Legalizing Chinese espionage?

William R. Hawkins
For its first segment Sunday night, CBS's "60 Minutes" looked at Chinese spying in America. Correspondent Scott Pelley asked Michelle Van Cleave ,"When it comes to espionage against the United States, is China now the number one threat that we face?" Van Cleave was in charge of coordinating the hunt for foreign spies for the Director of National Intelligence from 2003 to 2006. "The Chinese are the biggest problem we have with respect to the level of effort that they're devoting against us versus the level of attention we are giving to them," Van Cleave explained.

Asked what the Chinese want from America, Van Cleave answered,

Virtually every technology that is on the U.S. control technology list has been targeted at one time or another by the Chinese. Sensors, and optics, and biological and chemical processes. These are the things, information technologies across all the things that we have identified as having inherent military application.

Beijing would like to acquire this information wholesale by legal purchases. Chinese officials from President Hu Jintao on down have demanded for decades that the United States lift its security restrictions on the sale of technology to the People's Republic. An editorial in the official Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times made the case on January 6. Entitled "Sino-US trade war more about technology than money" it argued,

China should require the US to cancel or at least temporarily lift its limitations on high-tech exports. It should focus on breaking through such limitations in bilateral negotiations at different levels. In order to achieve such a goal, powerful media publicity is needed to impose pressure on Americans.

Currently, the US's export control policy covers about 2,500 products, most of which involve manufacturing technology, such as space crafts components, high-tech communication apparatus and mechanical equipment. China is a key target country when it comes to export control policy.

Technology is what China most urgently needs in Sino-US trade. But the US isn't willing to include its superior products in transactions, which naturally leads to an aggravated trade deficit.

Lifting security restrictions would not balance trade, which posted a $227 billion U.S. deficit last year. It could, however, change the balance of power as Beijing desires, since anything sent to China will be copied for local reproduction. Yet, in a speech to the Business Roundtable on Feb. 24 touting his plan to double exports, President Barack Obama said,

While always keeping our security needs in mind, we're going to reform our export controls to eliminate unnecessary barriers. So some of the sectors where we have a huge competitive advantage in high-tech areas, we're going to be able to send more of those products to markets overseas.

The Business Roundtable is part of a coalition of groups that has been lobbying for the "modernization" of the export control system so more technology can be sold, including to China, for short term gain regardless of long-term consequences. The Business Roundtable's "issue leader" on China is Samuel J. Palmisano, Chairman, President & CEO of IBM Corporation. IBM sold its PC manufacturing division to Lenovo, a Chinese firm partly owned by the government, and has a major research center in Beijing.

There is always a balance between commerce and security, but the line must not be set in Beijing or in corporate boardrooms. The decisions must remain in the hands of those who understand the duty to protect national security first.



For its first segment Sunday night, CBS's "60 Minutes" looked at Chinese spying in America. Correspondent Scott Pelley asked Michelle Van Cleave ,"When it comes to espionage against the United States, is China now the number one threat that we face?" Van Cleave was in charge of coordinating the hunt for foreign spies for the Director of National Intelligence from 2003 to 2006. "The Chinese are the biggest problem we have with respect to the level of effort that they're devoting against us versus the level of attention we are giving to them," Van Cleave explained.

Asked what the Chinese want from America, Van Cleave answered,

Virtually every technology that is on the U.S. control technology list has been targeted at one time or another by the Chinese. Sensors, and optics, and biological and chemical processes. These are the things, information technologies across all the things that we have identified as having inherent military application.

Beijing would like to acquire this information wholesale by legal purchases. Chinese officials from President Hu Jintao on down have demanded for decades that the United States lift its security restrictions on the sale of technology to the People's Republic. An editorial in the official Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times made the case on January 6. Entitled "Sino-US trade war more about technology than money" it argued,

China should require the US to cancel or at least temporarily lift its limitations on high-tech exports. It should focus on breaking through such limitations in bilateral negotiations at different levels. In order to achieve such a goal, powerful media publicity is needed to impose pressure on Americans.

Currently, the US's export control policy covers about 2,500 products, most of which involve manufacturing technology, such as space crafts components, high-tech communication apparatus and mechanical equipment. China is a key target country when it comes to export control policy.

Technology is what China most urgently needs in Sino-US trade. But the US isn't willing to include its superior products in transactions, which naturally leads to an aggravated trade deficit.

Lifting security restrictions would not balance trade, which posted a $227 billion U.S. deficit last year. It could, however, change the balance of power as Beijing desires, since anything sent to China will be copied for local reproduction. Yet, in a speech to the Business Roundtable on Feb. 24 touting his plan to double exports, President Barack Obama said,

While always keeping our security needs in mind, we're going to reform our export controls to eliminate unnecessary barriers. So some of the sectors where we have a huge competitive advantage in high-tech areas, we're going to be able to send more of those products to markets overseas.

The Business Roundtable is part of a coalition of groups that has been lobbying for the "modernization" of the export control system so more technology can be sold, including to China, for short term gain regardless of long-term consequences. The Business Roundtable's "issue leader" on China is Samuel J. Palmisano, Chairman, President & CEO of IBM Corporation. IBM sold its PC manufacturing division to Lenovo, a Chinese firm partly owned by the government, and has a major research center in Beijing.

There is always a balance between commerce and security, but the line must not be set in Beijing or in corporate boardrooms. The decisions must remain in the hands of those who understand the duty to protect national security first.