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Chinese Hackers Target Universities in Pursuit of Maritime Military Secrets (wsj.com)
106 points by malshe 15 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

Why is US pretending to be friend with an enemy that is out to steal anything in US that isn’t locked down? Least of which, an enemy that is a dictatorship that has oppressed religion, democracy, free speech, and free will in its domain?

Apart from reasons already mentioned (business), I suspect another large contributor is that the these types of articles only reach a relatively small audience in the US (albeit an audience that has outsize influence on FP matters). If these articles reach 10% of the population, I tend to believe the other 90% is probably far more worried about whatever domestic outrage storm (left or right) happens to be occurring on Twitter that day and probably has no idea why they should care about China one iota or how China will affect them. (They do know that China = marginally lower prices though)

I believe this is a tragic mistake that will be looked on with regret in 20-30 years (or maybe less), but it is what it is.

See I could never comprehend this attitude, how is it that we throw the word "enemy" around so lightly at countries that steal our technology or are dictatorships but we get so appalled and shocked when middle eastern countries that we bomb call us the enemy?

We should probably raise the bar as to what constitutes an enemy if we want to remain on our moral high horse, because otherwise we're hypocrites. Just my two cents.

People use the word "enemy" when they speak about protecting themselves, because they sense that they are vulnerable or becoming more vulnerable.

When others talk about protecting themselves _from you_, yes, that's uncomfortable. But saying "we get so appalled and shocked" kind of points at a straw-man "we" here. That's not "us" in every case. It might just be those reactionaries over here or there. It also points at the shock of diving into a culture as the US did in the middle east: Wow, it's diverse, not just one opinion--shocking. That's how education happens.

Raising the bar as to what constitutes an enemy carries a very clear risk, too: Underestimating your enemy. People know a lot about that nowadays.

However I think we can develop our cultural vocabulary here. There's an opportunity for that and it's very clear when discussions about "enemy" and how it's awkward even arise.

> we get so appalled and shocked when middle eastern countries that we bomb call us the enemy

do they? or are you talking about Americans getting appalled and shocked by people calling for their deaths? There is a significant difference.

The alternative has been tried. It was the Cold War and McCarthyism. It was far from successful in limiting the aspirations of the opponents. McCarthyism came with some dictatorship like restrictions and paranoia within the US. It was also pretending to be friends with its allies in the same period.

So what's your alternative?

I’d say foreign policy is complicated, but that’s an understatement. For one thing, US foreign policy often encourages trade with non-democratic countries because strong evidence shows that trade prevents wars. It also produces an educated middle class that desires more freedoms, less corruption, rule or law, and oversight. The theory is that eventually they will demand democratic governance. And, democratic countries don’t declare war on each other.

Ultimately, US foreign policy follows its citizen’s best interests. And, ignoring our occasional knee jerk reactions, most of our citizens are happy when we avoid war, expand individual rights and freedoms, increase trade, and maintain global stability.

China may not work out as expected, though. Who knows. I doubt anyone in the 70s believed that technology would advance far enough to allow an oppressive government to effectively control billions of people. Or, maybe the Chinese people are happy enough with their recently gained wealth that they accept being oppressed.

US should be friends with other nuclear powers, at least in a limited sense, for the safety of all of humanity

There are other mechanisms for combating Chinese wrongdoings

> Why is US pretending to be friend with an enemy that is out to steal anything in US that isn’t locked down?

In the same reasoning, you could argue that EU should consider US as an enemy, since there is plenty of evidence on US spying on EU.

So please explain why it's not OK for China to spy on US, but it's ok for US to spy on EU.

The US listening to Merkel's private communications is more expected in international spying. Having teams of state sanctioned hackers target commercial and educational bodies to steal technology to replicate back home is a bit different.

You mean more like the industrial/economic espionage of ECHELON, where various European companies lost billions of dollars?

You mean China is doing something similar to that?


"In 1999, Enercon, a German company and leading manufacturer of wind energy equipment, developed a breakthrough generator for wind turbines. After applying for a US patent, it had learned that Kenetech, an American rival, had submitted an almost identical patent application shortly before. By the statement of a former NSA employee, it was later discovered that the NSA had secretly intercepted and monitored Enercon's data communications and conference calls and passed information regarding the new generator to Kenetech"

Please tell me the difference again...

Because business, the US business interest developed China for making a profit -- you have a billion smart people that work long hours for peanuts to exploit. But those people saw that as an opportunity to rule. The new strategy however seems to be one of containment by automating and moving manufacturing back to the mainland... What do you expect China to do with a billion people that have gotten used to a $6,000 average yearly wage. It's going to do everything it can to survive and grow... and the Chinese are as smart as Americans. Man vs. Man.

Yeah its a shame. Most multinationals have already diversified out of China (usually less than 30% of capacity is left in China now). It’s the middle sized and small sized businesses that were too stupid not to diversify out of China, and now have to beg and plead for mercy from a malevolent Chinese government. And drag the US down with them. I hope the current administration can stand up against them.

I mean, we also put Yanjun Xu, an officer of the Chinese espionage apparatus, in federal prison last year. This friend/enemy/partner/adversary thing really works in multiple dimensions.

I guarantee you the US tries to steal their military secrets too. There's no reason to be angry about this at all -- spying is like reading your competitor company's blog.

The competitor's company can't put you in front of a firing squad or sentence you to a gulag.

Yes, that's why it's even more important to spy on other countries.

Isn’t the US trying to sentence a senior executive of Huawei to a gulag?

I didn't say the US was innocent of anything.

> Why is US pretending to be friend with an enemy that is out to steal anything in US that isn’t locked down?

Because the thing about capitalism, is that its acolytes will happily sell the rope that they will be hanged with. To meet Wall Street's next quarterly expectations for rope sales, of course.

Companies want to do business with China, because there is money to be made, and their owners don't give a care about free speech or religion of people on the other side of the world.

And this is a good thing. It means that there's a lot of wealthy, influential people, who would really hate for there to be a war between two superpowers, despite the best efforts of nationalists.

PS. Countries spy on eachother all the time. If you think the US does not steal military secrets from its friends, and enemies, I've got a bridge to sell you.

Off topic but relevant: I posted this story today morning at around 9 am EST. It was flagged within 5 minutes and never got any visibility. This is a repost because that submission is effectively dead.

Why are you posting link to pay to view articles? Referral bonus?

Oh you caught my little scam! /s

There is no rule against posting a paywalled article on HN when there is a workaround. FWIW I had posted an outline link in the comment on that posting.


The US is going to be in a hot war with China within 10-15 years. The only way to avoid this is to crush the Chinese economy through trade wars, forcible containment of Chinese expansion (e.g. Huawei ban, undermine belt and road), and covert ops - and that may not work. China is clearly an enemy of the US and is on the cusp of becoming an existential threat. Forget about breaking up big tech, is it time to start thinking about breaking up China?

This is clearly an extreme position, but how extreme do you think it will be in 5 years?

What you say is crazy.

To begin with, even if US is to completely ban the entire trade with China, it will be just a prick to an elephant...

Surely, the rest of the world will eagerly buy iToys, and stuff like cheap clothing – China is safe in that scenario. Not so much for US, biggest US exports to China are unsellable anywhere else. Surely, soybeans can be sold as animal feed, but it will saturate the market few times over.

The Chinese economy is more fragile than you think. You’re about to launch another massive stimulus program to prop up your slowing economy, which will only inflate the bubble further.

Xi’s base of power is also not as stable as it seems. There’s grumbling within the party about him over reaching and the slowing economy is giving his opponents ammunition. If things continue on the current path, you may start to see open opposition to Xi’s policies, which will lead to questions about Xi’s leadership.

China is not only Xi alone, and having somebody less tremendously incompetent replace him, will only play to China's gain

You’re probably right

If China is smart they will chase, or continue to chase, stability at this time. People still look at China and see massive volatility, and a warlike stance is very premature considering their military capacity in areas like logistics.

IMO they'll place their bets on regional hot spots and boundary-keeping, while continuing to turn their economic partners into colonial-style resources. A tight game but one with a lot of potential for easy wins for China that can close some important geopolitical gaps. I think 10-20 years is a possibility for open conflict around boundaries, but in 5 years, no way. It's a cliche but I really think they are much too wise for that. Maybe it comes from wallet-feels but it looks like wisdom. To be Chinese right now, and an advocate for war, also means advocating for your own restricted rights to be restricted even further. The smart money is on China looking for economic safety and potential rebounds.

In that time period the US must absolutely continue to 1) diversify in all areas from society and culture to technology theory, 2) rebuild important partnerships that have recently been sabotaged and 3) leverage its renewed cultural signage as political influence within China.

The US has the qualitative advantage in education and technology and we can easily keep that edge sharp enough to cause massive fears within our enemy before conflict ever breaks out.

The west also desperately needs open cultural dialogue-technology (basically: a new vocabulary) regarding nuclear exchange and its meaning and potential. I remember watching an "educated" person expressing nuclear war fears on a C-SPAN broadcast panel in October of 2008 and that prediction was censored by C-SPAN after the recording of the show was posted online. It was just gone. This is unacceptable, both the instant leap to "nuclear war" dialogue after a big financial event, and the censorship. Such black and white extremes clearly illustrate a lack of refinement and education on the topic, and this is nearly endemic in its small but significant way. Embrace the fear, wrap it in more educated terms that put problems and solutions in a more realistic perspective, and move past it.

Could you expand on what would be the cause of this war? China hasn't started a war in 40 years (since its failed invasion of Vietnam), and appears to have no intention of doing so any time soon.

What makes it an "enemy" of the US?

I think if China engages in military conflict with the US it will be in the style of death by a thousand pinpricks, each not warranting a heavy deployment.

Could you clarify what you mean by existential threat?

Why can't we live in peace bro

Because while you’re living in peace, the other guy will come for you in the night. It’s unfortunate but that’s how it’s been throughout human history. The only societies which have enjoyed peace are those that have the overwhelming means to destroy their enemies.

China has an ICBM arsenal that can hit the US and is developing a healthy conventional military as well. Therefore, given that they have overwhelming means to destroy us, as long as our leadership doesn't go completely crazy we won't try to come for them in the night and will be able to continue to live in peace.

I guess that's why we are trying so hard to have those overwhelming means (I'm Chinese)

Yeah, I understand your position. It’s too bad, and quite scary that geopolitics may force us to pick sides one day.

Because China is ruled by a dictator who sees the writing on the wall.

Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers from which they dare not dismount.

In hindsight, I think US having good or even decent relations with China will be seen as a historic strategic mistake. The Sino-Soviet split seemed like a brilliant move at the time but birthed a monster. Giving even one ounce of legitimacy to the CCP was clearly a long term miscalculation. The soviet union would have fallen eventually anyways, there was no need to court demons.

We used to cut these countries off and isolate them, now we do business with them while they steal our tech and manipulate our population. Now it looks like we have a vehemently anti-western authoritarian superpower in the making.

We are pretty open here in the US, sure. I mean I'd never expect things like [0] from China, let alone (what I'd expect to be) comparatively loud work coming from academia.

I say let them keep trying, with some security tweaks here and there as needed/justified. But redouble our connections with academia. We need to harness massive growth in the face of such a conservative opponent, not more excuses to slow things down and stabilize around security so soon.

0. https://madsciblog.tradoc.army.mil

> let alone (what I'd expect to be) comparatively loud work coming from academia.

The US was able to use their lead in computers to design stealth aircraft based on Soviet mathematics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petr_Ufimtsev

This would prove the OP's point, wouldn't it ? Soviet Russians had interesting discoveries in semiconductors also [1]. However, they were never able to parlay it to economic success as US and other western powers were able to

[1] https://hsm.stackexchange.com/questions/6367/did-russia-have...

I wasn't trying to correct anyone, I just thought it was an interesting factoid

>not excuses to slow things down and stabilize around security so soon.

What sort of signal in the noise would tell us that it is indeed time to slow things down and stabilize around security?

Your enemies have more resources to gamble on openness than you do. Which they don't, not even close.

Or their espionage _and_ replication skills, given the tech and human gap, are good enough to make up for it. Which, based on the domestic defense tech we are seeing from China, is not yet even close to proven.

It's not a time to be cocky. But we must continue to leverage our comparatively open processes. That was a key lesson of the cold war.

Our open processes let the Chinese collect detailed records on every cleared person in the US when the OPM didn't bother to follow the NSA security guidelines.

Even better reason to keep pushing forward on new plans and sacrificing security rather than doubling down on security. Make the information obsolete. There's always a hole or a mole somewhere, so you widen the economic-technological gap.

Also in this arena it strikes me that western cyber forces are fortunate indeed that their potential adversaries have a famously centralized governing style. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that we already had some hilariously complete records of that sort from our own expeditions.

>Make the information obsolete.

You can't be serious. "Make private information public" is an absurd reaction to what is a clearly offensive operation.

This sounds crazy

Sounds more like a Chinese agent trying to steal American secrets.

Ding Ding...we have a winner. I work in the maritime technology space for several large corporations and over the past 18-24 months it is crazy how many LinkedIn requests, cold emails, etc from pretty obvious fabricated profiles from China (and some RU) I've been receiving.

side-note - completed a graduate program @ MIT

Dear MIT graduate, please join our espion...err LinkedIn group thank you


That didn't work here, unfortunately. This is probably begging for downvotes, but while I'd love to "pay for quality journalism" I barely have the attention span to justify the spend on a single source like the WSJ when my Twitter feed is full of blunt and yet highly educated speculation by the very people who write these kinds of articles. I can then get those authors' latest books through my library, or read other news sources through my library, etc. I wish there was a better system for the WSJ to use.

No bots posting to HN, please.

Non-Paywall version: https://outline.com/s9tgAF

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