Thursday, April 23, 2009

China's Sticky Fingers

Wretchard discusses a WSJ article about Chinese cyberwar. Computer spies, it seems, have drained the digital assets of some of our most important weapon systems. The usual denials and uncertainties apply, but it walks like a duck.


The influential members of the Chinese government see their national interests in very stark military terms. Taiwan is still on their plate among other territorial “reclamations”, and any realistic analysis must assume that they have explicitly developed plans to meet their goals. And they see no reason why they can't build a military force capable of getting what they want.


The Chinese have certain asymmetric advantages. The central government has strong support of the people along with almost unlimited central power to chose and enforce policy. No other country in the world could even dream of controlling their birth rate with such rational firmness. The US has neither rational nor strong government. We do have superb technological expertise and capital. We are rich in knowledge and we are still far more wealthy than China. But what that means is that we have a lot to offer them in terms of targets for trade, emulation and theft. They are asymmetrically well positioned to extract the fruit of those targets because of the openness of our society.


There are around two million Chinese speakers in the US. There are thousands who have ongoing contacts with Taiwan and the PRC. There are first and second generation Chinese distributed throughout the country, involved in the most interesting research at our best universities, and just as many holding responsible positions in every agency, department and office of the federal government. What percentage do American citizens represent in the Chinese civil or military services? And if we did have the humint capacity, what do you imagine we could do with it? We could find out their intentions I suppose, but we already have that knowledge as a byproduct of our expertise in game theory. All in all, though, they don't have anything we would want to steal, and they don't have anything that would improve our capabilities.


I don't know. To me the long-term strategic situation is worrisome. I'm no expert. Maybe Wretchard is, but I can guarantee you that there are not a lot of members of Congress who even think about this issue. I suspect, though, that someone is advising them on other military issues. The advisors have names like, oh, Boeing, General Dynamics, Halliburton. I would rather that Congress had advisors that came from a citizens' committee of strategic experts. Ask me how to make that happen.

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