Thursday, July 10, 2008

Chinese Espionage Raises "Concerns"

The New York Times reports that a string of recent cases have revealed a pattern of systemtatic Chinese military and commercial espionage.

Joel F. Brenner, the intelligence community’s top counterintelligence official, said China was by far the leading practitioner [of espionage]. In an interview, Mr. Brenner described China’s information-gathering efforts as “a full-court press and relentless.” As a result, he said, few professional analysts “really think that what’s going on is anything other than an orchestrated, deeply thought-out, strategic campaign.”

The targets of the campaign?

Mr. Brenner said, not all the information-transfer cases involving China are part of that suspected government-led espionage effort. “Some instances are purely commercial and just involve greed,” he said.

On the military side, Mr. Brenner said, China is especially interested in improving its naval capability against any threat from the United States and obtaining intelligence that might be important in a military confrontation in the Taiwan Strait.

Are the two sides of the espionage campaign really that distinctive? As we argued in Trading Away Our Future, China's mercantilism aids China's military ambitions by strengthening the Chinese industrial base. Commercial espionage (one example noted in the article involved Boeing) may help China gain strategic advantages in the military as well as commercial sectors.

On the other hand, this is not to argue for increased U.S. military spending. Robert Scheer notes the irony of US military spending on programs designed to counter China's military.

Fomenting fear of China is essential to making the case for the whole range of high-tech war toys that no longer have a legitimate military purpose. But it's a sick joke. We are paying the Chinese the interest on the money we borrow from them to build very expensive weapons to counter weapons the Chinese have no intention of building.

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