History teaches us lessons too soon forgotten. Getting them into 800 words is hard. In short, China’s strange, new ambition to control (or at least fully surveil) everything in cyberspace – what you read about as “back-doors” and uber-knowledge through deployment of “Huawei 5G” technology – is a serious concern. Be clear: This is a real national security threat.
Promotors of China say having a private mega-company controlling – seeing, hearing, transmitting, receiving, accelerating, decelerating, monitoring, managing, shaping the content of global communications – will be efficient, thoughtful, and altruistic. Add dangerous.
Where does one begin? One could start with George Orwell, who despised Communist suppression of individual freedom, and the human cruelty that inevitably follows totalitarian control – as night follows day.
It all begins with controlling information, what you know, do not know, think you know, are told you know, are not allowed to know, deceived into believing, coerced into doing, monitored and reminded that you are being monitored, and made unfree to do.
As Orwell’s novel 1984 reminds us, if we are not vigilant, we end up subservient. The creep of time is slow, but close of state control complete. As Orwell’s characters learn late, once “Big Brother is watching you,” there is no escape. Put differently, “he who controls the past, controls the future; he who controls the present controls the past.” Information – knowing, shaping, manipulating – is power.
What is China up to? Start with history. China is neither democratic nor altruistic, historically. They are imperial, today totalitarian Communist. They systematically suppress religion, speech, press, association, freedom of thought – and have no compunction about repressive practices. Means justify ends, and the end is control – power over the people. Today, people controlled are Chinese, tomorrow they need not be Chinese.
China began in 1250 BC with the Shang dynasty, Yellow River valley. After Zhou dynasty, imperial rule became the norm in 221 BC – and stayed the norm through Huang, Han, and later dynasties, including Qing which ended with a Republic of China in 1912, an experiment that crashed in 1949, with a dehumanizing communist state. Altruistic? Not quite.
How powerful would China’s information dominance be, if state-dominated Huawei got global control? What would happen as it gradually asserted irreversible information superiority through 5-G communications, the ability to see and hear all things for all purposes at any time? Want to guess?
Think back to World War II and the Allies’ “enigma” machine, that marvelous “ultra” designation that allowed us to foil Germany plans – of all kinds and at all times – because we had what over the Nazis? Not any faster planes, better tanks or even V-2 rockets. We had information superiority. That was enough.
Put differently, the top Communist country, now number two economy in the world, offers no apologies for stealing Western intellectual property, suppressing every freedom protected in our Bill of Rights – speech and worship to seizure and fair trail, is militarizing the South China Sea and Space, supports North Korea without compunction, derides US attempts to set fair trade. That same country now wants control over global communications. Concern you?
Maybe perspective helps. Put aside China’s imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of citizens for faith, Christians to Muslims; put aside Amnesty International’s 2018 report of “more executions than the rest of the world combined;” put aside extreme surveillance of the Chinese people, biometric identification to voice recognition; put aside riots by 120,000 in Hong Kong against China for pushing extradition to the Communist mothership for doling punishments.
The real issue is information control – and what China does, once it gets that control. Today, the People’s Republic of China – neither the “People’s” nor a “Republic” – is unabashed about hacking, manipulating, stealing, coercing, lying and misusing data.
Think June 2015. Obama was President. China broke into the US Office of Personnel Management, which controls data on Americans with security clearances. China stole 21.5 million highly sensitive, personal records. Respect for information? You tell me.
According to scholars, China today “censors all venues of media to maintain its monopoly on power and information …” using “sophisticated instruments of censorship and control … to prevent all potential sources of independent reporting.”
China unapologetically practices covert and clandestine surveillance, theft, repression, coercion, disinformation, and ranks 159 of 167 countries on press freedom.” Control runs from ubiquitous Internet censorship to “complete control over … 358 TV stations and 2,119 newspapers.”
Back to letting the Chinese Government, through Huawei and Chinese 5G, have control over US, Western and allied information technology, back-doors, and global communications infrastructure – I ask you, what could go wrong? Only everything, of course.
There should be ways to cooperate with China, to arrive at fairer, more equitable and mutually beneficial trade, but opening the door to Chinese control over the future of US communications and punting global 5G infrastructure to the Communist Chinese– is not one.
Remember George Orwell’s admonition: It can get worse. When it becomes bad enough, the options get thin. In his world, he warned: “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.” After all, in his world and that of Communists: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” And information is power. Let’s not fall into that trap.