Related: During all the Russia hacking hype, China is rising in influence: While Russia’s role in the 2016 election dominates the news, China’s spying and alarming influence within our borders is too little noticed.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about Russian spying in the United States. And while a lot of the concern is really just evidence that some people have trouble dealing with a lost election, it’s not as if the Russians haven’t been spying on us since my grandparents’ day.
But with all the attention focused on Russia, maybe we need to pay a bit more attention to the spying — and related meddling — being done by the People’s Republic of China. Because China is a bigger threat in general, and seems to be doing a lot without engendering much of a response, or even much awareness.
In fact, it may be that the Chinese government is quite happy to see us focus on Russians, as a distraction from what it’s doing. I would be, if I were them.
The Chinese hacked millions in the government
As I wrote at the time:
“Aside from regular federal personnel records, which provide a royal route to blackmail, intimidation and identity theft for present and retired federal workers, the hackers also stole a trove of military and intelligence records that could be even more valuable. The forms stolen were Standard Form 86, in which employees in sensitive positions list their weaknesses: past arrests, bankruptcies, drug and alcohol problems, etc. The 120 plus pages of questions also include civil lawsuits, divorce information, Social Security numbers, and information on friends, roommates, spouses and relatives.
“The result? About 14 million current and former federal employees are in a state of collective panic over the loss of their information. Former State Department employee Matthew Palmer was quoted as saying, ‘Who is in danger? I listed friends on those forms and my family members… are some hackers going to start going after them?’ “
But that attack now seems almost forgotten, though its damage lives on. And it’s not as if China has stopped. But it goes beyond spying, to actual operations within the United States.
Just last week, Politico reported on extensive Chinese spying in Silicon Valley, noting that it’s not just traditional cloak-and-dagger stuff, but the Chinese government leveraging the family connections of Chinese immigrants.
“Because of California’s economic and political importance, as well as its large, well-established, and influential émigré and Chinese-American communities, the People’s Republic places great weight on its intelligence activities here, said multiple former intelligence officials. Indeed, two told me that California is the only U.S. state to which the Ministry of State Security—China’s main foreign intelligence agency—has had a dedicated unit, focused on political intelligence and influence operations. (China has had a similar unit for Washington.)
“And if California is elevated among Chinese interests, San Francisco is like “nirvana” to the MSS, said one former official, because of the potential to target community leaders and local politicians who may later become mayors, governors or congressmen. Their efforts are becoming increasingly sophisticated.”
“China’s spying and alarming influence within our borders is too little noticed.”
In the defense of our political “leaders”, there’s a LOT of cash to be made by kowtowing to China….
So. There’s that.