Washington has accused the Chinese of embracing the most advanced electronic technology as their weapon of choice in order to gain the upper hand in the critical economic rivalry between two of the world’s most powerful nations.
But, significantly, the White House made it clear that it believes the rivalry is about much more than economic strategies. There clearly are fears that the Chinese also are anticipating, if not actually planning to initiate, a military clash with the United States.
Citing a report issued Monday by the Pentagon, the Obama administration accused China’s military of electronically attacking the American government’s computer systems as well as those of American defense contractors. The White House suggested 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 never directly accused the Chinese government or its military of waging cyberwarfare against the United States, but there were clear signs that the administration strongly suspected the Beijing regime of embracing a systematic strategy designed to aid in the theft of 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 Pentagon report, nearly 100 pages long, noted.
It said that while China’s primary goal is to pilfer industrial technology, many of the electronic intrusions also appeared to be designed to gain insights into the thinking of American policy makers. It 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.”
Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for Beijing’s foreign ministry, dismissed the Pentagon report as groundless and accused the American military of repeatedly making “irresponsible comments about China’s normal and justified defense buildup and hyped up the so-called China military threat” and said such behavior “is not beneficial to U.S.-China mutual trust and cooperation.”
China’s defense buildup, she continued, is geared towards protecting its “national independence and sovereignty.”
As for the accusations of hacking, Hua said: “We firmly oppose any groundless criticism and hype, because groundless hype and criticism will only harm bilateral efforts at co-operation and dialogue.”
For its part, the Pentagon report insists China has risen into the top ranks of offensive (and expensive) 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 notes that China’s first aircraft carrier is the first of several the country will deploy over the next 15 years. It is already set to operate in the East and South China Seas, the report continued, where China is entangled in bitter territorial disputes with several neighbors, including Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
So, while the president — who also has a full agenda of domestic issues — may be preoccupied with the worsening crisis in Syria as well as related issues in the Middle East and the on-again, off-again North Korean problems, he can’t afford to take his eyes of the potentially volatile problems posed by China.
World peace, so desirable, appears to be an eternally elusive goal. The United States must never relax its constant vigilence ... and preparation.
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