- The Washington Times - Friday, April 24, 2009


The report released in late March from Canadian security analysts describing cyberhacking by the Chinese government and this week’s news of China’s incursion into the U.S. electrical grid came as no surprise to China watchers or the members of my household.

Since I was appointed in 2006 as a commissioner to the U.S. China Commission, my family has said hello to China every day when we turn on our computers. Just as soon as our friend-who-shall-remain-nameless (and counterhacking expert) clears our computers of Chinese keystrokes, they reappear.

Although the People’s Republic of China is welcome to read my Christmas card list and my son’s homework assignments, it is pathetically ironic that it is likely perusing my writings on China already available in the public domain under the freedoms assured by our constitutionally protected speech. Unlike China, we do not have 30,000 Internet police trolling the Web for offensive words like “freedom” or “liberty.”

China has long believed that because our weapon capabilities are so advanced, it should challenge us on the cyberintelligence and information-warfare battlefield. As far back as 1996, a Chinese military official noted in the Liberation Army Daily newspaper: “Thanks to modern technology, such as the development of information carriers and the Internet, many can now take part in fighting without even having to step out the door.” Indeed, if this analyst is right, China will not need to fire so much as a shot to do serious harm to America’s security interests.

The Chinese have been remarkably successful in cyberwarfare, compromising computers used by the offices of the Dalai Lama, NATO, global financial institutions, 103 government ministries and embassies around the world - and, of course, my laptop.

China’s military budget has experienced double-digit growth for 10 years, and its plan to steal proprietary information to assist its meteoric growth is organized and strategic. In the 1980s, China’s government adopted Project 863, a plan designed to steal emerging technologies from other countries and financially reward any Chinese entrepreneur who turned them into viable products or systems.

Stolen stuff comes cheap, and it appears the Chinese have decided that spending time and millions - or even billions - of dollars on research and development would be wasteful when they can obtain critical assets and information for far less through hacking and theft.

Many stolen products and technologies come from our public sector but often have “dual use” military-modernization functionalities. In 2007, a naturalized American born in China was caught at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport with a one-way ticket to Beijing and $600 million worth of proprietary information from Motorola Inc. useful to military communications and tactical combat technology.

The coordinated industrial and military espionage against the United States and successful hacks into Pentagon computers have aided China not just in growing its conventional and nuclear capacity, but also its advances in space weaponry.

It is hard to argue, as the Chinese do, that this buildup is benign. Indeed, the Chinese are reported to already have technology that could disable our satellite communication networks and Navy battle groups using cyberattacks.

To a great extent, American dollars have enabled the Chinese to carry out their cybersnooping. China’s current account surplus with us is approaching $400 billion, and we ended 2008 with a $266 billion trade deficit with China.

At the same time, our ability to source materials used by our military continues to dry up as U.S. manufacturers go out of business, in large part due to our decidedly lopsided trade with China, which results from its cheating on a number of economic fronts.

We don’t know when we might have to defend ourselves in an action involving a country in which China has an energy or political interest. Skirmishes can pop up anywhere at any time, such as Colombia’s dust-up with Ecuador earlier this year. As we lined up with our friend Colombia, Ecuador had Venezuela on its team, a country that China relies on greatly as an energy source. Our friend Taiwan is locked in a seemingly endless and precarious dance of pseudo-separation from the mainland, and China’s energy buddy Iran constantly aims its saber-rattling at Israel.

As China hacks our computers, Congress hacks our military budget. Congress also turns a deaf ear to missile defense and defensive space technology.

While the government is busy “stimulating” the inspection of urban canals and buying new chairs for bureaucrats, it should also use tax dollars to enhance our military and cybersecurity. We must ensure that domestic manufacturers have adequate capacity to supply our military as well as adequately fund computer technologies and personnel required to counter any aggression that threatens us at home or abroad.

Kerri Houston Toloczko is senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Liberty and a senior analyst with the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

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