What role does the Chinese government play in the acquisition of foreign technology by Chinese firms, both state-owned and private? The answer is seemingly straightforward, or so the US government contends: intellectual property (IP) theft and industrial espionage, coupled with market leverage to extract foreign technology from foreign direct investment arrangements — so-called forced technology transfers.

Challenging these perceptions, this paper takes a closer look at the drivers of Chinese firms’ technology acquisition from three dimensions. It finds that — paradoxically — as accusations of China’s illicit or state-driven acquisition of technology reach a fever pitch, China’s domestic and outbound technology acquisition regime, as well as its IP system more broadly, is becoming more formalized, predictable and rules-driven. Policy makers and firms with significant intangible asset portfolios should prepare for a not-too-distant future when technology transfer flows from, not just into, China.

Part of Series

CIGI Papers present in-depth analysis and discussion on governance-related subjects. They include policy papers that present CIGI experts' positions or contributions to policy debates, and background papers that contain research findings, insights and data that contribute to the development of policy positions.
  • Anton Malkin is a CIGI fellow whose research focuses on China’s role in the global economy, with a focus on finance and intellectual property.