Notes on Chinese Espionage and Military Power

This morning the American HLN channel, an affiliate of CNN, reported on Chinese espionage conducted against the United States, particularly in the area of cyber-warfare.  This report, while not yet online, indicates a slow build in similar reports, including this summer’s allegations in Los Angeles of a Chinese-born Boeing engineer for passing some 300,000 sensitive aerospace documents to the Chinese government.

Chinese media has been spending quite a bit of energy tamping down such fears, in part by pointing to inflated fears in the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on China’s military strength.   While they could just quote the relevant sections of Thomas Bartlett’s Barnett’s brilliant book The Pentagon’s New Map or site this pithy Slate editorial on the Pentagon’s unjustified paranoia over the Chinese military, the Chinese media chooses to issue a few editorials about increased transparency.

Here is a relevant excerpt from Xinhua’s point of view:

The US Pentagon released its annual report…turning a blind eye to China’s long-held peaceful defense policy and ever increasing military openness.

In the largely subjective report with distorted facts and groundless speculations, the Pentagon alleged that “China continues to promulgate incomplete defense expenditure figures and engage in actions that appear inconsistent with its declaratory policies.”  etc.

Read the rest here.

For those of us with strong memories of the Cox Report and the anti-Chinese upswing in the United States in 1999 (including the blistering Wen Ho Lee case), these trends aren’t good.  Although Wu Bangguo is in town to meet with Obama and Hillary, and the State Department has been incredibly pliant toward Chinese imperatives (deferring to colleagues at Treasury), it seems that military competition, rather than cooperation, with China is in the cards.

And just wait until the PLA marches past Tiananmen, showing off Mao’s portrait and the newest missiles.  Such displays are in part intended to intimidate regional rivals like India, the country about which China Daily recently raised the prospect of a Sino-Indian border war, then almost farcically tried to placate by stating that “a section of the Chinese media has also been found lacking in ethics” in coverage of India.  And given that the Dalai Lama is planning to moving through Arunachal Pradech, an Indian state he normally stays out of, a state which happens to have border conflict with China, they have their reasons.   And yet, although other audiences are intended for the missiles (including the recalcitrant DPRK), there is no doubt that the militarized elements of the October 1 celebration in Beijing will amp up apprehension toward China in the United States.

It doesn’t matter that China absorbed almost 40% of the net job loss of the global downturn or that its economy is a huge reason why the global economy is afloat: get ready for a resurgence of anti-China sentiment of multiple angles — with economic, military, and human-rights prongs —  in the United States.

And lest you believe the U.S. is going it alone, it may bear repeating that Canadian papers like the Ottawa Citizen are running front page stories on Chinese spying there.  (The stories are based on a forthcoming book “authored by former intelligence officer Michel Juneau-Katsuya and Montreal investigative journalist Fabrice de Pierrebourg,” reports the Ottawa paper.)  Yet in literally the same breath, Canadian thinkers are contemplating decoupling further from U.S. influence and reaching out further to China if only out of economic necessity.

One final, disturbing thought from the Ottawa Citizen, acting as a giant leadup to the forthcoming investigative book by de Pierrebourg and his colleague:

They reveal the hidden hand of Chinese intelligence in getting the House of Commons in 2007 to shame China’s old enemy Japan for its treatment of foreign women during the Second World War…


The Chinese agents…cultivate legislators at every level, according to the book.

In November 2007, the [Canadian House of] Commons unanimously passed a motion calling on Japan to apologize to foreign women forced into military brothels during the Second World War.

The authors say an “official investigation,” presumably by CSIS or the RCMP, revealed that a Chinese intelligence service — the United Front Work Department — orchestrated and financed the Chinese-Canadian group that lobbied parliamentarians for the motion.

“Japan is China’s principal competitor on the Asian subcontinent, and so it was in China’s interest to create a chill in Canada-Japan relations. The ‘atrocities’ were the handiest available tool. Canadian legislators … none of them asked for CSIS’s opinion on what was going on.” ‘Silencing’ dissident voices So-called “foreign interference” has a much more sinister side.


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