Rage – Violence and Espionage

Locally, everywhere I turn I see rage and the sorrow of domestic mass shootings. Violence is currently a prominent feature of a new America. And political violence is but just one element.

The head of Homeland Security Secretary commented, and echoed by the director of the FBI ”that domestic violent extremism is one of the greatest terrorism-related threats that we face in the homeland today.” The FBI director Christopher Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the first week of August this year that political violence is becoming “almost a 365 day phenomenon.” “Many domestic terrorism cases now have an international component, as would-be killers are ‘egging each other on’ and drawing inspiration from racist or neo-Nazi attacks overseas,” the head of the FBI and his British counterpart M15 announced in a joint communique. “Travel and technology,” the FBI director said, “have really blurred the lines between foreign and domestic threats.” Their agencies have spent decades developing a concept called “tip-sharing systems” to handle international terrorism cases, and that “muscle memory” is now being applied to domestic terrorism investigations. The most currant attacks have taken on a new kind of definition along with an increased and new urgency, because attackers can mobilize quickly and more than often are not part of a known, identifiable well-established network. On the other hand, in many terrorism cases, Wray commented, the terrorist is a lone actor, with maybe one or two other people with a minimum of plotting and little financial resources. In the midst of this information, the top watchdog at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) dropped a small bomb when he said that the DHS “could do more to address the threats of domestic terrorism.” This admission, in a new 29-page report, followed an increase in mass shootings that have been jolting the country and prompting questions about how effective federal law enforcement responses are.

Which leads me to the conclusion that after many years analysis we can no longer be automatically compartmentalizing terrorism as either domestic or foreign. There must be a more nuanced approach in our analysis and clearly a more proactive stance by law enforcement.

Globally, constant hostiles and a profound lack humanity are being pushed to the breaking point. Today, although the headlines have become smaller, we remain frontpage focused on the Ukraine, as a war of attrition lingers on with civilians more often than not, being targeted by Russian missiles. What is not being presented to the general public, even in a slightest ripple, is China’s silent, some may say stealth, attack on the United States, and that is the focus of the remainder of this Commentary. I am not referring to its open aggression in the East China and South China Sea area, neither disguised nor denied by any of the parties — the United States included. This comes amid increasingly more aggressive military action by Chinese pilots, obviously on command from Beijing. Last month, in the East and South China Seas, a Chinese fighter jet had an “unsafe” and “unprofessional” interaction with a U.S. special operations C-130 aircraft in the South China Sea. There was no apology from the Chinese. There has been unmasked hostility by Chinese jet fighters in recent months involving Australian and Canadian aircraft. In February, personnel aboard a Chinese navy ship pointed a laser at an Australian P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft, and another Chinese jet cut off an Australian P-8 and released chaff that the Australian plane was forced to ingest into its engine.

After Pelosi’s visit to Twain, the Chinese fired 11 missiles that hit the seas surrounding the democratic island, and although the Chinese said they all hit their intended targets, some landed in Japanese waters. After protests by both the U.S. and Japanese Governments, the bombardment stopped and then restarted with a large armada of Chinese naval force on display. As it turned, out it was a good military exercise for the Chinese government in preparation for future hostilities against Taiwan. Equally important for the United States, it afforded us the opportunity to study the coordination of Chinese military services in a live military full scale exercise. In addition, our “education” in observing the reaction of the Chinese at home — the mood of the mainland population was not as expected: Chinese social media exploded in condemnation of its government’s weak response to Pelosi’s trip to Twain — “don’t put on a show of power if you don’t have power,” and “what a loss of face.” The Chinese government then announced, I assume to placate its population, that it would cease all conversations with the U.S. concerning significant issues of national security for each nation. The “silent” treatment.

It is China’s “silent war” against us, only slightly cover in the press, that has captured my attention because of its depth and the danger it poses to a wide swath of our national security. One is its espionage, and the second is China’s invasion into our economy. First is the FBI’s ongoing investigation to determine whether the Chinese-made Huawei equipment could disrupt U.S. nuclear arsenal communications. Second, is a new Senate report that Beijing has targeted the ranks of our Federal Reserve system, this nation’s central bank and probably the most powerful economic institution in the world, to gain access to nonpublic information. China, over a period of more than a decade, sought to enlist Federal Reserve employees to provide sensitive and classified information in exchange for money and other enticements, according to the investigation led by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Pete Williams, in a very interesting article, alleges that Chinese intense spying in the U.S. has become so penetrating, concentrated and widespread that the FBI is opening two to three counterintelligence investigations daily. FBI Director Wray has said, on more than one occasion, that the “sheer scale” of the Chinese efforts to steal U.S. technology “shocked him” when he became FBI director in 2017. “This one blew me away,” with over 2,000 investigations presently in progress. “There is no country that presents a broader, more severe threat to our innovation, our ideas and our economic security than China does,” he said. “More brazen, more damaging, than ever before.” targeting a wide range of U.S. innovations — including Covid vaccines, computer chips, nuclear power plants, wind turbines and smartphones. More than mere worrisome, Wray said, China has no equal.

WSJ reported that China attempted to build a network of informants inside the Federal Reserve system. During their attempt to infiltrate the FED, they threatened to imprison a Fed economist during his trip to Mainland China unless he agreed to provide nonpublic economic data. This was not the first time the Chinese offered cash payment or the use of corrosion in detaining those with sensitive information concerning the nonpublic workings at the FED.

Last November, a Chinese intelligence office was convicted of trying to steal closely guarded technology developed by GE for making jet engines’ fan blades. At times a company’s technology is stolen by planting spies inside a targeted company. And this may, I add, is only the tip of the iceberg of their activity in and against the United States.

Wray has long accused China of using pressure tactics to block criticism from dissidents and members of the immigrant community in the United States, which he said amounts to Chinese officials exporting their well-known social oppressive tactics. “China may be the first country to combine that kind of authoritarian ambition with cutting-edge technical capability. It’s like the surveillance nightmare of East Germany combined with the tech of Silicon Valley,” Wray said. Wray cited the example of Zhihao Kong, who was a graduate student at Purdue University in Indiana in 2020 when he publicly praised student protesters who were killed in 1989 at Tiananmen Square. After doing so, Kong said China’s Ministry of State Security visited his parents in China to warn them about his activism.

Wray was quick to emphasized that the source of the trouble is China’s leaders, not its citizens, adding “I’m referring not to the Chinese people, not to people of Chinese descent or heritage,” he said. “What we’re talking about here is the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party.” I find this hard to accept considering the outcry on social media within China that criticized their government for their weak response to Pelosi’s visit to Twain.

Some Asian American groups have accused the Justice Department and the FBI of overreaching, especially with a Trump-era national security program called the China Initiative, created to address Chinese economic espionage in universities and research institutions. The groups have alleged that federal agents, much too often, go after academic researchers for paperwork offenses that have no effect on national security.

FBI officials, while acknowledging some missteps, said the bureau’s focus is on efforts to steal from American companies, not on academia. But both is true, and the scope of their intrusion into our economic well-being is immense, as discussed below.

While other nations, including North Korea, Russia and Iran, have carried out sustained attacks on American computer networks, Wray said China stands in a class by itself. “There’s just no other country that presents a broader threat to our ideas, innovation and economic security than China,” and here he has hit the center of the target. There has been a sustained invasion in our economy on more than one front. Aside from its intense espionage activities, China has “invaded” our economy on two fronts. Its purchase of immense tracks of farmland and its purchase of major food producing companies, among others, in a blatant attempt to control various aspects of our lives, including our domestic food supply. At the outset, it’s important to repeat that every Chinese company must take a loyalty oath to comply to any request by the Communist Party of China. That, in effect, makes all Chinese companies a potential extension of the Communist China government apparatus.

With headquarters in China controlling its policy, there are several iconic “American companies” that sound American and tout themselves as American but are not. Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producing company, along with its more than 500 farms and factories in the United States, is Beijing controlled and operated. AMC Cinemas, along with IBM-Personal Corp and Snapchat and a healthy chunk of Tesla, have their headquarters in China. So does General Electric. Along with these companies, there is a push by Chinese interests to buy immense tracks of farmland — its “One Belt One Road” aiming to control a greater and greater piece of China’s food suppl chain. By 2020, Chinese owners-controlled farmland was worth almost 2 billion dollars including land used for ranching and forestry. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, both Republican and Democratic, have advanced legislation, warning that China’s presence in the American food chain poses a national security risk. A powerful China-based company that specializes in flavor enhances recently obtained a 300-acre farmland near Grand Forks, North Dakota. What made this purchase so unique and important to our national security is that the land is located a mere 20 minutes from our Grand Forks Air Force base that is touted to be the home of our most sophisticated military drone technology. The Chair of the very powerful Senate Intelligence committee has rung the alarm bell that this purchase is a counterintelligence threat posed by the Chinese government.

My thought: after a fruitless 10-year siege, in 1184BC, the Greeks of ancient times constructed a huge wooden horse and hid a select group of soldiers inside…and then seemed to sail away from battle. The besieged Trojans, to what appeared to them as a victory prize, pulled the massive horse into their fortress and went to sleep. The rest, as they say, is history., A trojan horse or an “American” corporation set at the gates of Washington. A real question for today and tomorrow and our national security is who owns Corporate America? And by this, I mean who realistically controls corporate America? This is not an issue of who is “migrating” to our shores. We are a nation of immigrants and hopefully that is where our future has always been. The question, urgently being raised in Washington, is Who, in What corporate office, will determine what or when our food chain remains viable or the movies we see or newspapers we read, and the list goes on. There is a silent stealth enemy in the United States and today it is China.

War Over An Island

War Over An Island?

The experts are placing the odds where WWIII will explode and the consensus is that it is Taiwan. This unsettling prediction comes at a time when the world’s super powers are straining and, in some cases, failing to move politically toward some degree of bipartisanship in their own domestic governing. The United States is torn politically in half, and that affects not only the ability to govern both nationally and locally, but our health is at stake with our inability to confront a killing virus. Fact: Half the country won’t take the vaccine, and that places the rest of us in danger. In France, neither the French president nor his party have strong local support, nor does the right-wing National Rally party. We have cancelled a trip to England. Cruise ships are basically sitting in port. And as I write this, the United States and its allies condemn China for hacking the Microsoft Exchange email server that affected tens of thousands not merely in the United States but around the world. All this as it unveiled the world’s fastest train– a maglev train capable of a top speed of 372mph.

Although Taiwan is the focus of this Commentary, I feel it would be remiss not to pause to consider the state of Hong Kong. China, contrary to its agreement with the UK, has begun to squeeze the last vestiges of a democratic form of governance from the former UK colony. Four federal agencies have warned U.S. companies in mid-July that operating in Hong Kong puts both their employees and businesses at the mercy of an increasingly hostile Chinese government.  The potential impact is huge: U.S. direct investment in Hong Kong totaled $82 billion in just one year. On a personal level, I fear for an Indian Muslim whose family has lived for generations in Hong Kong and who I have known for years. He operates a small, international family custom clothing business in the former colony. He and his family’s business have a bleak future with no guarantee of survival both financially and privately.

In the past, I have written about China’s aggressive stance and its hostile advances in the South China Sea. At lightning speed, Beijing built military installations on artificial islands and small, coral reefs and now aggressively confronts their small neighboring nations in their own territorial waters. China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

More than once, our naval or air force has had dangerously close encounters with the Chinese that have placed the U.S. on high alert, causing serious concerns around the world. India and China keep sending fresh troops to their common border where sporadic, small arms firing have taken place. We are moving far past these types of unsettling, aggressive markers, in the escalation toward a much greater and dangerous conflict with a belligerent and powerful nation.

There is no question that “China poses the greatest long-term challenge to the United States’. Strengthening deterrence against China will require the Department of Defense to work in concert with other instruments of national power,” this by the Pentagon’s 2022 Defense Budget Overview. There has been a marked escalation in the tone and posture of the confrontation between China and United States. And it is palpable.

To emphasize the importance of the Pentagon statement: it requested in excess of 715 billion dollars for its military budget for the year 2022. With an additional 38 billion dollars sought for the design and production of a nuclear arsenal. As one commentator called the move: “The U.S. is preparing for a high-intensity” war to “out run” and overwhelm China. There is a small bipartisan group of lawmakers who seek additional sums in order to provide “billions” in aid to our “Asian allies” looking toward what will inevitably be an ever increasingly hostile technological race with China.

At dinner with my wife, I was discussing my thoughts regarding this Commentary. She was unaware of the history of Taiwan, an island along with some smaller islands, off the coast of mainland China. After the end of WWII, fighting continued to rage in China but now, after the defeat of Japan, a brutal Chinese revolution. The fighting between the Nationalist Party (headed by Chiang Kai-shek also known famously as Generalissimo, who served as head of the Republic of China from 1928 to 1949) and those who allegiance was to the Chinese Communists Party. The Generalissimo, after being defeated on the battle ground and forced from power, he (with his iron fisted wife who was as popular as he) were exiled by the Chinese Communists to Taiwan where 1.2 million Chinese followed, and where he serve as president of the Republic of China on Taiwan. There are over 23 million Chinese presently living in Taiwan. As the decades past, the tensions between China and Taiwan built, as the Taiwanese leaders slowly but steadily moved the “Island” from a dependent political status to claiming to be a fully independent nation. Labeled as a defector nation or, as Beijing considered the island — a renegade province.

The island’s political status posed a serious bone of contention in the United States’ relation with China, which has only continued to escalate over decades. In the late 70s, the two countries entered into an agreement that any move by Beijing to attempt to change Taiwan’s status by force, would be considered by the U.S. a “threat to the peace and security of…and of grave concern, to the United States.” As analyzed, the wording in the agreement neither guarantees our intervention in the event of armed attack against the island, nor does it rule it out. There are those in Congress today who believe, because of the level of increased tension between the two nations, that it is time to change the ambiguity in the U.S. commitment to ”strategic clarity”: that we will come to the defense of Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

In July of this year, the Global Times Editorial page published a striking opinion: The Chinese Ministry of National Defense issued a warning that the U.S. stop playing “with fire in its relationship with Taiwan”.  “The U.S. and the island of Taiwan have felt heavy pressure from the increasing strength of the mainland and its preparation for potential military struggle.” The Taiwan government not only continues to reject the idea of reunification, but holds on to the idea of being internationally accepted as an independent nation before the UN. Also, the Global Times editor notes that the “U.S. also has the intention of containing China’s rise” as an international power.  It is interesting to note that every year China celebrates a victory over the United States. We know it as the Korean War; the Chinese call it the “War to Resist American Aggression and Aid to Korea”. China does not let the world forget America’s loss.

When Mao Zedong’s “People’s Volunteer Army” turned back the U.S. Eighth Army in December 1950, it inflicted what is still known today as the longest retreat in American military history. Clearly, China has unquestioned strategic dominance in the Taiwan Straits. It also has the capacity to deploy overwhelming military forces in the South China Sea. It is building its navy at great-neck speed, but with less fire power than the U.S. navy. The Express.co.uk reported that the Chinese threat—that the U.S. will be defeated in any military confrontation with China, was in response to the largest joint military drills that were being carried out by the U.S. The U.S. joint drills with Japan, Australia and France in “one of the most complex deployments (the U.S.) has ever organized” and was clearly intended as a show of force aimed at Beijing.

China’s leader had described the U.S. led military exercises in southern Japan, involving troops and hardware from the four nations, as” a waste of fuel”, adding that the drill had “no impact” on China and that there will be a reunification with the wayward province.

While China continues to claim authority over virtually the entire South China Sea and, as noted above, it has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. It also claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a functioning democracy of 24 million people, despite the fact that the two “nations” have been governed separately in excess of seven decades. It is almost certain that the China-U.S. confrontation will only escalate. The question is: will it plateau without a shot being fired and both sides claiming victory.

Something to think about—we all know what a spy is. We’ve seen enough movies and read enough John Le Carre books. You steal a top secret file, microfilm it, and hide in a hollowed out pen that you place behind a rock in Central Park and walk away. On the other hand, a mole is one who arrives in the United States and disappears and melds seamlessly into a nondescript community and waits, and waits and waits. Months, maybe years, waiting for the order from the mother country to do an act that will severely injure the host nation.
In reading the following, do not make any comparisons to our unconscionable actions toward the Japanese-American population on the West Coast at the beginning of WWII. Unlike with China today, there were not decades upon decades of open hostility between Japan and the United States prior to December 7th. How many “Chinatowns” are there in the United States? There are fifty– located mainly in major cities. New York City has 4 or 5 such major enclaves within its five boroughs. How many “Americantowns” are there in China? First, the Chinese do not allow an immigrant to remain too long within the country, and, two, there are too few Americans in China to form a town. So the answer is: none. If war were to erupt between the two nations think about this.

               Richard Allan

                       The Editor

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