While I was out traveling, WikiLeaks revealed a bunch of other documents that contained conversations of American diplomats and their assessments of other countries’ foreign leaders. But one revelation that I found particularly interesting is that documents revealed that China’s Politburo (the political branch of the Chinese Communist Party) was the one responsible for ordering the cyber attack on Google’s servers that became public in January of this past year.
According to a State Department source mentioned in one of the cables, Li Changchun, the fifth highest-ranking member of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and head of the Party’s Propaganda Department, was concerned about the information he could find on himself through Google’s search engine. He also reportedly ordered the attack on Google. This is only a single source of information; the cables that WikiLeaks released does not include the U.S. intelligence community’s actual analysis of the source, and therefore it is still subject to some scrutiny.
When this first came out in the first week in December, I was in a hotel room in central America reading about it on my iPad and I wanted to blog about it, but I couldn’t because my browser (Safari) is incompatible with this particular blog (which is yet another reason I am seriously thinking of moving this blog off of MSDN to somewhere else… MSDN is just far too limited). The reason I wanted to write about it so badly is because I had been not-so-subtly accusing the Chinese government of ordering this hit, and I didn’t need WikiLeaks to do it!
Two weeks earlier I gave a presentation that talks about the intersection of geo-politics hacktivism and cyber crime. I’ve also written about this topic on this blog, particularly when it comes to China. From China’s point-of-view, they view technology with some suspicion because they see it as a destabilizing force. Whereas in the west we view the Internet as a tool for communication and freedom of speech, and have a laissez-faire government (more or less), it is not the case in China. They have 1.2 billion citizens, and with that many people they are subject to mass movements that can destabilize the country. When China is weak and divided, they are subject to being invaded (Mongolia under Genghis Khan, and more recently Japan in World War II). Thus, they impose an authoritarian government in order to maintain internal security and cohesion. As an aside, they are also concerned with maintaining employment because large masses on unemployed people can cause social upheaval. China is buying America’s foreign debt, but if they didn’t Americans would not buy stuff made in China and Chinese unemployment would swell. Economists sometimes talk as if China holds a lot of leverage over America, but the fact is that China needs America’s large consumer market because they don’t have one and they need to keep people employed. Unemployed hungry people, tens of millions of them, can spell trouble for a country. So, the trade deficit works both ways.
Anyhow, China views technology with some suspicion, especially western technology companies like Google. They saw how technology was used as a destabilizing force during Iran’s 2009 presidential election. Thus, for China to order a hack on Google is not out of the question.
I bring all of this up because that was my theory during my presentation two weeks before the WikiLeaks reveal. I was only slightly off as my theory was that China’s government ordered the hack (in which I was right) and gave the cyber intel to a Chinese competitor (most likely Baidu) – the second half of the theory in which I was wrong. But not by much.
See? Who needs WikiLeaks. Just read my blog.
Er, read my blog for stuff related to Chinese cyber attacks. All that other stuff you’ll have to go elsewhere.