Cloning and Copying path to becoming a military superpower

Scott Lang: My days of breaking into places and stealing stuff are over! What do you need me to do?
Hank Pym: …I want you to break into a place and steal some stuff.
Scott Lang: …makes sense.

In recent decades, China has earned an international reputation in recent decades as being the home of a prolific copycat culture. Some Western observers believe this cultural attitude towards imitation is rooted in Confucianism where followers traditionally learned by replicating masterworks and then tried to improve upon them.

An industry in which Chinese cloning has excelled to a disconcerting degree is the manufacture of weapon systems. China’s expanding military and growing assertiveness has been bolstered by weapons cloned from the arsenals of other countries. Bleeding edge U.S. aircraft including the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) have Chinese counterparts that are remarkably similar. Some of the technology used in these designs was almost certainly acquired through a vigorous Chinese cyber spying campaign.

U.S. Defense officials have stated that Chinese military hackers undertaking “technical reconnaissance” have succeeded in pilfering highly classified technical documents on a number of occasions. The sensitive technical data that is known to have been compromised is now evident in the latest versions of several Chinese weapons.

Officials also suspect that China has managed to obtain valuable technical advances by making backroom deals with U.S. allies that bought American weapons. It is for this reason that the U.S. decided not to export the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.

China also copied the Shenyang J-11B fighter from the Russian Su-27.

Russia continued to use Chinese money from arms sales to develop new technology, which China then stole.

China has copied US fighter jets, Predator drones, Humvees, tanks and infantry weapons.

Although Chinese clone weapons may not yet posses the quality and capabilities of the originals, several U.S. military and industry officials have expressed concern that the ongoing sophisticated cyber espionage campaign will allow China to rapidly improve their arsenal and even soon produce aircraft that will match all aspects of US fifth generation fighters like the F-22 and F-35.

China has adopted western economic systems and built up its economy. If China is able to achieve per capita income near the US level or equal to Europe then China will have a military budget that is triple the USA.

China would also be able to spend the money and effort to develop their military personnel and systems training.

With comparable military systems (lagging by only 5 years) then China would be able to match the US militarily. This would be similar to Russia being able to beat Germany in WW2. Germany did not have enough weapon system or technological superiority to match the Russian numbers.