Chinese Cyber Attacks: Robust Response Needed
By Dean Cheng
Reviewed by Ambassador Joe Rogers
Dean Cheng’s report on the results of the Mandiant investigation into Chinese cyber spying does an excellent job of laying out the difference in Chinese and Western views on the distribution of espionage activities between military and commercial targets and explaining the Chinese notion of “informationization,” one of the more grating current bits of nomenclature.
Cheng’s depiction of the Chinese view of cyber espionage and warfare as part of a larger strategy of information superiority is accurate but somewhat lacking in that it is not linked to the collectivist world view of the Communist Party of China. Its view of cyber espionage does not differ from its view of economic growth and development as depicted in the five-year plans. These speak of strategic industries and national champions with the specific goal of building parity with and, eventually, superiority over the West.
Cheng seems to be somewhat surprised that the Chinese strategy is one of which “blurs the lines between peacetime and wartime, between military and civilian, and among strategy, operations, and tactics.” China’s history with the West virtually dictates that this would be China’s approach. The gunboats that steamed up China’s rivers and the French and British troops that burned the Old Summer Palace were on commercial missions much as Commodore Perry threatened Japan with bombardment if it did not open the country to commercial activity.
Cheng offers four possible responses from the U.S. Two—a multinational response and new government-private cooperation— abound with potential for mischief. Our European and Japanese allies are well known for government “assistance” to their commercial interests. A multinational clearinghouse would likely feed these bad tendencies just as Cheng observed with the “cooperative” sessions between the U.S. and Chinese militaries. As for a government-private sharing of information, the likely result there is increased “oversight” by the government and further control of information rather than an effective containment of the Chinese.
Cheng’s third suggestion is an excellent and ironic one: go after the Chinese companies that benefit from the espionage. These companies themselves are part of the Chinese government. They are state-owned enterprises whose senior executives are placed not simply by the government but by the Organization Department of the Communist Party itself.
I would start by blocking the Chinese National Offshore Company’s purchase of Chesapeake Energy’s Eagle Ford assets and Canada’s Nexen Energy and block any Chinese state-owned enterprise from a U.S. listing. Ending access to oil and capital cannot fail to gain attention.
NOTE: China has since bought Neven Energy.