TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s government on Wednesday accused China of waging economic warfare against the Chinese-claimed island’s tech sector by stealing technology and enticing away engineers, as parliament considers strengthening legislation to prevent this.
Taiwan is home to a thriving and world-leading semiconductor industry, used in everything from fighter jets to cars, and the government has long worried about China’s efforts to copy that success, including by industrial espionage and other underhand methods.
Four Taiwanese lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party are leading a proposal to amend the commercial secrets law to widen the scope of what is considered a secret and toughen penalties.
In a report to parliament about the proposed amendments, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau blamed China for most cases of industrial espionage by foreign forces discovered in recent years.
“The Chinese Communists’ orchestrated theft of technology from other countries poses a major threat to democracies,” it said.
“The aim of the Chinese Communists’ infiltration into our technology is not only about economic interests, but also has a political intention to make Taiwan poorer and weaker.”
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Taiwan’s Economy Ministry, in its report, said China was trying to boost its semiconductor industry by “poaching” Taiwanese talent “as well as obtaining our country’s industry’s commercial secrets, to harm the country’s competitiveness”.
The Cabinet has met many times to work out how to address the problem, the ministry added.
Lawmaker Ho Hsin-chun, one of the legislators who has proposed the amendments, said the need was urgent.
“The infiltration of China’s red supply chain is everywhere,” she told a parliament committee meeting.
It is not clear when or if the amendments could be passed into law, and the Justice Ministry in its report suggested further discussion of the wording was needed.
Hu Mu-yuan, deputy head of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau, expressed broad backing for the measure.
“As long as it’s helpful for our country’s security and interests, we support it,” he said.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Stephen Coates)