"Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?"
That question pretty much sums up why many in the U.S. are crying foul over a U.S. House of Representatives report which had urged the government and America's businesses not to associate with telecoms equipment manufacturers from China, specifically, Huawei and ZTE.
That question was posed in the pilot episode of American TV series, The Newsroom, and triggered news anchor Will McAvoy's (played by actor Jeff Daniels) public rant and meltdown. Sitting on a panel in front of university students, he snapped back: "It's not the greatest country in the world... [Is] America so star-spangled awesome that we're the only ones who have freedom? Canada has freedom, Japan has freedom, the U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium...like 180 of [sovereign states in the world] have freedom."
McAvoy pointed out the lack of evidence to support the statement that America is the greatest country in the world, noting that it's only 7th ranked in literacy, 27th in Math, and 178th in infant mortality.
"We lead the world in only three categories: the number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending...where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies," he said. "So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don't know what the f*** you're talking about."
"First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore," McAvoy concluded.
So that's TV land you may argue, but unfortunately, in reality, there are Americans who do seem to think they still belong to the world's greatest nation. Americans who believe others shouldn't run "dangerously close to ticking America off", and who think nothing of accusing others of "sneaking around and spying" based on non-facts.
Pot. Kettle. Black. When you point the finger at someone, there're always four more pointing back at yourself.
Seriously, how many of us truly believe America itself isn't spying on others? No doubt Julian Assange and his Wikileaks full of documents would love to be in this conversation.
Heck, everybody spies--governments, organizations, even schools. It's the reality of the post-9/11 world we live in today. Think otherwise and you'll just be an ignorant, naïve idealist who probably still believes Santa Claus exists...oops.
More importantly, industry analysts have stepped up to say the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee report lacked any smoking gun on the security front. Ovum's principle analyst network infrastructure, Matt Walker, said of the report: "There is a confidential appendix and it's not clear what this includes, but the main conclusion of the report is pretty mild, in my opinion."
He pointed to a summary in the report which stated: "China has the means, opportunity, and motive to use telecommunications companies for malicious purposes." Walker said this would be hard to disprove and some of the concerns outlined in the report were valid. However, he noted they were not necessarily exclusive to China, or Chinese vendors.
In other words, the same could be said for any telecoms equipment maker from any country, the U.S. included. So, should the Chinese government also issue the same warning for businesses in China not to buy products from Cisco Systems, Avaya or HP?
In another report yesterday, a White House review found no evidence Huawei was guilty of spying on the U.S. but instead, uncovered shoddy coding which left the Chinese vendor's equipment vulnerable to hacking.
In its report, the House of Representatives also chided Huawei and ZTE for not being "forthcoming with detailed information" about its relationships with Chinese authorities and operations in the U.S., among other things.
Would Cisco be "forthcoming" too if it was put in an obviously hostile environment, and the Chinese government demanded "detailed information" about every bit of its operations and relations with the U.S. government?
Is there any market player in this global economy that would willingly divulge every detail about its operations to a foreign government entity? Details of its business operations which potentially could be leaked to competitors operating in that foreign economy?
The U.S. House report also highlighted Huawei's close commercial ties with the Chinese military as a source of concern. But wouldn't the military in every country have some kind of commercial dealings with its local ICT vendors? Cisco even has a product page dedicated to the U.S. government.
Writer and entrepreneur, Mark Manson, was spot on in his post about the "10 things most Americans don't know about America". Specifically, No. 7, "we're paranoid".
Manson wrote: "Not only are we emotionally insecure as a culture, I've come to realize how paranoid we are about our physical security... In the U.S., security trumps everything, even liberty. We're paranoid."
Before you point to my photo and say I'm Chinese and therefore, will blindly support my fellow comrades from China, let me state I was born and bred in Singapore, and I'm Singaporean...and no, for the 118th time, Singapore isn't part of or located in China.
To accuse China, or any country for that matter, of spying without any solid evidence is simply wrong and unacceptable. And to do so when your own government is possibly guilty of the same charge is just plain hypocrisy.
If the U.S. government wants the world to believe China is indeed spying on the country, have the House Committee report produce the facts that prove this. And if it truly believes that, why is it engaging in cyber war games with the Chinese?
And if Americans truly believe the Huaweis and ZTEs of the IT industry are working as Chinese spies, they should make a stance instead with their wallets and stop buying products from all Chinese companies. Stop manufacturing in China even if that's the most cost-efficient business option, stop acquiring products that are made in China, and stop forming cybersecurity partnerships with the Chinese.
Of course the biggest losers in this could very well be the U.S. businesses and enterprise customers which now have to assess and make their IT buying decision based not on the best cost-performance option, but on one that Uncle Sam approves of. But hey, someone's gotta make a point, right?
It would also encourage Chinese tech vendors to reevaluate their business model and tweak their operations, if they're serious about expanding into the global marketplace.
So, America, land of the free, Starbucks and George W. Bushes, get over the China-bashing tirade already, would ya? You're starting to sound like a broken record and it's boring as hell.
Don't make you angry because we wouldn't like you when you're angry? Don't worry, keep talking and thinking no one else great can exist outside the U.S., and we won't like you even when you're not angry.