Here is the dilemma. Russia is eager to sell the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) its fighter planes Su-35, but fears China might reverse-engineer its airplane. Defense specialist Reuben F. Johnson explains in Jane’s how the negotiations develop.
Reuben F. Johnson:
A source in the Russian government told the influential Moscow daily Kommersant : “The two sides are in practical agreement regarding the delivery to the PRC [People’s Republic of China] of 48 Su-35s at a cost of USD4 billion.”
However, reports on this sale continue with the additional detail that “an unanticipated obstacle to the deal has emerged. Moscow is requiring that Beijing provide a legally binding guarantee that it will refrain from making reverse-engineered copies of the Russian fighter – largely so that this does not create a potential competitor in the market to sell the aircraft to other countries. China is no hurry to provide this guarantee.”
Russian sources close to the Federal Service for Military-Technical Co-operation (FSVTS) state that such a guarantee “is an essential condition” of the sale. Some of the same industry sources point out that the Chinese have used their assistance from Russia or have copied designs to create competitors for almost every class of combat aircraft that Russian industry offers for export and they do not want a repeat of this experience.