June 20, 2012: China has introduced their first MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected), a new 4x4 vehicle called the Norinco 8M. The vehicle can withstand an anti-vehicle mine of up to 7 kg (15.4 pounds) explosives (or 10 kg/22 pounds under a wheel). The 8M carries eight personnel and is intended mainly for police work.
The 8M is apparently one result of a deal made with a South African firm (MLS, Mobile Land Systems) two years ago to sell China MRAP technology. This involved selling China eleven MRAP vehicles. But the sale included the transfer of technology, for a fee. The South Africans insisted on this and the Chinese went along. The Chinese complied because they knew that the South Africans were aware of the Chinese tendency to just steal such technology.
MRAPS are 8-20 ton trucks that are hardened to survive bombs and mines. These are built using construction techniques pioneered by South African firms. The South African technology was imported into the U.S. in 1998, and has already been used in the design of vehicles for peacekeepers in the Balkans. These vehicles use a capsule design to protect the passengers and key vehicle components from mines and roadside bombs.
The Chinese MRAP was based on a South African model, modified to Chinese specifications. The first three were built in South Africa, with the parts for the other eight shipped to China, where South African engineers supervised their assembly by the Chinese. As long as the Chinese held up their end of the contract, South African personnel continued to transfer the technology (including production techniques).
China is trying to clean up its act with regards to theft of intellectual property. China does this out of self-interest, as there is a growing quantity of Chinese inventions that can be stolen. So the South African deal provided an opportunity to show that China can be trusted. The Norinco 8M is apparently the first of several Chinese MRAP designs.