China syndromeU.S. worried about China industrial espionage activities during World's Expo

Published 3 May 2010

China has been engaged in a vast, well-coordinated, and resourceful espionage campaign against U.S. and European governments and companies; the systematic stealing of Western military, scientific, and industrial secrets aims to help China short-cut its path to global political and economic hegemony; China is employing its military, intelligence services, trade missions abroad, students sent to foreign universities — and Chinese-born citizens who are sent to form espionage sleeper cells; the mammoth World’s Expo, which opened in Shanghai last Friday, offers the Chinese a golden opportunity to steal even more intellectual property on the cheap

In political science, the term “kleptocracy” refers to corrupt regimes which use the state machinery to steal as much money as possible in order to enrich the rulers. The more egregious examples would include Zaire’s Mobutu and the predatory governments of Haiti. The poor Haitian people have had a particularly tough luck with their governments: if you sit in on any discussion of donors or international organizations dealing with aid to earthquake-ravaged Haiti, you will find that most of the discussion is devoted to finding ways to make sure that government officials — including the prime minister and president and cabinet members, and every lower official — from stealing the aid and selling whatever they can on the black market for personal gain.

Most countries in Africa — just think Nigeria — could be called kleptocracies, as do many countries in the Middle East and, in earlier decades, countries in Central and Latin America.

China provides us with another form of kleptocracy: here we have a regime that wants to hasten the rise of China to a position of global economic hegemony — and, hence, political and strategic hegemony (see, for example, “‘Intellectual vacuum cleaner’: China’s industrial espionage campaign, I,” 3 April 2008 HSNW; and “Chinese espionage ‘single greatest risk’ to U.S. technology sector,” 16 November 2007 HSNW).. One of the major means to that end is the harnessing of state’s agencies — the sprawling intelligence community, the business-oriented People’s Liberation Army (PLA), universities and research institutions, etc. - to a broad, deep, well-coordinated, and sustained campaign to steal the industrial secrets and intellectual property of Western companies.

The vast theft campaign is conducted in two ways.

  • The first is the old fashion way — although it uses modern means such as cyber-penetration, hacking, etc. The Chinese preoccupation with — and practice of — hacking can be explained not only as part of a contingency plan for the event of a conflict with the United States — military or otherwise. Their continuous and ever-more-sophisticated hacking of U.S. critical infrastructure assets is evidence of plans to cripple and paralyze these assets at the outset of a conflict, sowing havoc and making the United States less capable to defend itself. The second, more immediate purpose of this hacking campaign is the theft of industrial secrets.
  • The second, more subtle, way of China’s industrial pilfering has to do with the contracts Western