China feeding a resurgent nationalism with mischief-making: New York Times

Do I detect another faint new geopolitical border etching its way across the world? Have the US elites who held out for a better world with China had a change of heart?

The New York Times on China’s role in the South China Sea in August 2013

A confrontational approach is unwise for a country that prizes stability and development and needs to focus on its serious domestic problems, including an increasingly troubled economy. Instead of feeding a resurgent nationalism with mischief-making, Beijing should be working with its neighbors to ease competing claims and to pursue joint development of natural resources.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Gray Lady was urging the US allow China to join the WTO because (provided China adhere to rules) the whole world would benefit.

“For Americans to reject a trade agreement that benefits everyone is misguided. Provided China meets all the conditions, a deal could actually improve the possibility of dialogue on other contentious issues.”

When did the New York Times learn? When they found out their computers were being hacked constantly by the PLA? Tremendous irony here – and I hate to lay it all at the feet of the New York Times – but now the wealthy and elites of America can make out the shape of the leviathan that the working class and middle class of American saw a good decade earlier and protested against. (Yes, the last link is also from the New York Times, which is to their credit).  


Clues on US cyber capabilities

A lot has been made of China’s hacking capabilities recently, with everyone from the White House to the China weighing in. Yet what the US is capable of remains a mystery. A couple details that emerged from the China-hacking-of-ASIO story provide some hints, and they suggest the US has had its way with the Shanghai cyberspying unit that’s been in the news.

An Australian politician this week referenced the location of the stolen Australian Security Intelligence Organisation plans as place in China where there was a lot of other hacking.

Asked if he was in doubt about China’s role in the cybertheft of the blueprints to Australia’s intelligence organization, Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce replied: “That’s where the server was. And the server was in a typical place where they’ve been doing a lot of other hacking.” (25:40)

I assume Joyce is privy to more in-depth knowledge of the attack than the public, perhaps through the briefing the Opposition received after the attack.

Joyce’s comments follow a tidbit contained in the original report that said the details of the ASIO hack were provided to Canberra by a friendly government.

Four Corners [the ABC program] has leaned that breach of the [Australian] Defence Department only came to light by chance. During an intelligence operation against China, a friendly nation, possibly the US, discovered information from the classified Australian document in an assessment produced by the Chinese military.

If the US is the “friendly nation” conducting an operation against China that produced the information about Australia, and the server in China “was in a typical place” where the Chinese have been doing a lot of hacking, it would all suggest it was the Shanghai building that houses PLA Unit 61398, which was exposed by the NYTimes report on Mandiant.

Of course, it’s possible that the US is not the friendly nation. Other reports suggested China’s cyberspying of the ASIO plans occurred as far back as 2009, which means this has been going on for a while. There are also other active sites for China’s hacking.

But from an English-speaking perspective, Shanghai would most likely be the city where the hacking originated, if it’s the same location of hacking of other English-language countries.

A US-based Project2049 report breaks down Chinese cyber units by function.

Second Bureau (61398 Unit). The Second Bureau appears to function as the Third Department‘s premier entity targeting the United States and Canada, most likely focusing on political, economic, and military-related intelligence. Subordinate offices are concentrated in Shanghai, although one may be in the Kunming vicinity.

By contrast, China’s hacking of Japan and Korea seems to come from Qingdao, the same report states. And yes, China expects US attempts to infiltrate Chinese servers.

Chinese analysts believe that the United States is already carrying out extensive computer network exploitation activities against Chinese servers. Therefore, from the Chinese perspective, defending computer networks must be the highest priority in peacetime.

Mandiant/Unit 61398 Hysteria and what comes next

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.