We’re now very much at war with China, argues a provocative new book

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If China appears to have once committed to a free market economy, over the course of 2021, it has completely abruptly shattered that illusion. disenfranchise own tech companies and turn dial On media censorship at the direction of a president who oversaw the removal of presidential borders from the country’s constitution three years ago. (This was a short-lived experiment, in any case, given that China has been “dominated for thousands of years by absolute emperors,” as NPR famous At the time, term limits were introduced for the first time in the 1980s.)

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America and Silicon Valley in particular need to pay very Jacob Helberg, who is co-chair of the Brookings Institution China Strategy Initiative, a former senior adviser to Stanford’s Cyber ​​Policy Institute and former news policy chief at Google, suggests there is more focus on this consolidation of power. (He was also an advisor to US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg during his presidential campaign.) In an entertaining new book titled Wires of War: The Global Struggle for Technology and PowerHelberg explains how China’s “techno-totalitarian” regime may have previously influenced the Chinese people (its “first victims,” ​​he says), but its efforts to increasingly control the software and hardware of the Internet are real and present. Why are there and a rapidly growing threat to democracy in America and everywhere.

In fact, they say, one need not look further than India – which seemed to get a warning When power went out in the city of 20 million people last year by the Chinese government – ​​which could come to the US, drastic and unified action from private industry and the federal government is absent. He spoke to us yesterday in a chat that has been edited for a long time.


TC: You began your work just before the 2016 US presidential election, focusing on Google’s global news policies. Given that so much attention was paid to Russia and its misinformation campaigns at the time, I’m surprised you didn’t write a book about US-Russia relations.

JH: Well, there’s really two fronts to this “gray” war: the front-end software battle to control what people see on their screens, which has many different players, with Russia in space. One of the first movers. with respect to foreign interference. Then there is the back-end hardware front of the war that focuses on the physical Internet and the physical infrastructure of the Internet. Ultimately, one reason the book focuses primarily on China is because the most decisive area of ​​this war is about controlling that physical Internet infrastructure. If you control the infrastructure of the Internet, you can control or compromise basically anything that runs on top of it. If you control the back end, you can also compromise and control the front end. so we should make a more concerted effort [on the latter].

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TC: By back end, you mean things like cellular phones, satellites, fiber optic cables, 5G networks, and artificial intelligence.

JC: Artificial intelligence is interesting because it’s obviously a combination of software and hardware, but yes, it’s basically fiber optic cables, 5G satellites, low orbit satellites, and more.

TC: In the book, you quickly highlight China’s alleged attacks on India last year, which shut down trains and the stock market and forced hospitals to rely on emergency generators. do you think we’ve seen [attacks] In America that the public, at least, did not associate with China?

JC: One of the main features of the gray war — one of the reasons governments are leaning so much into the new gray zone strategy is because sometimes it’s really hard. [assign] Specialty We have a system where a lot of our internet is run by private companies. Unlike China, we actually have private companies that are completely separate from the US government. Because of our privatization system, there are certain market and legal incentives for private companies to under-report cyber security breaches. If you are a company that experiences a cyber security breach, you are a victim [that] can also be organized for [account] Because in some cases you can be considered negligent. That’s why companies are sometimes very wary of reporting cyber security breaches.

Sometimes attribution is really hard to do as well. So it’s not impossible that we’ve seen cyber attacks in the US similar to those done in India, but we know [for a fact] We have had enough cyberattacks on America, with many in the intelligence community concerned about the integrity of our energy grid. The Office of Personnel Management has apparently been hacked, which is important because it basically means that China now has a list of a lot of government employees who have top-secret information. List [of cyber attacks] is too long.

TC: But you’d think the India hack was still a warning to all of us.

JH: The reason the hack was so historically significant is that it was the first indication that if this Gray War heats up, it could potentially be one of the first wars we’ve experienced since the Revolutionary War. Where we actually see significant physical destruction on our homeland done by a foreign actor. With the exception of 911 and the Civil War, which was an internal war, we have never seen a foreign power actually reach our shores and cause massive destruction. [Given] The cyber attack on India that you can imagine a scenario where if our relations with China really went south, that would be a possibility. . . Well, we have to make sure that our nuclear power plants are completely safe.

TC: How do you think we should respond to this threat? The US government has taken a very strong position against Huawei and against its bid to build infrastructure in the United States. You point out that companies like Zoom have a lot of Chinese employees and potential exposure to Chinese intelligence. Where do we draw the line? And how does the government respond which also protects the rights of businesses?

JH: This is such an important question for the turning point that we currently find ourselves in, especially with the potential risk of a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan. I am a big supporter of the US government’s idea of ​​setting up an outbound CFIUS framework. Right now we have a framework that gives the US government the ability to review and potentially block any investment coming from a foreign country on national security grounds; The basic idea would be to apply the same framework for outbound investments. So basically, give the US government the tools to review any investment from the United States out of the United States, and especially in China, on national security grounds, because over time, as we’ve seen when American companies pour in billions of dollars. China, which can sometimes cause some real problems.

TC: How do you think companies are going to continue to expand in China given the financial incentives?

JCH: There are already proposals coming through the halls of Congress that are headed in that direction and that are somewhat in line with what I suggest, so I think those ideas are very much on the horizon. When these issues are going to be pressured enough to be prioritized by Congress and the kind of support it needs to get it on the president’s table, it may actually be driven by a crisis, because obviously in Washington Many things happen in moments. Of crisis, unfortunately.

TC: Yes and no. Look at gun control in the US but it’s interesting the way you take it away from the idea that the US vs China is a competition because there are really no mutually observed rules, even though it may have seemed so in the past.

JH: When you say it’s a competition, you’re communicating the underlying assumption that you can afford to lose, because when you’re in a competition, you can risk winning or losing. . We compete with Germans and Japanese commercially all the time, but if Toyota sells more cars than General Motors, it’s really not a big deal. This is the market; We operate on a level playing field with rules that we mutually follow. The reason for the “war” is more accurate and appropriate for the current situation with China because we are talking about a political conflict and the result is about the political survival of our system and it gives you a certain level of mental level. Is. Clarity about prioritizing certain things that are essential, treat this challenge with the level of determination and urgency that is needed to produce a successful outcome.

Secondly, when you are at war, you are more willing to absorb the short-term costs to achieve a successful outcome. During World War II, General Motors was building tanks and airplanes and we really converged as a country. Here, we’re not explicitly asking Apple to build an aircraft carrier, but a short-term cost we need to think seriously about: How much will it cost us to move our supply chains out of China? Because it will cost money and require effort, and it’s going to be hard. But the potential cost of cutting off access to our supply chains is so high that it is well worth the relatively small cost of putting in the effort, energy and time to do so before it is too late.

TC: In the book, you note that this separation of economic foreign policy from national security purposes predates the Cold War. You are now suggesting an outbound CFIUS program and moving all of our supply chains out of China. What other incentives do you think are needed for private industry to distance itself from China or focus less on it as a huge market opportunity?

JH: A lot of the programs that have worked in the past often boil down to carrots and sticks, and I think a combination of some of the punishments that are implemented to make up for the incentives. [investors and outfits] By engaging in highly sensitive investments in China, [while also] Encouraging other types of behavior, like doing business with other countries that don’t pose a risk to America or democracy, is probably going to be a mix that succeeds and resonates with the business community.

TC: You also make the distinction that America is at war with the authoritarian government of China, not the people of China. Unfortunately, it seems that this message is not reaching everyone.

JH: When I talk about a gray war and our national debate about our issues with China it’s really worth repeating that this has nothing to do with the Chinese people or the Chinese culture. but instead political governance and [Chinese Communist Party].

Part of why we are on the right side of this equation is that the first victims – and those who have suffered the most at the hands of the CCP – are Chinese people. It is important to remember that Uighurs, Tibetans and politically dissidents are also Chinese citizens, even though they are treated as third-class citizens. And those are the ones we also need to keep in mind because Chinese state news media will often try to promote the statement that any talk of a tough stand against China is racist.

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