China: The Elephant in the Room, by Brock Grisham.
This article was exclusively provided to www.libnot.com
When most Americans think of China , certain images come to mind: smiling faces with gracious bows, the Great Wall stretching into the distance, or maybe your favorite restaurant with menus full of ancient wisdom. Regardless of your frame of reference, China is the great elephant in our global living room. Despite her tame exterior, a maelstrom is brewing inside…
We sleep safe at night, unmolested by foreign armies or threat of invasion. With Pearl Harbor now ancient history to our generation, foreign troops invading American soil has become a laughable, paranoid fantasy harbored by grumpy old men in need of Prozac. I submit to you that our history may be our future.
We have grown accustomed to our American way of life. We pilot our climate controlled automobiles down long paved roads, enjoy an instant meal at the mile marker of our choosing and indulge in tokens of our prosperity at the local shopping mall. Even the poorest American Families have at least one color TV, an automobile and a roof over their heads. We are consumers; consumed with ourselves, our lives and the moment in which we live.
What if…(just humor me for a second), what if this all went away? What if all you knew to be normal, rational and habitual ceased to exist? What then? It’s OK now, you can go back to reality; I did not mean to scare you. Of course being paranoid and being aware are two totally different things. I seek to make you aware.
China ’s booming economy and political influence has made it a major player in every facet of world affairs. We’re not talking about the price of tea or the United Nations: but tangible, everyday influences on our lives as Americans. China ’s exponential economic growth is responsible for ongoing increases in the price of oil and raw materials. Each of these materials significantly impacts the United States consumers and businesses.
China ’s ravenous use of oil and gas to fuel her behemoth hearth is one of the main reasons the price of gas is skyrocketing. Forget ten cents here and five cents there, we’re talking a fifty percent increase in just a few years – it’s here to stay. The big oil companies and their distributors can get away with it because they know countries like China need it. It’s the age old rule of supply and demand.
Ask an engineer or builder about the price of steel. Better yet, ask them where they can find a large surplus to support a major construction project. It’s all going to one place, which means we’re paying a premium for it here at home. There is no surplus and there is no inexpensive steel to be had. What’s ironic about this entire process is that much of the steel returns to the US in the forms of manufactured items. Whether we buy these products directly or use them during our lifetime, we are paying for them.
Outsourcing has also become big business for our neighbor to the East. Labor is cheap and plentiful. You will never hear the workers complain about conditions, hours or union labor laws. Try to find something that is not “Made in China ” at your local Wal-Mart. While not impossible, it is increasingly difficult.
I worked for a Military contractor for over a decade who is now sending computer chassis to China for machining and final assembly. While the company expects overall quality to suffer, it is confident that enough units will pass their quality inspection. The overall savings calculates to more profit in the executive’s pockets at year’s end. The end users of these rugged computers are our soldiers, sailors and airmen. This is just one example - thousands more exist.
Sure, outsourcing makes some things cheaper. Sometimes the price stays the same and the seller makes a greater profit. Sometimes the consumer winds up with junk, tainted products and safety recalls. This is the natural result of our desperate need to consume. Like it or not, our daily lives are now entangled with China ’s economy.
Better, faster, cheaper is the American way and the Chinese haven’t missed a beat. While I am far from being an economist, the overwhelming fact is that the Chinese machine controls vast swaths of our economy. China is the shampoo in your hair, the food you eat and the shoes on your feet. Even our banking system is borrowing money from China to support our sputtering economy.
The US economy depends intimately on China ; both its products and services. It’s a delicate quilt perpetually interwoven with the thread of international finance, banking and trade. This symbiotic relationship is perhaps the only thing keeping the great elephant in check.
China ’s military machine is also growing exponentially. Much like its economy, China seeks to dominate. Military spending has skyrocketed over the last decade. This is a direct result of the economic boom fueled by United States consumerism. We are financing the juggernaut that will eventually consume us.
China boasts the world’s largest active military with over 7 million members. On tap are an additional 250 Million Men and an equal number of Women fit for military service according to the CIA. China ’s Blue Water Navy and Space Program are of particular interest, as they appear to be a direct challenge to US dominance.
Last year, China shot down one of their own satellites with missile and computer technology given to them by the Clinton administration. (To be fair, the Clinton Administration was to the Chinese as the Bush Administration is to the Saudi’s.) This was as much of a test as it was a public statement to the US – “we’ll shoot your eye out”! It worked - now we are redirecting vital resources to counter this threat.
Our military depends on satellites for communication, navigation and intelligence. Without these satellites, many of our capabilities developed over that last 20 years will fail to work. GPS, Smart Bombs, Battlefield Communications – you name it. In essence, our edge goes away and our enemies level the playing field.
Their Navy is now pointed directly at Taiwan . The type of ships, their missions and their numbers support this. This is in addition to open threats of hostility and political medaling. It would not surprise me to wake up one morning to find the Chinese invading Taiwan . What would it take to ignite this bonfire? Not much.
Not surprisingly, China and Russia have grown very close lately, conducting several high profile joint maneuvers over the last year. And why not? Their goals are similar: neuter the America ’s global domination. The Russian have recently resumed their cold war flights and have started conducting massive Naval maneuvers that haven’t been seen in over 20 years. Anyone remember the secret pacts during the second World War? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller?
The Chinese are also voraciously gathering intelligence from foreign sympathizers, military contractors and Chinese nationals working within the US . Second only to the Russians, they boast the most active intelligence gathering operation. While not the smoothest operators, the sheer manpower and audacity of these incursions put them in first place.
Without going into details (I value my job and would like to avoid having a cell mate), Chinese operators attempt to garner military secrets, corporate information and human intelligence on a daily basis. Just recently, a former DOD contractor and Chinese national were arrested for passing secrets to the Chinese Government. Believe me when I say that much, much more is going on that you will never hear about.
With the Olympics coming up, expect to hear more of the same. While the city of Beijing is cleaning up, moving out the elderly and implementing internal security measures, something else is happening. Hotel rooms are being “prepared”, personnel backgrounds are “checked” and electronic services for visitors are being “arranged”. Of special interest are current or former military/DOD members and military contractors. If you thought the Russian spy stories of the 80’s were something, just wait.
As you read this, war is being waged with China . It has already started. Did you miss it? Probably so, but it’s not too late to become aware. It is currently being fought on my battleground and I assure you that the enemy is real. It is just as real as that “Made in China ” chair you are sitting in right now.
Everything you do is electronic. EVERYTHING. The money you make, the groceries you buy and the phone call to your grandmother. It all depends on a vast network of power grids, electronic switches, mainframe servers and digital storage. Your life, your savings, your health care, your job, your consumer lifestyle is built on 1’s and 0’s. Your life is under attack at this very second.
My job is to protect our Government’s computer systems against the enemy. I cannot overemphasize just how real this enemy is. The Chinese wish to do us harm. Thousands of PLA soldiers do nothing more all day than attempt to break into our networks. Like ants before a storm, they comb forums, blogs and news stories in an attempt to discover vulnerabilities in current hardware and software products.
Known as COMPUSEC, DOD implements countermeasure against these threats. While these are classified in nature, it’s sufficient to say that we are well protected by a dedicated group of professionals that take these threats seriously. However, no system is perfect, includeing those you depend on every day as a consumer.
With that being said, much of the military’s infrastructure is now based online, making it extremely vulnerable – the Military is also a consumer. Entire supply systems, electronic pay, medical records, weather forecasts – you name it – is online. While the majority of systems are well protected and the data is encrypted, all but the most sensitive systems are still vulnerable to a completed internet or network outage caused by a well crafted intrusion.
Our information systems are weapons: cocked, locked and loaded. These critical systems are just that, but make up a small portion of the overall picture. The vast majority of operations use the same internet as you do at home to communicate with each other. I can tell you that when outages do occur, things become difficult, almost impossible, to keep our well trained military running.
While electronic attacks will not keep the infantry soldier from shooting his weapon, it can very well keep him from being resupplied, paid or fed. It can keep airplanes on the ground. It can keep ships in port. An outage keeps us from doing the things the military has come to rely on as mission essential. These electronic conveniences have themselves become critical to daily operations in the military. (Just ask the Colonel who called the other day about his unit’s website – he was livid that they could not perform their mission without it, and he was right!)
While our enemies can simply eat rice and live in huts if denied access to information systems, the United States of America looses it’s advantage to win a war. A cleverly crafted virus, vulnerability exploit or malicious file inserted into certain systems could bring us to our knees. Recent viruses discovered are far beyond the realm of basement hackers and have been tracked to China . For those of us in the field, it comes as no surprise.
Incidents occur everyday that you will never hear about. Some things keep me up at night, as they should. Released to the general public, this information would literally cause such a backlash against China , that current and future relations would be permanently damaged. This is but one of the reasons that secrets are kept secret. Sometimes we just watch, other times we react, but most times we prevent.
Based on current actions and recent history, China will attempt to bring down our information systems before a major attack, crippling our military infrastructure and subsequent reaction time. From there, China can move on Taiwan . The US , tied to China for its lively hood and unable to quickly react, would fight a proxy war and forego direct conflict, despite our guarantees to the contrary.
Gauging the US reaction (or lack of) over Taiwan , the Chinese continue from there. The Russians have their back, promoting their own brand of world domination, once again a major power on the world stage. They supply China as required and crate the necessary diversions in the Middle East, in essence tying the US up in Iran or Syria , another proxy war used to circumvent the use of all out nuclear war.
While just a scenario, we see both China and Russia seeking world power status. One cannot do it without the other. There is a reason the Chinese are already attacking us. There is a reason the Russians are provoking us. There is a reason these two countries are becoming close to include joint maneuvers. It’s not difficult to imagine another Pearl Harbor: warning signs included.
All it takes is a political statement from Taiwan , a strike on Iran (which is a major supplier of oil to both China and Russia ) or another Arab attack on Israel . We are primed for a Chinese attack; they have already started. We are busy in the middle east, already under attack electronically and are economically tied to the China . We are in no position to directly oppose an assault on Taiwan , opening the door for all out Chinese domination.
To be fair, the US is involved in many places that it should not be. We are everywhere and anywhere spreading democracy in places that neither want nor deserve it. We are in desperate need of the money, troops and manpower at home. While we never want to close our eyes to the world outside of our boarders, neither do we want to neglect the homeland.
We are under attack at this very minute. The stage is set for a new superpower that already controls our lives and livelihood. No tactic that I have ever learned as a Ranger has prepared me for a human wave attack. The Chinese can throw more soldiers at us than we have bullets, missiles or rockets.
Without our information systems, satellites and other “smart” weapons, fighting a conventional war with China would be next to impossible. The Chinese know this better than anyone. I find it ironic that we are outsourcing this same military equipment to our future foe.
Maybe they will ship it to us before the fighting starts…
The author, Brock Grisham, a pseudonym, is a long time, trusted friend of libNOTSr.
Brock is a Senior IT Security Manager for the Department of Defense. He served as a US Army Ranger under the Special Operations Command in the 90’s. He enjoys spending time with his wife and young daughter, collecting firearms and computers.
All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2008, www.libnot.com. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for reprint permission.