William R. Collier Jr.

World News- Business News-  ANALYSIS of the Chinese Espionage Threat

china spy ship

Nations spy on nations. That is always a fact of life However, there are limits to which you can go before crossing a line, and increasingly nations around the world are saying that China has crossed the line.

In the latest dust-up over China’s incessant spying, the Chinese were invited to a biennial exercise called RIMPAC, a maritime safety exercise hosted by the US out of Hawaii that involves many nations. This year 24 nations have naval units on scene. They drill together, doing maritime safety and security exercises, getting to know how each navy operates, and even participating in on-shore sporting events and fraternization among personnel. It is a goodwill exercise.  Among the invited participants this year is China. So when participants noticed a Chinese spy ship shadowing the fleet not a few among the officers were incensed. It is one thing to spy on the exercise as a non-participant but to do so as a participant is considered to be rather impolitic and undiplomatic.

With so many Naval units operating together, the Chinese could obtain lots of critical data, including the sound and electronic signatures of hundreds of different types of vessels, and even signals and communications data that cannot be obtained together in one spot anywhere else.  US Pacific Fleet spokesman Captain Darryn James claimed that the US has taken measures to prevent security breaches, but critics say this is simply impossible and constitutes a weak response.

But while this incident may not in and of itself be extremely alarming, it is part of an ongoing pattern of aggressive espionage that few nations of any importance have not endured at the hands of the Communist Chinese dictatorship. Aggressive efforts to obtain data have extended to both the military and civilian sector, and increasingly corporations are facing Chinese espionage in order to allow Chinese firms to steal technology and catch up with their competitors, Inside China almost every technology patented by foreign firms has been stolen and duplicated in Chinese products, especially those that do not leave China where patent and copyright laws are actually enforced.

This has not only given the Chinese an unfair economic advantage, it is allowing their military to make technical advances which could, some warn, make China a greater military threat than the Japanese Empire of World War Two was to Asia and the Pacific.

The use of aggressive cyber warfare, with every Chinese University hosting what amounts to a cyber-espionage center with tens of thousands of “cyber sleuths” and hackers being employed, has earned the ire of its many victims- hacking directly into intelligence computers or even a nation’s corporate computer systems is technically an act of war.  Under that definition, the Chinese have been waging war on MOST of the world’s leading nations for over a decade.

But this effort is not the only effort, it is “all encompassing”, and includes potentially every single one of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationals who go abroad as students, tourists, and for business. Every Chinese national who leaves the country has to be interviewed by state security and many, certainly not all or most, are asked to obtain information which it is illegal for them to obtain.

Increasingly, world intelligence agencies are casting about over “the Chinese question” and how to “make them pay.” A May 2014 filing by the Justice Department against three Chinese who were accused of hacking into computers from US companies in Western Pennsylvania to steal technology was widely viewed as a “shot across the bow”. essentially warning the Chinese that there will be consequences for these activities.

The “dragon of Asia” is in fact a communist dictatorship and if or when the supply of stolen technology is cut off, their system is itself incapable of making such advances and they would quickly begin to lose ground. The policy of “economic engagement” was meant to allow the West to “influence” the Chinese for the cause of freedom and free markets.

Instead, this policy has benefited the Chinese at everyone else’s expense and has allowed them to become a serious military threat to their neighbors. Chinese “enlightenment” in the area of human rights has been limited and shallow, often involving no more than “show cities” where an “open” policy is somewhat pursued while throughout most of China traditional communist oppression is rather the norm.

How angry the world powers are, and what kind of push back they give, remains to be seen but China has succeeded in the grand theft of trillions of dollars worth of stolen technology, but the price may be the eventual economic and diplomatic isolation of the Chinese Community e, which would very quickly lead to economic retrenchment and military decline. The only question is, do the world powers have more to offer in their own defense other than mere words and warning?