An intelligence report posted by International Relations and Security Network (ISN) at the Center for Security Studies at ETH in Zurich reveals what appears to be a widening and systematic program of cyber attacks on US government data infrastructure by elements within the military organ of China.

Rachel Kesselman at ISN Security Watch writes-

According to a 2006 US Defense Department report, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began developing information warfare reserves and militia units in 2005, often incorporating them into broader exercises and training. The establishment of this elite Chinese unit is evident by a likely increase in sophisticated attacks on high-risk targets.

Reports in Chinese newspapers also suggest that the Chinese are actively attempting to establish a cybermilitia. A Time Magazine article entitled “Enemies at The Firewall” purports that the military has put forth a concerted effort to carry out nationwide recruiting campaigns in hopes of discovering the country’s most brilliant hackers. 

Like so many Americans, I live in a bubble. The extent and brazenness of the activity reported by ISN and other sources only serves to stimulate the paranoid cortex of my brain.

What seems likely is that most nations are engaged in systematic probing of the data resources of the upper tier states. Chinese enthusiasm for this activity may or may not be exceptional among the nuclear states. Certainly, computer spycraft is nothing new and that China practices it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Henry Kissinger once remarked that nation states do not have friends. They only act in parallel with states having similar interests. In this vein, we should not be lulled into thinking that China, or any other state for that matter, is our friend. China is certainly not our friend. The US is a fountain of wealth that they aim to tap through government backed market activity.

Economic idealogues in the US prattle on tirelessly about the virtues of the free market and the merits of regulatory deconstruction. But on the global scale, markets are unavoidably tied to regulatory constructs as a result of notions about security and dominance.

Just try to get a shipment of anything to China or to South Africa or into the USA. There is no free market. Every single aspect of a transaction is highly regulated or controlled by some apparatus that is highly controlled. Tariff codes, tariffs, shipping reglations, wire transfers, and customs clearance- the reality of a free market barely extends past the canopy of a fruitstand in a farmers market.

I believe that the US should cast off this free market puritanism and act in a manner so as to protect its economic interests. Yes, we’d like to keep as free a market as possible. But American culture, not government, has to be the locus of change. American culture should de-emphasize its fascination with pure wealth and look askance at the sterile detachment many influential businessmen have with regard to their profit motive. We want to be profitable. But we do not want to hand over the keys to our technological toolshed for a quick buck. If we cannot afford to manufacture here, there should be an expectation that we try to innovate around the economic barriers rather than just resort to abandonment.

We should be wary about using the language of friendship with China. This nation has its own sense of where it is headed and has become quite refractory to admonitions and paternalistic brow beatings by the US and others.  It has its own momentum and will do what is in its best interest. Americans should do what is in their best interest as well. That is, avoid trading the farm to foreign interests who have much more discipline with their attention span. 

America’s Achilles heel seems to be the inability to be patient and plan for results over the long term. We live in a NOW culture. Advances in computer technology has only engorged our expectation that we can and should have everything now. The mortgage and credit crises are only the latest examples of this.

American culture has gotten fat and lazy. Our rotund wastelines are only the exterior. Within our culture is a kind of bacchanalian sloth that has drifted like a fog into our collective yard party. Everyone is too busy eating and drinking to notice that the greed-heads have set the house on fire.