May 20, 2014

War of the Internets - China vs. U.S.

Cyber-spying has real world implications.
The United States government, perhaps has finally bought a vowel and is starting to take seriously the threat of cyber attacks from foreign nationals - specifically Chinese nationals.  The U.S. government has charged several Chinese military officials, in absentia, with cyber theft related charges.
Yesterday’s indictment of five Chinese officials signals the administration is banking that enough time has passed that it can redirect the worldwide debate over government surveillance toward China’s drive to steal commercial secrets of private companies to boost its own economy.

“We’ve told the Chinese we know they spy on us for military purposes and we spy on them for military purposes, which is what big powers do,” said James Lewis, a fellow in cybersecurity at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “What’s weird is when you spy purely for commercial purposes, and that has to stop.”
This from the same not-ready-for-prime-time administration that was about to give up control of the Internet. Why the about face, and why so quickly after supposedly re-thinking the notion of sharing control of the internet?  And why the specific anger about industrial espionage? Shouldn't the fact that China basically stole the F35 fighter jet blueprints and suddenly has their own version in testing be equally damning.

And when I say damning, I mean both of the Chinese and of American counter-espionage capabilities.  Let's face it, the U.S. is getting its behind handed to it by the Chinese in the realm of espionage and whether it's the Obama arrogance that is causing a disbelief of the facts on the ground or just the lack of capabilities of the various espionage agencies in the U.S. that prevents things from getting better, the problem is still that things are just not getting better.

These charges are window dressing designed to make the president look tough on Chinese espionage, just in time for the midterm elections oddly enough.  Just this weekend I was chirping about how the U.S. needed some muscle in its electronic surveillance despite the privacy issues that surround the spying (granted, with no easy answers available to fix things), and today these stories break.  While the focus has been on terrorism, China and Russia have not gone away, they are both resurgent (or trying to be in Russia's case).  But charging a few low ranking military personnel is no solution.  All it is going to do is to anger China, while accomplishing nothing.

China of course, has reacted:
China’s decision to suspend its involvement in a cybersecurity working group with the U.S. after being accused of commercial spying threatens to undo efforts aimed at finding common ground to tackle hacking.

China halted the dialogue and threatened further retaliation after the U.S. indicted five Chinese military officials yesterday for allegedly stealing trade secrets. China’s Foreign Ministry called the U.S. move a “serious violation of the basic norms of international relations,” while China’s State Internet Information Office likened the U.S. actions to “a thief yelling ‘Catch the thief.’”
I expect that the president might use this as a springboard for some proposed legislation (sans details of course), to protect the U.S. from Chinese aggression.  If we do see it, rest not assured because it is merely a ploy to get votes.

EXIT question:  With Bill Clinton having been such a cozy president for the Chinese to work with, there's one more reason not to have Hillary win the White House in 2016.  Will anyone in the media make the connection?


  1. The F-35 is an overpriced turd. Maybe China will refine the design to make it actually work and then we can buy planes from them. :(

  2. I appreciate your cynicism innominatus. It works on many levels raising a number of issues - the quality of the plane itself, the offshoring of American industry and the validity of the rationale behind building the F-35 aircraft Not to mention the cost.

    The merits of the F-35 aside, China's espionage is still an existential threat that must be aggressively addressed.


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