China: Deny Everything And Hope For The Best

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October 26, 2011: The Japanese parliament revealed that their computer network has been under attack, over the last few months, by hackers based in China. This is only the latest of a growing number of attacks on government networks in Japan, Taiwan and other East Asian nations, from computers in China. The Chinese government denies any involvement, but the evidence is piling up that there are links between the attackers and the Chinese government. As more and more security experts concentrate on these espionage efforts coming out of China, they detect patterns. One of them is what appears to be some groups of hackers consistently work with specific tech-dependent companies or branches of the government. This is believed part of a government program to encourage companies to start their own "cyber militias", with government support and approval. As a result of all this networked based espionage (and theft of commercial, as well as military technology secrets) there more talk of war, Cyber War that is, and how victims of these attacks can and should respond. This is a unique situation, because there is a lot more intellectual property (technology, and information in general) to steal (hundreds of billions of dollars' worth), and China is stealing it. The Chinese denials are wearing thin, and anger is growing. China seems content to deny everything and hope for the best.

A side benefit of China's Cyber War snooping campaign on Japan is that the U.S. refuses to sell Japan the new F-22. This is because Japan has already proved more vulnerable (than the U.S.) to Chinese hackers and has lost American military technology secrets. Japan has not been able to upgrade its network defenses sufficiently to satisfy the Americans. As a result, Japan is seeking jet fighters less capable than the F-22, to replace its rapidly aging fighter force. This has become more urgent this year, because of a record breaking number of Chinese intelligence and reconnaissance aircraft have come close enough to Japan to require Japanese fighters to go out and make sure the Chinese stay in international air space.

Chinese pressure on the U.S. to not sell new F-16s to Taiwan has also been successful. While the U.S. has agreed to upgrade some older Taiwanese F-16s, the Chinese threats prevented Taiwan from expanding its fighter force. China has been very successful using its growing economic clout to pressure governments to do, or not do, things that are in China's interest.

October 25, 2011: The Chinese Army has announced a major overhaul of its logistics (supply) and support services. Over the last few decades, the army has absorbed a lot of new technology, and reorganized itself several times. But army support services have not kept up. The new overhaul is also seeking to curb corruption in the army procurement and support organizations. This is something that is rarely talked about openly, but is very real, and has been a problem for China over thousands of years.

In a move sure to increase the popularity of the ruling Communist Party, the government has ordered a sharp reduction in entertainment programming (especially the stuff copied from the West) on Chinese TV stations, and replacing this demoralizing fluff with morally uplifting (propaganda) programs. This would include shows on how to improve manners and housekeeping standards. This is apparently another attempt to deal with growing public discontent over corruption and mismanagement in the government. Public demonstrations against corruption or government policies have increased in the last two decades from under 8,000 a year, to over 150,000 a year. Attempts to hide this have backfired, as the Internet and cell phones quickly spread news, and images, of police brutality. As a result, the police are being more restrained, and the government is more willing to address the popular complaints. In a growing number of cases, the police have little choice, because the crowds are becoming larger, and more aggressive, than the police can handle. The most frequent causes of these demonstrations are land theft, police misconduct (like murdering someone in jail) or various forms of official corruption. Government response still varies greatly, largely because decisions on how to handle demonstrations is usually a local matter. The central government can intervene, but rarely does. That's because the central government does not have the resources to run the entire country. China has always depended on strong local governments, at the province level, to take care of things. But this is where the corruption is worst. More and more provincial officials are being prosecuted for corruption, but there are so many of them, and they tend to help each other out. In effect, China is at war with itself over the corruption and bad government, and everyone is losing. Now the central government will try and help out by replacing popular (if vapid, at least to the cultural elite) shows with more uplifting (propagandistic) material. The government may find that this will put more people on the street, and even more unhappy that their reality show was replaced by "how to be a model citizen" nonsense.

For the tenth time this year, a Tibetan Buddhist monk committed suicide by setting himself on fire, to protest the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

In southern China, a Communist Party run newspaper urged military action to settle territorial disputes in the South China Sea. China claims the entire area, despite more ancient and recognized claims by other nations bordering this body of water.  The government often runs stories in local Communist Party controlled media, to get a sense of how the larger public would respond to controversial decisions. Something like risking war over offshore oil-drilling rights.

October 24, 2011: The U.S. repeated pledges to maintain current military strength in the West Pacific. American allies, and nervous Chinese neighbors, see the United States as a major factor in curbing increasing Chinese aggression.

Japan and Vietnam agreed to increase military cooperation in the face of growing Chinese claims to all of the South China Sea, as well as Cyber War attacks coming from China.

China has openly called on North Korea to improve relations with the United States and South Korea. Privately, the North Koreans have been told that they must implement economic reforms, similar to those that rescued the Chinese economy in the 1980s, and turned China into an economic superpower. To encourage the North Koreans, who have resisted this advice for over a decade, the Chinese have cut back shipments of free food and fuel. So has the rest of the world and North Koreans face very hard times over the next few months.

October 21, 2011: The first Chinese Navy ship to ever visit Cuba docked there today. It was a Hospital Ship, making a world tour of places that need some modern medicine. Cuba has plenty of doctors, but much less medicine and medical technology. So the Chinese ship's visit is appreciated. With the disappearance of Russia as an ally two decades, Cuban communists are also happy to see another communist superpower coming to their aid, and sticking it to the United States.

October 20, 2011: Chinese police arrested 17 people in Tibet, and accused them of smuggling weapons in from Burma (Myanmar). Ethnic Tibetans are angry at the growing number of Han Chinese moving to Tibet. Some 20 percent of world's people are Han Chinese, and the Tibetans do not want to be assimilated into that.

October 19, 2011: The Philippines Navy apologized to China for an incident in which a Filipino patrol boat collided with a Chinese fishing vessel suspected of poaching. There was light damage to both ships, and the Philippines described the collision as an accident. The two ships were in waters claimed by both China and the Philippines.

October 18, 2011: China's Central Committee finished several days of secret discussions and revealed that they had decided to use the Internet more aggressively to increase the popularity of the Chinese Communist Party, and to exercise more control over what Chinese could access on the Internet. At the same time, the Central Committee authorized a major publicity campaign overseas, to let foreigners know what a swell and powerful place China has become. China has a growing presence overseas, in the form of business people, tourists and even UN peacekeepers (Chinese troops now comprise about a fifth of them). Basically, what the Central Committee wants to do is let Chinese, and foreigners, know how great China has become, and to make sure Chinese give the Chinese Communist Party lots of credit. All this use of traditional propaganda is optimistic, because information and attitudes are difficult to control on the Internet. But the Chinese Communists see this as one battle they must win if they wish to survive as the rulers of China.

October 14, 2011:  At an air show in northern China, a navy JH-7 bomber crashed before a horrified audience. One of the two crewmen was killed, the other ejected in time. No one on the ground was injured. As China allows its warplanes to participate in more air shows, it is experiencing the same embarrassments the Russians long suffered. Russian, and Chinese, military planes are not built or maintained to the same standards as their Western counterparts, and are thus more prone to fail during the tricky and stressful (to pilot and aircraft) maneuvers favored for air shows. The JH-7A is a 28 ton, twin engine aircraft, with a 12.9 meter (40 foot wingspan). Even with new engines most have received, it is still underpowered, but it can carry nine tons of bombs, missiles or additional fuel. The JH-7 is used mainly by the Chinese navy. The aircraft has an operational radius of about 900 kilometers, enabling it to contribute to an attack on Taiwan, or a blockade of the island's ports. The JH-7 entered service in the 1990s, as one of the first warplanes designed, as well as built, in China.

 


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