From corn to Apple: The cases behind the US-China standoff

FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2018, file photo, visitors look at a manufacturing robot from Chinese robot maker Aubo Robotics at the World Robot Conference in Beijing, China. China’s government has appealed to Washington to accept its industrial progress after U.S. intelligence officials said Beijing helps to steal and copy foreign technologies. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2017, file photo, a visitor looks at a robotic hand powered by Kinfinity Glove, developed by the German Aerospace Center, on display at the World Robot Conference at the Yichuang International Conference and Exhibition Centre in Beijing. China’s government has appealed to Washington to accept its industrial progress after U.S. intelligence officials said Beijing helps to steal and copy foreign technologies. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

WASHINGTON — To hear the Americans tell it, the Chinese have gone on a commercial crime spree, pilfering trade secrets from seed corn to electronic brains behind wind turbines. China has stripped the arm off a T-Mobile robot, the U.S. says, and looted trade secrets about robotic cars from Apple.

The alleged victims of that crime spree are individual American companies, whose cases lie behind the Trump administration's core complaint in the high-level U.S.-China trade talks going on in Washington: That Beijing systematically steals American and other foreign intellectual property in a bid to become the world's technology superstar. Yet the odds of a resolution to the trade dispute this week — or anytime soon — appear dim, in part because China's drive for technology supremacy is increasingly part of its self-identity.

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