How US technology transfer restrictions could be ruthless, especially for China or any country taking Beijing’s help in executing plans designed around space, defence or any science and technology areas, is now being experienced by the UAE.
The Gulf country’s plan to participate in China’s Chang’e-7 mission to the Moon in 2026 has suffered a massive jolt as the US, as per the South China Morning Post, has denied the UAE those technologies which could have seen its Rashid 2 Rover delivered to the Moon’s surface in the unmanned mission to the lunar South Pole, which could have ultimately helped it in laying the foundation for an international research station.
As per its 1976 International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), America bans even the smallest US-built mechanical device from being launched aboard Chinese rockets.
The Hong Kong-based English language daily quoted an expert on the US space policy as saying that if any US technology subject to the ITAR is incorporated into the Rashid 2 Rover, the manufacturer of that technology would have to first seek a licence from the State Department for export to the UAE if the UAE-China collaboration were to happen.
In fact, the licence is a kind of agreement in which a provider of defence or space-related technologies will have to commit to the US policy of preventing China from getting an access to America-built components.
China is considered as a habitual pilferer of American, European, and Japanese technologies. According to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which is a Washington DC-based think tank, there have been 137 publicly reported instances of China stealing American technologies since 2000. Of this, 73% took place in the last decade, the CSIS said.
The Chinese J-20 stealth aircraft is considered as a copied version of F-117 Nighthawk, a stealth aircraft formerly operated by the US Air Force. The Daily Mail, Britain’s most read newspaper, revealed that when the US Air Force’s stealth bombers which included F-117 Nighthawk aircraft was shot down in the NATO raid of Yugoslavia during Operation Noble Anvil on March 27, 1999, the wreckage was sent to China to study the stealth nature of the aircraft.
As per the British daily, soon after the Yugoslavia war, an exact replica of F-117 Nighthawk was observed at one of People’s Liberation Army’s Air Force’s radar development establishments. A similar replica of another USAF aircraft F-22 was observed in China at the NeifuPucheng airport, the Daily Mail said.
Last year, the US Space agency, NASA accused China of stealing unclassified American technology, ranging from space to military to medical research. The Singapore Postreported that during a US House Appropriations Committee hearing on May 17, 2022, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson accused the Chinese Communist Party of stealing the US’s most vital technological secrets.
In this background, there is fear that when Rashid 2 Rover fitted with US-built technologies arrives in Xichang for the launch on China’s rocket, Chinese engineers will take the Rover apart and study all the designs, jeopardising American interests.
There are several reports which suggest that China does not spare a moment in copying designs of technologies developed by other nations. Taking this into account, the US has denied technologies that could have helped the UAE’s Rashid 2 Rover delivered to the Moon’s surface on board China’s Chang’e 7mission.
In December 2022, the UAE’s first Rashid Rover was launched from Florida in the US by its SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. According to the Hong Kong-based daily, Rashid Rover has arrived in the Moon’s orbit and is expected to touch down on the lunar surface in April on board Japan’s Hakuto-R lander.
But when it came to the launch of the Rashid 2 Rover on the Moon’s surface, the UAE chose China’s rocket. Perhaps, this is what seems to have angered American authorities who are otherwise not happy with UAE-China bonhomie.
Earlier this month, the UAE’s National Space Science and Technology Centre, China’s Origin Space and the University of Hong Kong’s Laboratory for Space Research signed a letter of intent to build a joint research and development centre in Abu Dhabi.
According to the South China Morning Post, at the Abu Dhabi-based centre, researchers and engineers from China and the UAE will work together to build remote-sensing satellites and space telescopes and pursue deep space exploration missions. The US is looking at the development with concern.
In 2021, the Biden administration put on hold sales of weapons, including F-35 advanced fighter jets to the UAE, because it wanted to ensure that the Gulf country did not leak technology to China.
It is not known whether the US got such commitment from the UAE country or not, but last year in December, Abu Dhabi, as per Reuters, told Washington DC that it would suspend talks on a $23-billion F-35 advanced fighter jet deal with the US.
“The deal was signed under then-President Donald Trump after the UAE forged ties with Israel last year but progress on the sale had slowed amid concerns in Washington, including over the Gulf Arab state’s ties with China, a main trade partner,” Reuters said.
America has doubled down its effort in denying access to US-built technologies to China. Last month, the US Commerce Department restricted six Chinese companies linked to the Chinese army’s aerospace programme from obtaining US technologies without the government’s authorization.
The Chinese companies, as per CNN, are: Beijing Nanjiang Aerospace Technology, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation 48th Research Institute, Dongguan Lingkong
Remote Sensing Technology, Eagles Men Aviation Technology and Shanxi Eagles Men Aviation Science and Technology Group.
In October 2022, the Biden administration unveiled slew of measures aimed at limiting China’s access to advanced computer chips and chip-making equipment, stating that the technology is supporting China’s military modernisation and even its development of weapons of mass destruction.
By undertaking such moves, experts say, the US has sent a message to companies, governments, and other stakeholders globally that it will not brook any compromise on its national security interests.