EP 06: China’s Relentless War of Cyber Espionage & Cyber Attacks against the United States – Part III
China seeks a methodical, deliberate, and calculated approach to cyberwarfare against the United States. Instead of making front page news with likes of the Sony attacks and WannaCry ransomware attacks like North Korea, the China are the “silent dragon”, pushing forth with a plan to seamlessly infiltrate America’s economic engine by any number of means. According to security expert Kevin Townsend, “China is conducting a low and slow cyberwar, attempting to stay under the radar of recognition in the same way that individual hackers use low and slow techniques to remain hidden. If this analysis of the long-term goal of China is correct, then the threat from Chinese cyber operations is more dangerous and insidious than commonly thought. The policy is not one of direct confrontation but more designed to slowly maneuver the global economy until dominance shifts from the U.S. to China.”
Further evidence of China’s aggressive tactics against the United States are highlighted in a recent report (2018) report from the National Counterintelligence and Security Center. Titled, “Foreign Economic Espionage in Cyberspace,” the report offers a scathing indictment of China’s nefarious activities:
“China has expansive efforts in place to acquire U.S. technology to include sensitive trade secrets and proprietary information. It continues to use cyber espionage to support its strategic development goals—science and technology advancement, military modernization, and economic policy objectives. China’s cyberspace operations are part of a complex, multipronged technology development strategy that uses licit and illicit methods to achieve its goals. Chinese companies and individuals often acquire U.S. technology for commercial and scientific purposes. At the same time, the Chinese government seeks to enhance its collection of U.S. technology by enlisting the support of a broad range of actors spread throughout its government and industrial base.”
The report’s most damming statement; “We believe that China will continue to be a threat to U.S. proprietary technology and intellectual property through cyber-enabled means or other methods. If this threat is not addressed, it could erode America’s long-term competitive economic advantage.”
Shell companies. Cyber espionage. Attacks on America’s critical infrastructure. Aggressive tactics on the world stage. China is flexing its muscles – make no mistake – a serious concern for America.
Avoiding Direct Conflict
As of now – and this may change – China’s intent is not to provoke direct conflict with the United States, rather, to observe, survey, and gain access to America’s technologies for helping China compete against the West. No question, China wants to dominate the world in almost every imaginable way – economically, militarily, socially – yet they’re playing the game with a certain element of elusiveness. At a Senate Judiciary Committee, assistant attorney general John Demers noted the following regarding the Chinese, “The playbook is simple — rob, replicate and replace. Rob the American company of its intellectual property. Replicate the technology. And replace the American company in the Chinese market and one day in the global market.”
Almost every military, economic, and cybersecurity expert agrees that China is America’s biggest long-term strategic threat. China wants to be what the United States has been for the past century – the world’s leading superpower, and it will use every available resource it has to achieve this lofty goal. Its military is growing, its economy is modernizing, and its technology capabilities are rapidly improving. China is on the move and the United States should be very concerned in terms of its long-term impact.
China’s defense spending is second only to the United States. It’s built and launched its first aircraft carrier. It’s developing advanced defense systems. It’s also establishing overseas military bases. Chinese President Xi Jinping has grand ambitions for his military, such as a pledge to fully complete the modernization of China’s armed forces by 2035, and by 2050, he wants a military in place capable of winning wars all throughout the world.
Huang Xueying, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference confidently stated how “We [China] are now more focused on boosting indigenous research and development capabilities in all possible ways, especially precision…”. That’s because in the no-so-distant past, China relied heavily on foreign technology, and when it couldn’t get it, it would simply try and copy it as best as possible. The Chinese are now pulling away from being an importer of other technologies, instead, pushing hard to design, develop, manufacture, and put to use their own intellectual property. It’s based on national pride, and also a sounding to the world that China has arrived and is ready to dominate – at least in their eyes.
And according to then Vice President Mike Pence, “China wants nothing less than to push the United States of America from the Western Pacific and attempt to prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies”.
Muddying the waters even more between the United States and China is the ongoing trade wars that have erupted in recent years. With the election of Donald Trump in 2016, the White House has become fixated on slapping China with a barrage of tariffs – and to no surprise – China retaliating back with their own financial muscle. The back and forth tariffs and tough-talk seems to have no real end in sight, and while scores of studies have been published both embracing and criticizing the Trump’s tough stance on trade with China, some experts worry about that the real issue is being overshadowed – China’s growing cyber-espionage measures.
Perhaps the most ominous reflection regarding China came from FBI Director Wray, who in 2018 stated that “China’s goal, simply put, is to replace the U.S. as the world’s largest global superpower.”
Trade wars. Cyber wars. The real battle for America in the new millennium will be with China.
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