Welcome to the new Cold War: China vs. the United States

Welcome to the new Cold War: China vs. the United States

Summary: It is becoming more and more clear that China is a clear and present threat to American security.

TOPICS: Security, Banking, China

When it comes to America's cybersecurity, I've been concerned about China's motivations and actions since at least 2008.

In The Coming Cyberwar in The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, I detailed rumors of a suspected Chinese cyberattack that took out 9,300 square miles of electrical service. Later, in 2009, I asked CNN's audience if China is friend or foe.

More recently, National Defense Magazine reported that China apparently hijacked more than 15% of the world's Internet routes for about 18 minutes (what is it with 18 minutes, anyway?) and had the potential to listen in on vast amounts of traffic.

In my article, "State-sponsored cyberterrorism" for Counterterrorism Magazine (no online link, sadly), I wrote about how the 2009 Report to Congress of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission described Chinese penetration attacks against U.S. security facilities going back to 2007. Here's the important summary quote:

A large body of both circumstantial and forensic evidence strongly indicates Chinese state involvement in such activities, whether through the direct actions of state entities or through the actions of third-party groups sponsored by the state.

Our relationship with China is complex.

China is also America's largest creditor. When our government decides to spend more money it doesn't have, it's often China that covers the check. Our debt to them is reputed to be in the trillions of dollars.

In my latest book, How To Save Jobs (free PDF download), I wrote extensively about how China's transformation into a modern superpower has directly impacted the jobs situation here in America.

See also: In China, many younger military leaders view America as the ultimate enemy

See also: Is China gearing up to start World War III?

Here on ZDNet Government, I've also talked about how concerned I am with some of China's military actions and attitudes towards the United States.

Next: Symantec, Huawei and the Chinese army »

« Previous: Grounds for concern

Most recently, I wrote about how a Chinese company called Huawei Technologies had acquired massively scalable supercomputer technology from a defunct U.S. firm -- and the possible risks that might present to American security.

See also: How a bankrupt U.S. company could give China a powerful new superweapon development system

Huawei Technologies is a $28 billion dollar telecommunications technology company with more than 110,000 employees. Huawei is not just some company, though.

In the Office of the Secretary of Defense Annual Report to Congress, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2008 (PDF), SECDEF described how Huawei maintains close ties with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. The report also states:

Beijing is also emphasizing integration of defense and non-defense sectors to leverage the latest dual-use technologies on the market and the output from China’s expanding science and technology base.

All of this is cause for American security concern.

It is becoming more and more clear that China is a threat to American security and, in my professional opinion, we are in a digital Cold War with China and may have been since the middle of the last decade.

The latest threat may hit closer to home: on our own PCs. According to the Japanese-based Asian affairs publication, The Diplomat, Huawei may be getting (or already has) access to your PC via Symantec intellectual property.

In fact, you may -- right now -- be relying on Huawei to defend your PC from intruders, including those coming from China. Talk about the fox guarding the hen-house!

As it turns out, Huawei formed a partnership with Symantec (makers of some of the most widely used anti-malware software) called Huawei Symantec Technologies Co. Ltd. Located in Chengdu, China, Huawei owns 51% of the partnership.

This venture "inherits and further develops Huawei's accumulative strength in all IP-based product solutions, and technologies; possesses well-consolidated advantages in the field of infrastructure networks." In addition, the venture "incorporates Symantec's leading edge core IPR and software capability."

Now, here's where it gets creepy. According to slide 12 of the SlideShare presentation about the Huawei Symantec partnership, one of the goals of the company is to "build China’s first laboratory of attack and defense for networks and applications".

Read that carefully: attack and defense. Not just defense. Attack and defense.

In other words, a company with close ties to the Chinese PLA, a company with apparent access to (and possibly providing code for) one of the most commonly used anti-malware products in the world, has -- as one of its strategic goals -- the development of a laboratory for both cyberdefense and cyberattack.

Many of us rely on Symantec products to defend ourselves against cyberattacks coming from individuals, organized crime syndicates, and nation states (including China). If we're using software possibly built by the attackers to defend against the attackers, what's wrong with this picture?

Symantec's partnership with Huawei may be completely innocent---Huawei is a partner of Motorola and others---and great products may result. But if we are in a cyber cold war, back-channel deals could have a way of turning into back-door vulnerabilities. It may well be possible that many of us have unwittingly opened our computers to the enemy -- and paid actual cash for the privilege of doing so.

Big disclosure statement: Let's run down the list. I am a regular contributor to Counterterrorism Magazine and cyberwarfare advisor to its parent organization, the International Association of Counterterrorism and Security Professionals. I am also a member of the National Defense Industrial Association, the organization that produces National Defense Magazine. I am also a CNN Contributor for the Anderson Cooper 360 program. And, for a short time back in the 1980s, I was a senior executive at Symantec.

Do you use Symantec products? How safe do you feel? What about other antivirus and anti-malware products, many of which are also produced by foreign companies? Do you think China is going to become a problem for America? TalkBack below.

Topics: Security, Banking, China


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • RE: Welcome to the new Cold War: China vs. the United States

    I think the world's been dazzled somewhat by Chinas' emergence as a manufacturing superpower, we seem to forgotten that the country is still in fact the same old communist dictatorship it always has been. Just because the dictatorship has discovered how to make money it doesn't mean anything's changed behind the thin veneer of respectability, just take a look at Tibet. This is a nation that would dearly love to destroy anyone or anything that doesn't share its' own political ideology (the USA for example).
    • RE: Welcome to the new Cold War: China vs. the United States

      @AndyPagin you are right. China 'would' do anything to spread its ideology just like US of A 'is' doing it now.
      • So what ideology is best for you

        One that allows you freedom to be what you want to be, say what you want to say, or the other that tells you to be what they want you to be, and to say what they want you to say?

        It's working out reall well for those Chineese journalist, artists, students, Nobel prize winners, isn't it?
        Will Farrell
      • RE: Welcome to the new Cold War: China vs. the United States

        @VoicesInTheHead <br><br>Exactly, we are doing just the same right now - doing anything to spread our ideology
      • jhc04, so have other countries

        look at the middle east, spreading their ideology.
        When they're not busy blowing up something in the West, they're blowing each other up in their own countries, and their neighboring countries.

        So you don't think we should try to spread our ideology, that we just let these countries spread theirs?

        And that helps us how?
        Will Farrell
      • That would be a problem if all ideologies were exactly equal

        in their goals.

        There is no moral equivalency between the Chinese ideology and that of the west in general. I would rather hear about an ideology which respects human rights, than one that suppresses those rights.

        Do at least a little bit of thinking next time.
      • RE: Welcome to the new Cold War: China vs. the United States


        How does everyone completely miss the point? The "bad" part isn't spreading ideology. The "bad" part is any party suppressing rival ideologies.

        As much as the US sucks at civil liberties and foreign policy, comparing the US to China is just STUPID, because all that does is give the loons at the CATO institute bountiful ammunition to point out how much better we are than China as if that was good enough.
      • Message has been deleted.

      • China

        and China's idealogy would be?
        Colt James
    • Kinda like how the monarchs of the 1800s viewed the U.S.?

      Small world (and the beginning of the end)!
      • RE: Welcome to the new Cold War: China vs. the United States

        @kd5auq <br><br>Not really, USA wasn't really a significant world power until well into the 20th century. Loosing the colonies in the Americas hurt national pride but not much else, the big money was in the west indies/Caribbean (slaves & sugar cane). The emerging USA was never a threat to the British empire or vice-versa. In fact there's a lot of similarities between our two governmental systems, we're both ruled by constitutional monarchs, the difference is you elect yours and we don't. Were both democratic capitalist nations.
        • US is democracy not monarchy

          You seem to forget US has a president and UK has queens/kings
          Colt James
      • AndyPagin: Learn the meaing of &quot;monarch&quot;

        monarch: A nation's ruler or head of state usually by hereditary right.

        There is a difference between a monarch and an elected official. The elected official can be replaced the next election cycle, whereas, with a monarch, there is no such mechanism for replacement. You're stuck with a monarch for life, unless a revolution is undertaken to remove the monarch by force. In the U.S. we don't use force to displace any monarch or any elected official.

      • Re:Kinda like how the monarchs of the 1800s viewed the U.S.?

        There's more differences than similarities and some facts wrong with your assertions.
        - British monarch is mainly a figurehead with no real power
        --In the UK the power resides with the Prime minister and Parliament. Until recently, seats at the House of Lords were hereditary.
        -Britain doesn't have an actual constitution like the U.S. Pretty much, British constitution is whatever Parliament says it is.
        --Americans are citizens. Brits are subjects.
      • 'Constitutional monarchy' means something

        @ AndyPagin

        The British monarch, like constitutional monarchs in other EU countries, has essentially no power. The US president has a great deal of power. In constitutional monarchies, power rests with elected parliaments. In the UK there's an appointed upper house, the House of Lords, which also includes a few hereditary peers, but it has very little power. The power lies with the House of Commons, and in particular with the government chosen by the majority party (or parties).

        Having said that, the UK and US do resemble each other in an important way, which is that they both use 'majoritarian' rather than proportional electoral systems (including for the US president, via the Electoral College). This tends to suppress small parties, allowing the dominant parties to rule without much threat from outside challenges, and promotes two-party systems.

        Under proportional systems, which are common in continental Europe, it's relatively easy for new parties to be formed if the electorate are displeased with the large parties. This means that newer parties are more likely to form, and also that established parties are less able to ignore the will of the electorate -- if they do, the angry electors will form a new party, and may have a real chance of being elected. In contrast, in a two-party (or nearly two-party) system, electors who defect to small parties basically throw away their votes, which only benefits the large party they dislike most.
      • RE: Welcome to the new Cold War: China vs. the United States


        Well, at least you are aware of how many of them viewed us, which puts you past American highs-schoolers, but don't forget: it was European monarchs who supported our Revolution in order to weaken Britain. It was only after the French Revolution that they suddenly realized that might have been a huge ideological error. But even then, it was the French attitude that worried them a lot more than the American: we never shared the French enthusiasm for spreading the Revolution as Napoleon claimed to do.
    • RE: Welcome to the new Cold War: China vs. the United States

      You are so right, I worked for a company named Transistor Devices Inc. in Hackettstown, New Jersey and can tell you that this sub-company has a subsidiary company called TDI-China near Beiijing. They were always getting the new contracts, new equipment, etc. Thanks to company officers that were involved like Robert Smolinski, George Cutler who directly involved company assets in these dealings. Then this company also decided to begin hiring Bosnian War Refugees because they were getting kickbacks from the state rated at fifty percent or more in some cases. After all of this was in place, they let all of us go by means of laying off department by department. I say bring back the Monroe Doctrine against this company.
    • RE: Welcome to the new Cold War: China vs. the United States

      @AndyPagin China is buying the US because they can't invade. They are a manufacturing giant because they have basically free labor.
      • And their labor is not getting that cheap.

        @LarsDennert, China has it's own problems. Their policy of one child per household has caught up with them. Most of the men are highly educated and don't want to work in the factories thus driving up labor costs. Second families have been aborting girls in favor of males which which has lead to a significant number of men vs women which makes China's birth deficit problematic as it will take several generations to get out the whole they have created. The aging population needs the younger population to finance the health care and their is not going to be enough people to go around. If you think the US baby boomer issue is bad, China has it even worse.
      • China vs us

        Its not china cant invade us its that china doesn't want to.
        Colt James