Relations between the United States and China have always been rocky, and it was no surprise when Washington accused the Chinese of using electronic technology as their weapon of choice in their bid to win the economic rivalry between two of the world’s most powerful nations.
The White House made clear, the rivalry is much more than merely economic. There clearly are fears that the Chinese also are anticipating, if not actually planning, an eventual military clash with the United States.
Citing a report issued by the Pentagon, the Obama administration accused China’s military of electronically attacking our government’s computer systems as well as those of American defense contractors. The White House warned that the Chinese may be attempting to map this country’s military capabilities so that they “could be exploited during a crisis.”
Previously, the White House had not directly accused the Chinese of waging cyberwarfare against the United States, but there were clear signs that the administration strongly suspected China of embracing a systematic strategy to steal intellectual property and to thus gain strategic advantage.
“In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military,” the report, nearly 100 pages long, noted.
It said that although China’s primary goal is to steal industrial technology, many of the electronic intrusions also appeared to be aimed at gaining insights into the thinking of American policy makers. It then warned that the same techniques could easily be used for “building a picture of U.S. network defense networks, logistics, and related military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis.”
The Chinese didn’t take kindly to Washington’s assertions. In Beijing, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative declared that “China has repeatedly said that we resolutely oppose all forms of hacker attacks’’ and suggested the Pentagon’s report consists of “groundless accusations and speculations.”
The Pentagon report insists China has risen into the top ranks of offensive cybertechnologies by investing in electronic warfare capabilities in an effort to blind American satellites and other space assets. China, it said, also hopes to use electronic and traditional weapons systems to gradually shove the American military back to nearly 2,000 miles from China’s coast.
The report argues that China’s first aircraft carrier, commissioned last year, is only the first of several the country will deploy over the next 15 years. Although the new carrier may not reach “operational effectiveness” for as long as four years, it is already set to operate in the East and South China Seas, the report continued. These seas are where China is entangled in bitter territorial disputes with several neighbors, including Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The Chinese government can deny the report’s allegations all it wants, but the evidence is compelling that China will use whatever means possible to enhance its power and undermine ours.
We may have better relations with China than 40 years ago, but they are not our friends. The United States must remain prepared to expose and defuse the schemes of this most perplexing nation.