CAD/CAM and the Clash of Economic Systems
A news item that caught my eye the other day was the press release from ZWSOFT that the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has selected ZWSoft as the 3D CAD/CAM design software to recommend for 3D military design. For those who do not follow the CAD/CAM business as much as some of us do, ZWSoft is a Chinese company that acquired VX Corporation an American Corporation based in Florida in late 2010. This acquisition allowed ZWSoft, which until then only had software products to address the 2-D market, to move into the 3D CAD/CAM market. While VX Corporation always had a decent modeler, in my opinion, it is not in the same class as SolidWorks or Inventor, let alone the Catia or NX modelers. So my take on this recommendation is that the Chinese Military/Industrial complex is working deliberately to actively promote one of its own corporations. While I don’t have a problem with this in principle, this development makes me uneasy due to the many ways it affects us here at MecSoft. Let me explain.
First and foremost, as an American, it is disturbing to see another example of home grown US technology being bought by a foreign country that potentially could be used against us and our overseas interests. In this case I hate to think that some of the weapons targeting our cities and citizens could be designed and manufactured by software that was conceived and built on our shores.
The second point I would like to make is that this development exemplifies the clash of two fundamentally different economic systems. It shows the ease with which open markets can be usurped and manipulated to transfer technologies that enhance the ability of closed governments to threaten us. Note that this is an example of a legal transfer of such important technology. But this is compounded by the bigger problem, the extent of which one can never know, of illegal transfer of sensitive technologies. Recent news of the Chinese government being implicated in large scale hacking attacks of US companies, and continuing reports of aggressive efforts at industrial espionage to steal valuable trade secrets only serve to highlight this issue.
Finally as a CEO of a small and successful CAM company, a company that relies on the free and open markets for its success, it is unsettling to see one of our competitors get such an endorsement from a Chinese government entity. I am quite sure that the MIIT did not go through an open bidding process to select the best product that would suit their needs as it is typically done in a free market such as ours. What is unsettling is that any subsidies that ZWSOFT receives from the Chinese military/government will be directly used to compete against MecSoft in other open markets such as the US and Euro-zone. While I welcome any fair competition since it makes us and our products better, this however is not a level playing field and this is not fair competition.
The question is what can we do about this? I would urge you to write to your congressional representative to make sure we have sensible and enforceable laws that safeguard such technology transfer, implement mechanisms with teeth to punish hacking attacks and finally let us also make sure that all our trading partners abide by the rules of the free market and are held accountable if not. Apart from this, there is nothing much one can do – except to secure our servers, sound the horn and continue plugging away. I for one am going to take every available opportunity to highlight this issue. If you share my concern, I would urge you to do the same.