work with them to gain some soft power?