Mandiant/Unit 61398 Hysteria and what comes next

by Chris Zappone

What comes next from America after the revelations about the People’s Liberation Army’s Unit 61398?

How about a little healthy outward-facing hysteria? 

Maybe the question Americans should rightly be asking themselves is.. How do I know the  People’s Liberation Army Unit 61398 isn’t the cause of my slow computer? Are Chinese hackers causing the lights to flicker? Have PLA hackers stolen and bootlegged my Power Point presentation? Maybe they have.

Even if they haven’t, the PLA’s cyber attacks to steal intellectual property are real. People will say, all countries hack each other. But the difference between the US and China is that the US government is not using cyber attacks to pinch intellectual property. Just imagine the outrage if the US Army had a division that was surreptitiously illegally downloading all the designs and plans it could from companies located in commercial rivals of the US. But evidence shows the PLA systematically hacking all the intellectual property they can, to pass it on to industries, over whom the Communist Party of China has the final say. Is this again another example of how the Chinese system operates, in which those in power sit in government and deal themselves the best hands, passing along the IP to their circle of friends? Whatever the nature of China’s systematic rip-off of US inventions, it’s not the American Way. It’s nothing like the American Way. In fact, it’s entirely antithetical to the notions of invention and property rights and competition that are dear to America. Because it’s a threat to the US projected directly into the US, the China Challenge must be addressed. China, through its scale and determination to influence the way of the world, represents a threat to American values in commerce, trade, diplomacy, state-craft, design etc. Sounds like a great a challenge for American politicians. My question is: where are the Republicans on this? Weren’t they the hawks during the Cold War? So I ask, where is the hawkish party on this? A party, coincidentally in need of a huge galvanizing issue or two in order to rediscover their relevance in American politics. Here is a galvanizing challenge that affects many aspects of America, a huge force that is exploiting America’s openness. Even the measure Obama proposed today are being criticized as too tepid by Jason Healey of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative. Who dares talk about freezing assets of companies and organizations involved in this kind of hacking? Who dares block relevant Chinese nations from activity in the US because of their hacking? Not these Republicans. If you want to know where the Republicans are as the Chinese seek to displace the US, the Republicans are busy delaying the nomination of Chuck Hegel until they can be sure he has the right stance on Iran and Israel.

Guys, Iran, for all of its risks, is not a risk to America that China is. China has the power to challenge America in unimaginable ways, starting with economic prowess.

And that’s why just a scintilla of hysteria could be a good thing. People need to realize doing nothing about China is not going to make the problem go away. Doing nothing about China is not an option.

So for a rough draft of contemporary history, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mandiant report pushes Americans, well, back into their own arms. One of the first major events, following the end of historical Cold War, that forces Americans to seek the Other not across the aisle in Congress, or the radio waves of talkback programming, but abroad, in another nation, whose government, not to mention people, have the goal of ushering the US into strategic decline.