Like a magnetic field the China-US split spreads

by Chris Zappone

Although the timing behind the decision remains unclear, a top US intelligence adviser has had to step down because of his association with China’s telecommunication giant Huawei.

Theodore Moran has resigned as an adviser to US Director of National Intelligence, after pressure from Republican congressman Frank Wolf – the man behind the restriction on NASA’s bilateral contact with China’s space agencies.

“It is inconceivable how someone serving on Huawei’s board would also be allowed to advise the intelligence community on foreign investments in the US,” Wolf wrote to US Director Of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Moran claims he has been transparent and the information was known for some time. It may be that the ground has shifted beneath his feet. The view of Huawei as another telecommunication company has been eclipsed by the view of Huawei as the long arm of the People’s Liberation Army. And this pivot of views on matters Chinese has traveled to other areas as well: space technology, East Asian diplomacy.

In the case of Huawei, the chorus of US voices singling it out as a national security threat have been growing, even as the US has refused to provide details. One snippet in the Australian Financial Review gives a clue:

“The Australian Secret Intelligence Service allegedly had an asset who was working with Huawei executives in Yemen in or around 2011. He reported consistent ‘irregularities’ in the behavior of its Chinese engineers. Following discussions with the CIA about the matter, the agency informed ASIS that one of the Chinese engineers was actually an active PLA officer.”

But the broader trend between China and US is in place. On issues like trade and business, the goods and services keep flowing. But increasingly issues at the margins like Hauwei, or like cyber-security, or the East China Sea, or media freedom in China, the two powers have grown more negative.

For a long time, the US had every reason to trade with China. Now the US needs to lift its wages and so the mantra of cheap goods doesn’t even have the same luster. Further, if China’s military is on an aggressive footing with the US, what incentive does the US have to make China richer through trade? The only thing missing is a way for the US to slip out from economic dependence on China.

But for now, it’s like the polarity of a magnetic field reversing – the force is invisible and yet its effect is clear and measurable and felt everywhere at once.