How to counter Chinese hacking and theft of US weapon designs
Gen. Chang Wanquan, the current Chinese Minister of National Defense. Photo by the Central Military Commission of the PRC.
On Tuesday, May 28th, the Washington Post and the Washington Free Beacon reported, and the DOD confirmed, that designs and performance parameters (and other classified information) for dozens of US weapon systems had been stolen in recent weeks by Chinese hackers, as warned by a Defense Science Board report.
Among the weapons whose designs have been stolen by Chinese hackers are top-drawer systems such as the V-22 Osprey, the THAAD and Aegis missile defense systems, and the F-35 strike jet, as well as some older and obsolete systems like the PATRIOT air and missile defense complex and the F/A-18 naval strike jet.
In any case, this is arguably the biggest breach of classified information – and certainly the biggest theft of US weapon designs – in US (if not world) history, overshadowing the theft of US nuclear weapon designs by Soviet spies in the 1940s and Chinese spies during the Clinton years.
(And yet, lawmakers and the Obama administration want to downgrade and soften the US export control system, to make it even easier to export weapons to China and other hostile countries. Thus, the US is essentially giving China the gun with which to kill American troops.)
The meteoric rise of China’s military might has been partially aided by espionage, including cyberespionage. Sun Tzu, who devoted an entire chapter of his Art of War to spies and believed that knowledge of the enemy can be provided only by citizens and officials of the enemy country, would’ve been amazed by the espionage possibilities that hacking has opened – and Chinese hackers’ success in doing so.
How can the US counter this Chinese cyber onslaught? Here’s how.
Firstly, the US needs to publicly recognize China as an adversary. Top US officials, including the President, need to state this publicly and unambigously, and rally the nation to take action against China. It is time to do away with the suicidal, leftist policy of appeasing China practiced by all administrations of both parties since 1989.
It is time to push aside the leftist propagandists and pseudoanalysts like Henry Kissinger, James Cartwright, Joseph Nye, Dennis Blair, Joseph Prueher, and Eric McVaddon, whose idiotic policy of appeasing China, adopted by all administrations since 1989, led to this disastrous cyberattack – the cyber version of Pearl Harbor – and to China’s dangerous military rise in the first place. China is an adversary of the US and should be treated as such.
Over 23 years of appeasing China and trying to “make it a responsible stakeholder in the international system” and trying to bring it into that system have utterly failed. China has no interest in being a “responsible stakeholder in the international system” – it has a vested interest in expanding its territory (especially at sea), subjugating its neighbors, growing its military and economic power, and pushing the US outside Asia in order to become the uncontested hegemon of that continent.
THAT is why China has amassed all of the anti-access/area-denial military capabilities that Washington is now worried about. Cyberwarfare is one of them.
China is a dangerous adversary. It has the historical grudges of a Weimar Republic, the militant nationalism of an Arab state, and the expansionist agenda of the Soviet Union – all at the same time.
It is also time to cast aside any notions of Sino-American “cooperation” on cyberspace when China is America’s adversary and the perpetrator of most cyberattacks against the US. Naive fools who advocate such attacks, such as Gen. Martin Dempsey, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, must be removed from office. It is time to publicly recognize China as an adversary and the perpetrator of these cyberattacks, and to name and shame it.
It is also time to recognize that China’s attacks on the US are but a part of a much greater struggle between China and the US, and it will not end until either side succumbs to the other. It will be a struggle similar to the Cold War. The US needs to develop a long-term grand strategy to win it.
Next, the US needs to leverage all means at its disposal to force China to stop these attacks. The US should start by developing better cyberdefenses. This means extending obligatory protection to all critical industries (or, at minimum, all those that have or want to receive federal contracts), acquiring better protective software (including better firewalls), making passwords on government computers tougher, frequently changing these passwords, signing cyberdefense pacts with allies, and most importantly, finally passing a cybersecurity bill like the CISPA passed by the House this year and last year. There is no excuse for Congress not passing a cybersecurity bill. Such bill must allow for seamless, unlimited sharing of information between the government and private companies.
Also, the US government should hire top IT specialists and consultants, such as Kevin Mitnick, Morpheus, Neo, et al., and even this man.
But mere cyberdefenses will not solve the problem. Defensive war is very difficult, although not entirely impossible, to win (how many wars have been won by staying solely on the defensive and never going on the offense?). That is because in a defensive war, the enemy – the attacker – has the initiative, and war is very difficult (although again, not entirely impossible) to win when the enemy has the initiative. Cyberwars are no different.
Thus, the US should frequently conduct massive cyberattacks of its own against China, especially the PLA, especially its hacking units.
The US should also utilize other, non-cyber, means of pressure. The scheduled, utterly suicidal sequestration defense cuts, and any cuts in the US nuclear deterrent or missile defense systems, must be completely cancelled and prohibited by law. The US military should shift, as quickly as possible, from a short-range force heavily dependent on in-theater bases, satellites, and cybernetworks, to a force wielding primarily long-range weapons and much less reliant on those assets.
Also, Chinese politicians and government officials should be completely barred from entering the US until China completely stops its cyberattacks. The invitation to Gen. Chang Wanquan, the Chinese Minister of National Defense, to visit the US should be revoked.
Moreover, the US should construct an alliance of nations surrounding China in order to counter Beijing. Participants should include, but not be limited to, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, India, and China’s western neighbors (former Soviet republics). These allies should be allowed to buy any weapons they want and receive US defense commitments if they haven’t received them yet. Existing commitments should be reaffirmed.
The US should, if possible, also try to sever Russia’s informal alliance/partnership with China.
Furthermore, the US should impose a complete embargo on Chinese products. China needs the US more than America needs China. Beijing does have a huge annual trade surplus with the US, but it also has a large annual trade deficit with the rest of the outside world.
In other words, Beijing is running huge trade surpluses with America to be able to afford large trade deficits with the rest of the world (outside the US). The US is effectively subisidizing China’s ability to do that. This is because, outside the US and China itself, few people want to buy Chinese products; and most other countries of the world don’t give a hoot about Friedman and Hayek and try – with various degrees of zealousness – to protect their industries.
If the US were to stop buying Chinese products and start buying American ones, China’s economy would suffer dreadfully, as China would now be running huge trade deficits every year. Outside the US, few people in the foreign world want to buy Chinese products.
The latest Gallup polling shows that 64% of Americans are quite willing to pay more for American products – if it means buying American instead of Chinese ones. In other words, 64% of Americans would wholeheartedly support Buy American trade policies.
Thus, America has HUGE economic leverage over China – it just needs to use it. So far, it hasn’t.
And last but not least, the US should continually shame China around the world for its abysmal human rights record and support all opposition groups in China, including the Tibetans, the Uighurs, and the residents of Inner Mongolia seeking to unite with independent Mongolia to the north.
The US has many forms of leverage it can use over China. It just needs to use them. But first and foremost, it needs to publicly recognize China as an adversary. It will never win any kind of competition – let alone Cold War style rivalry – over an adversary it is too afraid to even name.