Hunter Biden’s SFC, Advanced Technology Development Corp (ATDC), was given funding to develop titanium-based technology that was “designated by the United States government as having extensive commercial potential”. But the weapons industry was not the only potential user: ATDC reportedly has deals in place with manufacturers in China and it’s more than likely that several of those “private” deals resulted in Xi Jinping and his successors signing on the dotted line, with plenty of ribbons thrown in for good measure.
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A press release from one of ATDC’s main manufacturing companies, Titan Corp, confirms: “The government contract with ATDC resulted in valuable business with the Department of Defense and production sales to most of the major defence contractors.” The subsequent release from ATDC says the company also manufactured “essential hardware for China’s Ministry of the Defense”. That presumably means China might, in fact, consider these sorts of “technology transfer agreements” perfectly acceptable practice.
The scintillating story is something of a delight to the defence and security markets, and it’s easy to imagine that it’s also got a certain appeal to the Chinese leadership. Robert Lowrance of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace writes of the re-establishment of the Bohai military industrial complex in northeast China: “This vast new military-industrial complex now dominates China’s development strategy, from weapons systems to high-speed rail to integrated digital systems that cover the entirety of the Chinese military. It, in turn, feeds back to the Chinese Communist party, laying the foundation for future future military spending.” There’s clearly something about this story, and the signals it sends, that makes it a bit catchy: missile technology, sold, presumably, not necessarily with obvious temptations to one-upping Trump’s own plutonium mix.
China’s ballistic missile capability grew rapidly from 2012 to 2016. It’s no coincidence that a government that says it will never again use “disarmament as a weapon” is frantically seeking out advanced missiles to assert its control over the South China Sea, the East China Sea, Taiwan, and its maritime regions, notably the Pan Sea. It’s no coincidence that the most immediate goal of Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative is to build military shipping lanes by, er, selling troops to buy ships. It’s no coincidence that a South China Sea paper shows another South China Sea paper shows a particular wonder of military warfare: China has “already conducted tests of ballistic missiles with range of over 2,400 miles and has successfully tested a submarine-launched cruise missile with a range of up to 7,500 miles”, a fact that, gosh, simply galls the US president. It’s no coincidence that the Chinese defence and security information management system is not infallible, and also that China is acquiring the newest type of advanced small arms and machine guns available.
None of this should come as a surprise to China: it is now working hard to defend its all-encompassing territorial pretensions and hopes that its major banks and sovereign wealth funds will help it to find ways to blunt or negate the threat of US tariffs. To be sure, China’s leaders will want, as Hillary Clinton put it, to push back against what they see as America’s “faux-populist nationalism”. But what they should really be worried about is the Chinese PLA (the People’s Liberation Army).
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The United States did not sign a “technology transfer agreement” to develop aircraft carriers, nor did the Republic of Korea – and that did not lead to the decline of military power. China has barely anyone right now whose aircraft carrier is capable of taking on a modern carrier. It has a few missile carriers that aren’t particularly big. But by next year it may have much more state-of-the-art small gun stations. Soon, however, it may well have coastal artillery that can take out US military aircraft at cruising speeds. By 2025, China’s naval power