Flag of the Chinese Communist Party 贛語: 中國共產黨黨...

Flag of the Chinese Communist Party (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This article was first published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, May 21, 2014:

The indictments announced on Monday by Attorney General Eric Holder of six Chinese officers for hacking into some American companies’ computer networks raised more questions than they answered. The Chinese have been spying on America since the end of the Second World War. Why, all of sudden, out of the blue, is this announcement front page news?

According to Holder:

When a foreign nation uses or intelligence resources and tools against an American executive or corporation to obtain trade secrets or sensitive business information for the benefit of its state-owned companies, we must say: Enough is enough.

This has been eight long years in the making. The 31 indictments on each of five Chinese officials listed examples of attacks on SolarWorld, Allegheny Technologies, Alcoa, United State Steel and its workers’ union, and Westinghouse. The attack on Alcoa, however, took place several years ago, and the company, while admitting that the attack unnerved them, also admitted that no major damage was done and new security measures were installed.

The attack on SolarWorld was equally thin. Its headquarters are in Germany, with some US branches. It has been losing market share to Chinese solar panel makers because it can’t compete with the prices subsidized by the Chinese government. Nevertheless, said the indictment, the Chinese wanted to know all about SolarWorld’s prices, costs, and marketing strategies.

Still a third attack, this one on Westinghouse, also raised questions. The hackers stole some designs from the company at the same time that Westinghouse was negotiating with a Chinese company to build a nuclear power plant. It was hardly clear from the indictment exactly what advantage the Chinese would gain from that knowledge.

Assistant Attorney General John Carlin wasn’t helpful, either. In the past, Chinese officials have denied any hacking, demanding proof. This time, according to Carlin, there is proof:

They responded [to such charges] by publicly challenging us to provide hard evidence of their hacking that could stand up in court.

Well, today we are. For the first time, we are exposing the faces and names behind the keyboards in Shanghai used to steal from American businesses.

So what? This isn’t espionage in the sense of state secrets, nuclear weapons, or chemical warfare. Where does the DOJ come off investigating “economic” espionage?

The pushback from China was, of course, predictable and instant. China’s foreign minister said the charges were “made up” and that the indictments would “damage Sino-American cooperation and mutual trust.” Then he denied everything, while in the same breath accusing the US – thanks to revelations by Edward Snowden – of being the aggressor:

The Chinese government, military, and associated personnel, have never engaged in online of trade secrets….

China [instead] is a victim of severe U.S. cyber theft, wiretapping, and surveillance activities.

The hypocrisy on both sides is breathtaking.

Especially since the historical literature abounds with examples of Chinese attempts – many successful – to infiltrate and obtain vital national security secrets ever since 1948. Wikipedia has 10 single-spaced pages of examples of Chinese-Americans who sold out the US for a mess of Chinese porridge:

There’s Larry Wu-Tai Chin, a member of the U.S. intelligence community who was recruited as a spy by the Communist Chinese in 1948. For 38 years he sold his soul – and American secrets – to the communists before being convicted on 17 counts of espionage in 1986.

There’s Katrina Leung, who was recruited by the FBI as a counterintelligence agent but who turned out to be working for the Chinese all the time. It took 18 years for the FBI to catch up with her and shut her treason down.

There’s Peter Lee, who worked at the Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab and later for TRW, all the while providing his real bosses vital information on America’s most secret weaponry.

There’s Chi Mak, and Lo-Suen “Bill” Moo, and Wen Lo Hee, and Bo Jiang, and Joa Jun Zhao, and…

So the Chinese lied about their spying. And now they lie about their hacking.

But if these indictments were so vital to America’s security interests, why have they just been released now? There’s no chance of prosecution (only if one of the indicted five decides to travel to a country which has an extradition treaty with the US). Alcoa said their internal damage was minimal. When the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal newspapers were hacked three years ago, the Chinese claimed innocence, but it turned out they were looking for those in the Chinese government who had leaked information to the papers in their articles criticizing China. Where were Holder and Carlin then?

When it was learned that the source of the hacking in Shanghai was just one of many run by the Peoples’ Liberation Army – and not a very sophisticated operation at that – it raised still another question: what about those other much more advanced operations that really do present a threat to American security? Why didn’t Holder et al go after those?

Is Monday’s announcement a deliberate distraction to draw peoples’ attention away from Benghazi and the IRS and ObamaCare and…? Or is it to respond to China’s increasingly aggressive behavior in Asia – in response, for example, to its deploying an oil rig off the coast of Vietnam? Is this part of the president’s new “pivot” plan to refocus from Western Europe to Asia, as suggested by Australia’s former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd?

Without such a move, there is a danger that China, with its hard-line, realist view of international relations, would conclude that an economically exhausted United States was losing its staying power in the Pacific.

Or do Monday’s indictments have something to do with the president’s ego and sagging poll numbers and increasing perception of an empty suit? June Dreyer, a China specialist at the University of Miami, certainly thinks so:

From Obama’s perspective, this will hopefully take some of the heat, the criticism, off him that he’s been totally wimpy….

Whatever the reason – or the reasons – behind Monday’s big announcement by Holder, one thing is clear: thanks to Edward Snowden’s revelations, the courage of the Guardian newspapers to publish them, and the internet’s ability to expose them in every corner of the planet, the staggering hypocrisy of both belligerents is something to behold. The US suveills the world in the name of peace while the Chinese hacks the world for its secrets to help build its economy. It’s political persiflage at its finest.



Reuters: U.S. accuses China of cyber spying on American companies

NBC News:     U.S. Charges China With Cyber-Spying on American Firms

Reuters: China confronts U.S. envoy over cyber-spying accusations

Los Angeles Times: China blasts ‘absurd’ U.S. charges of cyberespionage

Chinese Intelligence Activity Abroad

Chinese Intelligence Operations in the United States

What is cyber spying?

Background on SolarWorld

Obama’s pivot


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