The Pentagon’s release Monday of a report accusing the Chinese government of cyber espionage against the United States will do nothing to improve the uneasy relations between the world’s two most powerful nations.
According to the report, the Chinese government and military made numerous hacking attempts on U.S. government computer networks last year, seemingly to gain knowledge of U.S. military and foreign policy plans.
That China desires an intimate view of the world’s most powerful government and military should come as no surprise. U.S. intelligence officials have previously claimed that much of China’s impressive military buildup over the last two decades has come on the back of American technology and information, often illegally obtained.
A man uses computers at an Internet cafe in Shanghai. (Bloomberg)
Several people, including two South Koreans, have been convicted in the United States of spying on behalf of China. One, Moo Ko-suen, was reportedly intercepted by undercover agents trying to smuggle an engine used in the F-16 fighter jet out of the country in 2005.
That such mutual distrust exists between two economic and military goliaths may give jitters to those hoping for a more peaceful world. But their relationship should be put in perspective.
While the Cold War never truly became “hot” between its main actors, it nevertheless took many lives, including those lost in the shooting down of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 by the USSR in 1983. Economic warfare was also a feature of the decades-long standoff between East and West.
In contrast, military skirmishes between the U.S. and China have been minor and isolated, and the countries trade in enormous volumes, ultimately contributing to the greater prosperity of the wider world.
If the Cold War never became the Armageddon many feared, the U.S.-China rivalry should be considered in less bleak terms still.
By John Power (firstname.lastname@example.org