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China To Build Its Own Large Jetliner

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the rising-tide-lifting-boats dept.

Businesses 332

Hugh Pickens writes "China's domestic airlines will need to buy an estimated 4,330 new aircraft valued at $480 billion over the next two decades to meet demand in commercial aviation. Now the LA Times reports that the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China expects to begin producing its 156-seat C919 by 2016, competing with the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320. China has staked billions of dollars and national pride on the effort but what may surprise some Americans worried about slipping US competitiveness is that some well-known US companies are aiding China, putting US and European suppliers in a tough spot: Be willing to hand over advanced technology to Chinese firms that could one day be rivals or miss out on what's likely to be the biggest aviation bonanza of the next half a century. 'If they launch a commercial aviation industry, you've got to be part of it,' says Roger Seager, GE Aviation's vice president and general manager for China, whose company has garnered contracts worth about $6 billion for the C919. 'You can't take a pass and come back in 10 years.'"

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332 comments

"Made in China"... (0, Flamebait)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229040)

I guess that's where the unemployed Americans should go, unless they want to keep the Change Obama brought them.

ITAR is the problem (3, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229310)

So much of the US aerospace production is classified as "military" [wikipedia.org] that it's a real problem for companies trying to export equipment.

The US regulators should become aware that it was progress, not secrecy, that kept the US ahead of the others during the Cold War. Now that the Soviet Union is no more, military technology does not have the same pressure as before to keep developing new stuff, so they try to keep the same old secrets forever.

Re:ITAR is the problem (4, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229504)

ITAR can be easy to get around - China already produces (via a final assembly line) their own Airbus A319/A320/A321 series aircraft under license from Airbus for the Chinese market (which is why you see lots of Chinese orders going to Airbus these days) and Airbus, despite being an European country, can still fall foul of the ITAR limitations.

McDonnell Douglas setup an MD-90 final assembly in China during the 1990s, so basically large scale technology transfer has already happened despite ITAR limitations.

What's the adage? (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229046)

Oh yeah, "A capitalist will sell you the rope you will hang him with if he can make profit on it" Lenin

Re:What's the adage? (4, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229060)

It's basic game theory. If you can make a profit out of something that will kill you, you might as well. At least your last few days wil be that little more comfortable. It's no like China can't set up its own avionics equipment companies. It's just easier to partner with US and european companies. COMAC could just design it to use 737 parts, which can be purchased off the shelf, and do a piecemeal replacement as they get their own avionics industry in shape.

Re:What's the adage? (4, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229234)

It's basic game theory. If you can make a profit out of something that will kill you, you might as well.

The game theory is indeed simple - it's better to have 20% of a billion person market than 0%. The commercial airplane industry is largely dominated by Boeing and Airbus - two Western companies that have both received substantial state support [europa.eu] The market for jet engines is dominated by Rolls-Royce. Given how interested Western nations are in having their own commercial aircraft manufacturing capability, it is no surprise that China also wants one.

This will not kill Boeing or Airbus. Unlike cheap crap that people buy off ebay, the commercial airplane market in the West is quite image sensitive and financially and managerially cautious. They are not going to switch fleets to cheaper Chinese aircraft just to save a few dollars. Consider that Rolls-Royce jet engines are the standard in commercial aviation, and they certainly aren't the cheapest, but everyone still pays up - because any airline that switched in order to save a few dollars would be crucified if the new aircraft crashed.

Re:What's the adage? (4, Interesting)

umghhh (965931) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229470)

Two things:
  • the engine market is not dominated by RR this much. General Electric is bigger and Pratt & Whitney is also huge.
  • All this enthusiasm in air transport does not seem to take into account the problems with fossil fuels and their availability in the future. I wonder how the air transportation will look like in 50 years. I am sure alternatives will be found but they will not be cheap. This does not mean one should not invest but I think a second thought should be spent on sustainability (both in terms of economics as well as environment) in this particular industry

Re:What's the adage? (2, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229600)

the engine market is not dominated by RR this much. General Electric is bigger and Pratt & Whitney is also huge.

Fair enough, in engines GE > RR > P&W. But my point still stands - all have good reputations, and the cautious airline industry in the West is unlikely to switch away any time soon.

This does not mean one should not invest but I think a second thought should be spent on sustainability (both in terms of economics as well as environment) in this particular industry

I totally agree. Humans are generally reactive rather than proactive. It is easy to look at current growth rates of the airline industry and assume that they will continue for the next two decades, but it's just a guess - Peak Oil could easily derail it. Unfortunately, the governments of the world seem to be keeping relatively quiet on what, exactly, their contingency plans are for that...

My personal opinion is that investing early in identifying suitable technology and replacements to mitigate rising oil prices would be a wise move. Shifting the industry of the entire world away from oil is an enormous task, and one that is being ignored or underestimated by our politicians. If the task is of a magnitude comparable to that of the Manhattan Project or landing on the moon, which both cost around 1/4 U.S. GDP for several years, then it would be better to start the work sooner rather than later.

Re:What's the adage? (4, Insightful)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229254)

That would be true, if profit were measured in some fixed terms.

Unfortunately, here in reality, the economics profession is a complete fucking failure of a joke. Banks are run by dipshit morons propped up by criminal politicians. Corporate accounting is a total fraud. Ridiculous models conflate assets and technology and labor along with fiat currencies that have no real measurable value. The entire bullshit field is based on a fantasyland premise of perpetual growth in "utility" along with magical non-zero-sum mathematics at odds with even basic physics.

And this is what "free trade" gives us: US companies offshoring jobs and real assets, chasing little pieces of paper printed up by the central banks, earning hypothetical economic "profit" while actually making us all poorer in the process.

With regard to China, the result is exactly what one would expect when trading with a country with few natural resources and a billion consumers: American labor has lost all value. Technology that America has invested heavily in, is either stolen outright or practically given away to rising competitors. Real capital is exported en masse in exchange for worthless consumerist crap. And it won't stop until either we've all been dragged down to the level of the average Chinese peasant or we wake the fuck up and start hanging traitor politicians and bankers in the streets before they give our entire fucking country away and then conscript us into some new bullshit war to try to go get it back.

Re:What's the adage? (4, Interesting)

JustOK (667959) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229284)

China has few natural resources?

Re:What's the adage? (4, Insightful)

gusmao (712388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229564)

China has few natural resources?

Yes, China is the one of world's biggest importers of iron ore, copper and crude oil, not to mention rubber and other commodities. So, althought the sentence "few natural resources" is too general (china is one of the biggest exporters of rare minerals, for instance), it certainly is applicable to a lot of core commodities for manufacturing

Re:What's the adage? (2, Informative)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229596)

It has little or no oil or iron for that matter.

The oil situation may change somewhat if it resolves its disputes around contentious areas with probable oil fields in the yellow sea. However even with these deemed to belong to then, online and exploited to the full it will still need to import.

As far as most metals, etc it will always have to import. So the biggest danger to China's economic boom is actually not the increase of their own living standard and costs - it is the rising competition from other countries which used to be predominantly exporters of raw materials like Brazil.

Re:What's the adage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229288)

Stand on your feet and fight rather than live on your knees!
Net exports becomes a much larger negative number when we're no longer exporting Boeing aircraft!
And no need to hang the traitor politicians. Just export them and traitor CEO's as well to China so they can live under a oppressive Communist regime.
BTW, what ever happened to Tank Man?!?

Re:What's the adage? (2, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229630)

Unfortunately, here in reality, the economics profession is a complete fucking failure of a joke. Banks are run by dipshit morons propped up by criminal politicians. Corporate accounting is a total fraud. Ridiculous models conflate assets and technology and labor along with fiat currencies that have no real measurable value. The entire bullshit field is based on a fantasyland premise of perpetual growth in "utility" along with magical non-zero-sum mathematics at odds with even basic physics.

Oh, the anger. What exactly is your problem with today's money? It's not gold backed but you can very well buy gold for dollars. Or real estate or whatever else "lasting" value you seem to think it lacks. As for the subprime fiasco it takes two to make a subprime loan, but blame it all on the lenders.

"Utility" is a personal measure of something's worth, generally it's used in pricing theory. If utility > price you buy, otherwise you don't. It's not easily measured nor aggregated, so do tell where you've ever heard that in the context of "perpetual growth".

As for non-zero-sum mathematics, specialization is a non-zero-sum game. If that was wrong, pretty much every civilization has been wrong. It's even true when one person is another's superior in every way.

Example:
Object....A...B
Person.1.50.. 5
Person.2.60..60

Even if person 1 can do both things faster, he's so much faster at making object B it's profitable for him to make Bs and trade them for As from person 2. This is just proving that specialization still holds.

Re:What's the adage? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229072)

Yeah, if you're the sort of sociopath who goes around hanging people, it's not hard to take advantage of your victims' trust. Ric has more at 11.

Re:What's the adage? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229136)

Oh yeah, "A capitalist will sell you the rope you will hang him with if he can make profit on it" Lenin

Well, obviously, it's better than to be hanged on a rope sold by your competitor, not to make any profit at all, AND to see your competitor making profit!

Re:What's the adage? (2, Funny)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229268)

Unless your competitor's rope is so shoddy that it will snap when they try to hang you.

Re:What's the adage? (2, Insightful)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229602)

Unless your competitor's rope is so shoddy that it will snap when they try to hang you.

How strong is cadmium-impregnated melamine rope?

Re:What's the adage? (4, Informative)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229206)

The firm my mother worked for put itself out of action by selling large hydraulic presses to the Russians to use in factories that were to produce large hydraulic presses...

always knew there would be comebacks for letting the Chinese do your manufacturing for you as they would learn your technology and use it against you

Re:What's the adage? (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229286)

I went to a talk back in 1996 by a Professor of Sinology at Cambridge, who was discussing the fact that it was Chinese policy to invite western corporations in with large incentives, then learn their business methods and create government-funded clone companies. The case study that he provided was Cocoa Cola, which was already quite an old example there. He wasn't talking about his latest research, just about a current trend.

Given that this has been pretty widely known by anyone who bothers to look for about 20 years, I am amazed that any company would be stupid enough to move manufacturing to China. I'd expect a shareholder lawsuit for any that tried. Unfortunately, Wall Street has been selecting in favour of CxOs who avoid long-term planning for quite a bit longer than China has been an economic threat.

Re:What's the adage? (3, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229334)

If you don't sell them the tools to put you out of business, someone else will. Bonuses are all about the next quarter, not the next decade.

Re:What's the adage? (1)

umghhh (965931) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229528)

It is not as much of an economic threat as it seems or at least not in the way you seem to realize. China is a huge country and dominated trade, inventions and economy in the world for significant amount of time. Only in relatively recent history had the west a chance to be up front. Now this is changing again and not really due to better Chinese economy or intelligence (which btw is what Chinese seem to think) but due to the fact that the country is so darned big and for once has independent and kinda unified government that leads the way. I find interesting that with all the shouting that Chinese party and military officials do there is still much for them to do before they can substantially dominate anything. The problem for US is that for a change there is a country that is selling stuff to US but is not buying weaponry (or much else for that matter) there which causes great imbalance in trade. This is bound to cause trouble sooner or later. Current shouting by Chinese finance minister is just a show - they are scared shitless that this pile of dollars that they gathered will be worthless before they can buy stuff with it and even more scared that suddenly there is less places they can sell their shit to. for the US the problem is how not to destroy the country by printing $$.

Re:What's the adage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229530)

America,
Take your country back! You have less time than you think

Re:What's the adage?Oh PLEASE!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229554)

Hmmm...Bill Gates always sang the song of “cloning and making it better”.
In China he's considered almost as a living god.

Just because the Chinese have learned the right way to make money and enhancing their competitiveness, It doesn't give you any right to bitch about it.

Or are you all jealous because they learned from the master.

You all know that it is simple jealousy.

Get a life and learn from Bill + forget the shit piles ( java, linux, et all).
Any one who says otherwise can shove Linux, Freebsd, Mepis, AbsoluteOs up his/hers ass.
Oh, and C# will kill java..sooner or later.

We can win..just let loose the market forces and we will see wonders.

Re:What's the adage? (1)

HertzaHaeon (1164143) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229276)

And an isolationist/nationalist will have to buy the rope to hang himself from the Chinese, due to the death of the domestic rope industry?

Re:What's the adage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229338)

Lenin?

Wasn't he some sort of communist marxist leninist maoist stalinist nazist hedonist anarchist fascist socialist agoraphobist philantropist philatelist?

(threw a few of the less used Fow News keywords in there)

Re:What's the adage? (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229620)

Lenin?

Wasn't he some sort of communist marxist leninist maoist stalinist nazist hedonist anarchist fascist socialist agoraphobist philantropist philatelist?

(threw a few of the less used Fow News keywords in there)

Worse. He was a liberal.

Trent 900's dont worry me, (2, Interesting)

mjwx (966435) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229490)

Not even the Brazilian Embraers,

It's the 717 clone [wikipedia.org] coming out of China that does, as well as the notion that HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics LTD, India) might get the same idea.

Now quality in passenger aircraft is a major concern for me and any other frequent traveller. Airbus and Boeing have proven track records and are able to get to the bottom of problems in short order. I don't have that kind of confidence in China, especially as face comes into play. It may become, to the leader du jour that maintaining the Chinese aircraft industry is more important then lives. Never underestimate the kind of stupid things that will be done to maintain face.

Now I've heard that we had the same fears about Japan 40 odd years ago and despite several attempts Japan has not been able to build a domestic aircraft industry of note since WWII and they were a nation who produced very high quality planes in WWII. Even Russia struggles with modern airliners, the only thing that keeps that industry afloat is Aeroflot.

China is doing the same thing to electric car (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229048)

China is giving electric car manufacturers the same ultimatum - hand over your technology or lose access to our market.

Which product is the government going to buy when they are done putting your technology in their product? Your company is going to lose out anyway.

Quality control? (0, Flamebait)

aXis100 (690904) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229084)

It's one thing to buy cheap Chinese made consumer electronics goods, but would you really want to risk your life in an aircraft? They cant even get products specifically destined for children right without someone unscrupulous substituting something inferior or deadly (lead paint, melamine). Unfortunately as a country they have a long way to go to rebuild their reputation.

Re:Quality control? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229094)

There are well over a billion people who do have some faith in Chinese engineering though. This aircraft is aimed entirely at the domestic market. I doubt most US airlines would take the marketing risk of not having a recognisable brand name for their planes.

Re:Quality control? (1)

umghhh (965931) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229560)

You realize of course that branding have more often than not these days not much to do with what is sold with it. The car industry is a perfect example: you buy a car and you think it is German - not so: it may have been produced in Poland, Czech Republic, France, Belgium or Spain in a factory owner partially by competitors. This means however that when you buy say Mercedes it does not mean that the car is produced in Stuttgart. OTOH people fly with jets that carriers bought and hope the authorities control the market well enough so that landing are more or less controlled i.e. you purchase the whole flight experience not start only. Not all Chinese companies produce crap.

Re:Quality control? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229626)

Unfortunately, that's the problem: the airlines are the ones doing the buying. I doubt most flight consumers even know what kind of plane they're in during the flight. It's not entirely their fault though. I'm sure it's very distracting to be given the choice of "nudie pics or molestation" just to get in the door.

Re:Quality control? (4, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229174)

This is marked insightful?

This is the same shit uttered about the Japanese in the 1960s and early 70s before they kicked everyone's ass in the 80s.

--
BMO

Re:Quality control? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229196)

So...in reality Japanese products of the 60s were high quality and you'd risk the lives of thousands of people on them? Did you really think that through before posting?

Re:Quality control? (4, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229232)

I'm not sure what your point is, but last I checked, the Chinese are doing pretty good in aerospace, are aiming for the moon, and well, are motivated to get shit right when it comes to aerospace.

I think the Chinese will pull it off. Indeed, I hope they do, to light a fire under the complacent asses currently inhabiting my country - the US.

Your post positively reeks of such complacency and whistling past the graveyard.

--
BMO

Re:Quality control? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229262)

The point is that in 2030, China might have what it takes. Today, they don't. It's like saying a 5-year-old is going to kick your ass. Maybe when he's 25, but not today. Complacency? No, a realistic assessment of the situation.

Re:Quality control? (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229280)

You're delusional.

--
BMO

Re:Quality control? (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229352)

A well-formed argument indeed :]. For what it's worth, I agree with you - I thing the top Chinese scientists and engineers have demonstrated the ability to get projects of this scale done correctly. Comparing poorly assembled toys to aircraft isn't really fair.

Re:Quality control? (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229464)

The technology they used to get to space was 90+% Russian, and you notice they haven't been back after the Russians took away a lot of the technology they were using because the Chinese were unabashedly copying it. The Chinese aren't going to make it to the moon this century, at least not with their "own" technology.

Re:Quality control? (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229492)

The Chinese aren't going to make it to the moon this century

That's 90 years.

We went from not flying at all to the moon in 65 years.

I'll bet my 401K *and* both testicles that you're wrong.

--
BMO

Re:Quality control? (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229538)

I didn't say, "no other country" will make it to the moon this century, I would be willing to bet that the Indians probably will, the Russians might, but the Chinese aren't, the space program is a joke and the upcoming economic crash will make it even more difficult for them.

Re:Quality control? (1)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229264)

Japanese first copied the western products, then improved them.
This process took 10 years, because they had to find a new way to work (see the Agile methodologies, which are pretty inherited from Toyota's one).
Also, they never tried to build planes, since it requires a lot more work than trains.

On the other side, Chinese never cared about quality, and always provide the cheapest possible copies, using western technology.
It will take a long time before they'll change their mentality, and concentrate on quality instead of quantity.
Trying to build planes now is completely crazy, and I fear that they'll provide deadly cheap planes, just to satisfy internal demand.
How much people will be killed before they improve their process ?

Re:Quality control? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229540)

Yeahhh the first time one of the chinese jets goes down for "inferior parts", there goes their ability to sell them to anyone outside the country. They need to get it right the first time, or they're going to build a whole lot of junk that airlines won't buy and customers won't fly on.

Re:Quality control? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229318)

Not to mention the Koreans in the 1980s and the Taiwanese in the 1990s and the Chinese in the 2000s. Next up: we laugh at the Vietnamese and the Malaysians in the 2010s, the Thais and the Indians in the 2020s and the ...

Do you see what's happening? All these nations are steadily, determinedly industrializing and marching past us on and up the value chain, while we make monkey noises and throw feces.

Re:Quality control? (2, Insightful)

hahn (101816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229272)

It's one thing to buy cheap Chinese made consumer electronics goods, but would you really want to risk your life in an aircraft? They cant even get products specifically destined for children right without someone unscrupulous substituting something inferior or deadly (lead paint, melamine). Unfortunately as a country they have a long way to go to rebuild their reputation.

Many of the same things were said when the Japanese started exporting electronics and cars to the U.S. It is a fatal mistake by many Americans to assume that lack of quality in the past guarantees lack of quality in the future, or more to the point, that their aerospace products will be manufactured in the same factory as goods destined for Walmart. They have already successfully launched satellites and people into space, indicating attention to engineering detail when it matters. Nobody here seems to notice or care that they're quickly and quietly becoming the leaders in producing and developing renewable energy tech. This outright dismissal is going to be the eventual downfall of our lazy American asses. I hope our politicians don't dimiss this as easily as you do (and probably many other posters).

Re: Quality control? (1)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229294)

Which would make 0 difference for Chinese people, as (I'm assuming) they're already used to lower standards when it comes to product quality / safety. And I reckon this aircraft would be targeted at the growing China's middle class, so for most travelers it wouldn't be an unsafe plane vs. safe plane issue, but rather going from 'too expensive to fly' to 'let's enjoy our first plain travel holiday'.

That said, I'm sure there's countless places in the world where driving the streets for an hour is way more dangerous than taking a 1-hour trip on Chinese-developed aircraft.

Re:Quality control? (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229474)

It's one thing to buy cheap Chinese made consumer electronics goods, but would you really want to risk your life in an aircraft? They cant even get products specifically destined for children right without someone unscrupulous substituting something inferior or deadly (lead paint, melamine). Unfortunately as a country they have a long way to go to rebuild their reputation.

Most of your car parts are already made in China. So are important things like your fire alarm, the locks on the front door, parts for your heating system... not to mention an increasing amount of medicines and food.
You're already "risking your life" buying Chinese things (and surviving it too)... Just because your local manufacturing lobby screams fire whenever a Chinese product is faulty doesn't mean that those bad products are the only exports from China.

The Chinese try to dominate the world financially... if that means that they must build good quality aircraft, then they will. So, they will either improve their own technology up to a point that it competes with the European and American industries - or they will eventually buy the European and American industries with profits from other sectors.

I don't think China will ever undertake any military actions to dominate the world. They'll eventually just buy us all.

Gold for salt. (3, Insightful)

johncadengo (940343) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229086)

I remember learning in school that West Africans would trade gold for salt, pound for pound, with people from Northern Africa and abroad because they didn't know how to make their own salt and they needed it to survive. It always made me wonder why they didn't just pay gold, even if it was an incredible amount, for the knowledge to secure their own salt. Producing salt wasn't all that difficult, if I remember correctly, the salt traders would just evaporate seawater in little holes in the ground and scrap up the leftovers.

Re:Gold for salt. (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229150)

If you can make money selling salt to someone indefinatly, why would you teach them how to make your own salt (regardless of how much they are offering for it)?

Its the same with the drug companies who prefer treatments (with big ongoing costs) to cures (with a one-off cost and nothing further)

And its why you will never be able to get a license for an MPEG encoder (e.g. H.264 or MP3) that allows you to redistribute it for free (because you cant pay per-unit royalties on a download from a web page)

Re:Gold for salt. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229312)

If you can make money selling salt to someone indefinatly, why would you teach them how to make your own salt (regardless of how much they are offering for it)?

Game theory - it's a fairly simple variant of the prisoners' dilemma. If no one sells the secret, then all of the salt sellers can keep making a large profit. If one sells the secret, then the others lose all of their ability to make a profit. If you're the first person to sell, then you can make enough money that you and your descendants never need to work again. That's why this kind of trade secret had to be enforced with guilds and the like - basic self interest would prevent it from remaining secret for long without them.

Re:Gold for salt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229544)

Yeah, but if the other salt traders find out what you did, you'll likely be skinned alive and then buried in a pit of salt... perhaps quite literally.

That's a very strong disincentive, and doubly so if you ALREADY make a very comfortable living just selling salt like everyone else.

Re:Gold for salt. (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229448)

Its the same with the drug companies who prefer treatments (with big ongoing costs) to cures (with a one-off cost and nothing further)

Would this myth fucking die already. Do you have ANY evidence that drug companies are actually hiding cures so they can continue giving "treatments"? Name me one disease that you have credible evidence that a cure can be found but the drug company killed it because it would hurt profits. And before you say "HIV", you might want to do some basic research first. There have been over 70, SEVENTY, trials of HIV vaccines and all have failed. And it's not like drug companies are the only ones looking for cures.

Re:Gold for salt. (2, Informative)

chrb (1083577) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229298)

It always made me wonder why they didn't just pay gold, even if it was an incredible amount, for the knowledge to secure their own salt.

You're talking about the Trans-Saharan gold and salt trade [wikipedia.org]. The salt the Mediterranean traders brought came from salt mines in North Africa, not from the sea. I guess that the amount produced by evaporating salt water was tiny compared to mining, and thus commercially unviable.

chinese technology (1)

batistuta (1794636) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229120)

Chinese technology is once again on its way to prove that they don't only make junk toys, but also state of the art machines, trains, space vehicles, and now airplanes. I wish them all the best.

The only thing that scares me a bit is who will certify their aircraft, and who will regulate and protect against the counterfeit of replacement parts. I trust the skills of Chinese scientists, but I don't trust the transparency of their government.

China is a country known for producing fake products and imitations of everything. This can be a serious issue in aerospace, and many accidents have been attributed to counterfeit parts in the past. But we won't see this until a few years beyond the first flights.

Re:chinese technology (1)

aXis100 (690904) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229160)

I have no doubt about the skills of Chinese scientists and engineers either, but do have significant reservations about their businessmen.

Re:chinese technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229162)

You might not have heard that fraud in scientific papers is a major problem in China. I guess when you have one billion+ local customers it does not matter if you produce unsafe or plain lie about your products, because even if today's company customers die. theres a billion left.

Chinese Control (4, Insightful)

bkmoore (1910118) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229140)

I once read how German and Japanese companies were required to partner with Chinese companies in order to bid on high-speed rail contracts. Once the Chinese "partners" had the designs, they severed their partnerships and are now building all of their rail systems in house. So it was basically a scam to gain access to technology, and the promises of long-term contracts never materialized. I suspect something similar will happen this time around with aerospace. I doubt that the Aerospace companies are any more savvy on protecting their technology than the rail companies.

Re:Chinese Control (4, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229216)

Yup, they stole...er, technology transferred the maglev tech that was used in Shanghai. A couple of years later, there was another identical maglev built and Chinese people cheered their nation for producing such advanced tech by themselves with no help. Now, they have bullet trains that are copies of the Japanese shinkansen. The first time I saw one pull into the station, I immediately thought, "Wow, a Japanese train! I wonder if they have those nifty box lunches!" (they didn't) But in Chinese language media, the trains are 100% Chinese and anyone who says otherwise is laughed out of the conversation. There are legal agreements in place that give the government a fig leaf of legality to say this. I saw a very carefully worded statement that vehemently denied stealing any technology and everything was hunky-dory.

Same thing will happen with these airliners. Our companies will happily sell the rope to hang themselves. Anyone who protests will be labeled a racist/nationalist/xenophobe and excluded from the conversation.

Re:Chinese Control (1)

upside (574799) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229230)

I remember the same, but IIRC the companies involved were fatalistic about it - they knew the score but again "could not afford to miss out". The problem is, the same technology will later appear in your own market in much cheaper Chinese products.

It happens in other sectors as well.

Worthwhile reading for tech companies planning to "partner" with Chinese businesses:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1955426,00.html [time.com]

Re:Chinese Control (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229478)

Yeah, I always laugh when China decries protectionism, nothing like the most protectionist country on the planet telling other countries that protectionism is bad. China is by far the most hypocritical country on the planet, and being more hypocritical than the US is saying something.

Re:Chinese Control (2, Interesting)

jandersen (462034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229574)

So it was basically a scam to gain access to technology, and the promises of long-term contracts never materialized.

Business is business, even when it turns out that America doesn't have the upper hand. Being Danish, I have grown up on this sort of complaints; but against American companies.

You know, for an American, you whine an awful lot; don't you believe in freedom? The free movement of knowledge can not be limited to only "the good guys", whatever that means - freedom is freedom, and sometimes it hurts. The Chinese have learnt well; and the great teacher was none other than the good ol' US of A.

Laugh all you want (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229172)

Whenever there is news on /. about Chima making anything, there will be whole slew of jokes and ridicule about how Chinese only copies and how poor the quality will be.

But, laugh all you want, the fact that they are taking the effort to make it themselves rather than take the easy way and simply buy the planes showed long term thinking on their part.

It wouldn't surprise me if the first few models are of poor quality and on the cheap side. These will probably be used in in-land routes mostly for locals. There might even be some accidents involving them. In other words, it will be like in the US some decades ago.(*) But they will learn from these experience and the next models will be bigger and better. In 20-30 years, China will have a modern airplane manufacturing industry.

* - make no mistake, China IS a decades behind the US in terms of development. Their per capita GDP is ranked 100th in the world. It is only through their sheer population that their GDP can exceed Japan.

Re:Laugh all you want (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229380)

China is behind. But they have things working in their favor:

They think in the long term. Unlike every company in the US that looks to the next quarter and no further.

They're motivated. Unlike many complacent CEOs in the US (US workers are still the most productive in the world - it's not their fault they are leaderless)

They've learned to stop letting the West take advantage of them. The West still thinks they can take advantage of them. We are wrong.

And they've stopped with the ideology bullshit getting in the way of targeting markets and picking winners and losers - anathema to the "free market" ideology of the US, but the Japanese did it to great success, and the Chinese learned by watching them.

--
BMO

Re:Laugh all you want (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229550)

Nope, France has actually the highest productivity.

Isn't it about time for a bit of protectionism? (4, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229184)

You know, over the past 6+ years I have brought my position out on multiple occasions only to have my position labelled "protectionist" and discarded. But we have a problem in the U.S. We are exporting money that doesn't return. Some call it trade deficit. Some call it exporting jobs. Others call it outsourcing. Whatever you call it, big business is sending out a lot of money that never returns to the U.S. What's more, in order to do that, the foreign workers have to be educated in our technologies in order to replicate what we have done.

So we lost manufacturing and technology. All we have remaining is "intellectual property" which is really a thing that is not universally agreed upon. The things that made the US great aren't here any longer and while many of us were complaining about it leaving, government paid off by big business persisted in letting it happen.

Now were are we?

Maybe it is time for protectionism. Maybe it's too late for it to do any good. Government needs to think about the people, not the businesses. Business is demonstrably abusive of people when allowed -- it's why we have [outdated] labor laws at all. They are unashamed of it. It's past time our government did their job instead of the will of the highest bidders.

Re:Isn't it about time for a bit of protectionism? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229278)

Too late. The people who would benefit from it don't care, because they don't even recognize it as the issue. Nor do they have the power to actually make it happen. The people who have the power to implement it don't want it, because they currently make a ton of money exploiting the trade deficit.

Just accept that this isn't going to happen. Your plan relies on peoples cooperation that you don't have and won't get.

Your best bet is to figure out how to come out of it on top. I hate to say it, but I'm pretty much suggesting that you pledge your loyalty to the enemy king in exchange for some cash, a bit of land, and knighthood.

Re:Isn't it about time for a bit of protectionism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229438)

Just accept that this isn't going to happen.

Pretty much this. You cannot change a political or economic system. People in general are either to patriotic/idealistic to question themselves /their leaders or they are simply to ignorant/uneducated to realise they are hurting themselves.

There's nothing you can do, so you might as well lean back and enjoy the show when shit is going to hit the fan.

Re:Isn't it about time for a bit of protectionism? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229290)

yes so the obvious answer is to lose freedom too.
import fees? well, then the best business left would be to export technology solutions.
and really the technology is actually pretty widespread, the american companies are lucky that the chinese are dim enough to need americans to put together parts and materials already produced in china - now the american companies get to bleed profits out of it, whilst doing nothing.

isn't it funny enough that chinese sell their countrys resources in exchange for bits on a computer backed up by fantasy priced real estate in usa they can't even get to touch? I mean, cash money at least was paper.

(i'm not from usa/china)

Re:Isn't it about time for a bit of protectionism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229344)

As a US taxpayer.... we too paid for that fantasy priced real estate that we can't even touch! Re: TARP and other bailouts.
Cheers!

Re:Isn't it about time for a bit of protectionism? (2, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229406)

WE the people don't need to lose freedom. Those "nearly human entities with nearly full human rights" need to lose freedom, however. They are merely legal constructs who are on the edge of having "free speech rights?!" It is getting beyond ridiculous. We need to protect ourselves from big business. We know what happens when we let them do what they want. We presently have laws in place and entire governing agencies in place and in operation to prevent the bad things that business will do if allowed. To name a few, the FDA, the FCC, the FAA, the EPA, the Department of Labor and more all exist because of what business would do if they were not regulated.

We KNOW the nature of business and we know what happens when it is unrestricted. It happened recently with the economic collapse when regulations were removed. Those restrictions were there for a reason. They weren't there to "take away freedom" from people. They were there to keep big business from destroying the people and the economy.

You need to wake up and fully understand the human nature of business and understand why restrictions and regulations need to be in place. We know why murder is illegal. We know why armed robbery is illegal. We even know why child labor laws exist. Let's learn to accept that big [myopic] business will do anything without a conscience for its own selfish ends. We all know it to be true even if it is sometimes unbelievable.

We won't lose freedom... not we the people. Not one bit.

Re:Isn't it about time for a bit of protectionism? (4, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229350)

You know, over the past 6+ years I have brought my position out on multiple occasions only to have my position labelled "protectionist" and discarded. But we have a problem in the U.S. We are exporting money that doesn't return. Some call it trade deficit. Some call it exporting jobs. Others call it outsourcing. Whatever you call it, big business is sending out a lot of money that never returns to the U.S. What's more, in order to do that, the foreign workers have to be educated in our technologies in order to replicate what we have done.

So we lost manufacturing and technology. All we have remaining is "intellectual property" which is really a thing that is not universally agreed upon. The things that made the US great aren't here any longer and while many of us were complaining about it leaving, government paid off by big business persisted in letting it happen.

The USA did it to the UK, now China is doing it to both of us. What comes around goes around.

Re:Isn't it about time for a bit of protectionism? (2)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229402)

Exactly, the USA did it to the UK. And we somehow think it will work when we, in the USA do it? Hell no it won't work and it will bring about our ruin. Some will say it has already gone to far to be stopped.

wierd... (1)

sxpert (139117) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229194)

the thing looks like an airbus ...
they wouldn't be producing from that factory they wrestled from us as collateral to buying some did they ?

China can just "borrow" other airliners, no biggie (2, Informative)

acidradio (659704) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229214)

China's turboprops in the modern era are all Russian designs. The ARJ21 is a ripoff of the MD90 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comac_ARJ21 [wikipedia.org]. The C919 is an Airbus 320 20 years too late. There is no innovation here, just borrowing. That's OK though, right?

Re:China can just "borrow" other airliners, no big (3, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229258)

The C919 is an Airbus 320 20 years too late

which was itself a 737, 20 years too late. Boeing are still selling hundreds of 737s every year. Airbus are selling plenty of 320s, many of them to Chinese airlines. There's a market for this sort of aircraft.

There is no innovation here, just borrowing. That's OK though, right?

It's business. It's apparently legal, or not obviously illegal enough for any reprecussions, and it makes money. so yes, that's okay.

Re:China can just "borrow" other airliners, no big (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229282)

Actually, with just 156 seats, it's closer to the Airbus A319.

Re:China can just "borrow" other airliners, no big (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229516)

156 to 190 seats depending on configuration. A320 is 150 to 180 seats.

Re:China can just "borrow" other airliners, no big (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229588)

The difference is that when the A320 entered the market, it did not compete against the original 737 (-100 and -200), it competed against the pretty much brand new 737 that had been released at the start of the 1980s (the -300, -400, -500 "Classic" series) - and Boeing found itself in a position where they had to rapidly respond with the 737NG (-600, -700, -800 and -900) early in the 1990s.

The A320 competed nicely because it came to the market because it had a technological edge that even the brand new 737 Classic series didnt have.

However, the C919 is coming to market with yesterdays technology, not tomorrows. It has no advantage other than price - but that may be enough for smaller airlines that would normally buy older used aircraft (African and Asia Pacific regionals for example - lots of airlines there that run 20+ year old aircraft into the ground).

Re:China can just "borrow" other airliners, no big (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229274)

And in 1789, Samuel Slater "borrowed" English technology. There was no "innovation" (so to speak) except carrying the plans in the bloody great cranium of his.

And he was a hero for it.

Trying to block off "IP" in this case is shoveling shit against the tide whether you like it or not.

There is a whole lot of refusing to see all this through the eyes of the Chinese in this discussion by people with their panties in a twist. It's happening folks, the Industrial and Information Revolutions have simultaneously come to China and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

Roll with it baby. - Steve Winwood.

--
BMO

Re:China can just "borrow" other airliners, no big (1)

Ice Tiger (10883) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229426)

All this has happened before and all this will happen again.

Well, this is not a surprise actually (3, Informative)

balaband (1286038) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229308)

Chinese have already (successfully) copied fighter planes. Take a look at J-7 (Mig-21), J-8 (Su-15), J-10(Eurofighter), J-11 (Su-27, Su-33). So only thing that is actually new - is that they are making* a new, civilian airplane.

* When I say making, I think about using blatant copy of some existing design

Re:Well, this is not a surprise actually (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229510)

Chinese have already (successfully) copied fighter planes. Take a look at J-7 (Mig-21), J-8 (Su-15), J-10(Eurofighter), J-11 (Su-27, Su-33). So only thing that is actually new - is that they are making* a new, civilian airplane.

But copying passenger jets is very different to copying military jets. A completely different discipline with different goals. If a J11 crashes, 1 military pilot dies and his family may see a cheque from the Chinese government. If a Comac ARJ21 (717 copy) [wikipedia.org] crashes and kills 60 people, there will be a serious problem to deal with. I just don't have the confidence in China to be able to honestly deal with that one, the issue of face may end up with serious mechanical failures being called "pilot error".

The Chinese people are, on the whole nice to deal with (not the best service in Asia but far better then the west) but their government does take never failing far too seriously.

Re:Well, this is not a surprise actually (3, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229612)

The J-10 was not a Eurofighter copy, it was a carry on from the Israeli Lavi project, which was itself built on the F-16. There was a lot of criticism of Israel after they handed the Lavi project lock stock and barrel to China despite it containing lots of classified American technology.

Well (3, Interesting)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229320)

Over the years I have gradually begun to realize that China developing advanced technology is a good thing for the world as a whole.

First of all, as China has developed their standards of living and the quality of their products has increased enormously. It is true that occasionally they cut the wrong corner and you end up with lead contaminated products. But the overwhelming trend is towards higher and higher quality, like the Japanese economy was in the 1960s.

Second, China is now growing past the point of merely copying (or pirating) other nation's technology and is starting to actually create things that were never seen before. That benefits the U.S. as much as it benefits China.

One concrete example I know of : the smokeless cigarettes that deliver nicotine without the carcinogens were invented by a Chinese scientist. These things are a major advance, and if developed fully could eliminate most deaths from Tobacco usage.

In the long run, everyone in the world will benefit once China converts even a fraction of it's billion person population into scientists, engineers, and artists.

Re:Well (1)

Silpher (1379267) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229396)

Funny I was smoking one of these E-cigarettes as I was reading you post, Must say It smokes like a cigarette it looks like a cigarette (same size, same "smoke"/vapor consistency) and it's hell of a lot cheaper and more important healthier then smoking regular cigarettes (nicotine is still bad I know but like P said no carcinogens makes it a lot healthier). Great invention of the chinese, thank you!

Re:Well (3, Insightful)

qmaqdk (522323) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229410)

Just like South America benefited from US prosperity, right?

I agree that it is a good thing that the people of China are being lifted from poverty. But the rest of the world also needs to be vigilant that Chinese foreign policy doesn't follow the book that the US wrote in South America. An economically prosperous country that controls its media is a very dangerous entity; not as much for its people, but for other nations around the world. And China has a very large presence in Africa at the moment.

This is actually a rather urgent issue. It's hard for people to be really angry at their government if they are delivering double digit growth. And foreign nations are in an increasingly weaker position to press China on the issues of censorship and human rights.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229488)

China developing advanced technology

Are they really developing technology? This article is merely yet another instance of acquire-blueprints-and-technology-then-copy. I don't think we're there yet.

Anyway, overall it may lead to advances where our industries are locked in a stalemate due to idiotic IP laws and monopolies. It's hard to pity "our" companies when they so merrily ship any knowledge over there for a quick buck.

On the other hand, it's China, a fiercly nationalistic, patriotic country with the most powerful propaganda machine ever created and with little to no regards for human rights and international cooperation.

They'll mercilessly exploit the rest of the world once they'll no longer need us; like "we" do with some smaller countries but with even less of those pesky human rights issues. They don't play by any other rules than their own.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229556)

You can't plan innovation.

Even though China has a mix of capitalism/comunism, the most important part of capitalism (freedom and private property) is still limited to the very few. And this part is also _the_ principle incentive for innovation. I know the Rail business in China a little bit. Here, their standards and innovations were all imported from foreign countries (germany and japan mainly)...which also means that their planing boards don't trust their own engineers/scientists. And this will not change unless they establish real capitalism. Alot of investements are done to have own innovation and research...but they still rely on the west for 'confirmation'...and are rejected on a regular basis. They cut themselves heavily. Once they unleash the people, the real trouble for the West will start.

India on the other hand...

Confucius say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229358)

How many bottle rockets will it take to get off the ground?

I bet they won't take US dollars as payment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229364)

Better start stocking up on renminbi

when will people start calling it treason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229592)

when will people start calling it treason to hand of technology to communists

greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34229610)

greed is a powerful thing. People are so brainwashed in the USA they willfully sold their future to China. In 100 years historians will look back at how the corrupt western governments sold out thier futures by giving it all to China in the hope of making a quick buck in the present. As a US citizen i welcome the day when chinese aircraft carrier battlegroups are patrolling our coasts while the once mighty us navy is rusting in dry dock since the US went bankrupt

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