Saturday, November 17, 2007

Unintended Consequences? 

Remember during the Clinton administration when the Chinese imported sophisticated CNC machining centers (link is to a PDF file) from the US, and defense hawks were upset?

This might be one reason why.

At the time, the machine tools, which were intended to be used to produce parts for commercial aircraft, were diverted to a factory that produced parts for military aircraft. I remember a reference to similar machines being used to shape submarine propellers. Precision-shaped propellers don't cavitate as much and as a result don't make much noise.

The Cox Report, portions of which are available here courtesy of the Washington Post, contains the following paragraph:
During the interagency licensing process for the machine tools, the Defense Technology Security Administration also sought assessments from the Central Intelligence Agency and from the Defense Intelligence Agency, because of concerns that the PRC could use the McDonnell Douglas five-axis machine tools for unauthorized purposes, particularly to develop quieter submarines. Since the PRC wishes to enhance its power projection capabilities and is making efforts to strengthen its naval forces, the five-axis machine tools could easily be diverted for projects that would achieve that goal.

To be sure, the machine tools were dual-use, and it's likely that the Chinese could have obtained equivalent technology from European sources, but that still is no reason why our government should have been so lax in giving it up.

I have no idea whether this has any connection with Chinese residents of the US having such an apparent affinity for the Clintons, but I think it's probably worth looking into.

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