To stop China's technology theft, the US needs a 'people warfare' strategy

To stop China's technology theft, the US needs a 'people warfare' strategy
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Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Sun Tzu accurately described our national cyber warfare strategy over two thousand years ago. Finally, a plan has been sent to Congress to deter and respond to attacks in cyberspace. Now what’s our plan for information warfare? People warfare?

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Our two biggest threats in these areas — Russia and China — have yet to be deterred by our tactics. Why? Because we have no strategy for comprehensive warfare that includes the people, logistics, influence operations and the generous access to our country our adversaries are exploiting.

In his Statement For The Record on February 13, 2018 to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsTop Democrats request meeting with intel chief over sharing of classified info Overnight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war NSA deletes scores of call records over ‘technical irregularities’ MORE laid out the goals for Russia and China:

“The United States will face a complex global foreign intelligence threat environment in 2018. We assess that the leading state intelligence threats to US interests will continue to be Russia and China, based on their services’ capabilities, intent, and broad operational scope.”

It’s very clear Russia has a sophisticated and growing influence operation capability. The 2016 elections are a perfect example of a low-cost, high-impact strategy that included simple but extremely effective tactics. This is a scenario that will be repeated over again, in spite in indicting 13 Russian nationals who will never see the inside of an American courtroom.

Russia is a major concern, but China is where our attention should be laser-focused.

The Confucius Institutes, located on American universities, are a thinly-veiled influence operation, and springboard for espionage by China. In his testimony before Congress, FBI Director Christopher Wray said “And I think the level of naïveté on the part of the academic sector about this creates its own issues. They’re exploiting the very open research and development environment that we have, which we all revere, but they’re taking advantage of it.”

The numbers alone should cause concern. Of the over one million foreign students attending a university, around 350,000 are Chinese according to the Institute of International Education. And what are they focused on? Two of the most highly-sought after technologies; artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. This isn’t solely about economic power.

Future battlefields, armies and weapons will depend on who has the superior technology. China has made it abundantly clear they want to have global domination in these domains within a decade.

Michael Wessel is the chairman of the congressional U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission. In his April 11, 2018 written testimony, Wessel addressed the “foreign nations’ exploitation of U.S. academic institutions for the purpose of accessing and exfiltrating valuable science and technology research and development.”

Our own government is complicit in facilitating acts of espionage by funding research into the very labs when a high percentage of the researchers are Chinese. Wessel documented two notable instances for the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

The Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research (BAIR) Lab at the University of California at Berkeley is a leading AI facility working on advanced computer vision, machine learning, natural language processing and robotics. Roughly 20 percent of the PhD students at BAIR are PRC nationals.”

“The University of Maryland’s Bing Nano Research Group works on materials science, focusing on energy storage, nano-manufacturing and biomaterials. Thirty of the 38 post-doctoral researchers and graduate students are from China. Every one of the visiting researchers and professors utilizing ‘J’ visas are from China.”

Incredibly, this very lab receives support from 15 different federal agencies, including “NASA, DARPA, The Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Department of Energy.” This is the very definition of a self-inflicted wound. Actually, it’s more like self-inflicted stupidity.

On the one hand, the director of National Intelligence and The FBI director are sounding the alarm of China’s overt attempts to influence and commit espionage through the Confucius Institutes. On the other, our own government is funding the very brain drain we’re trying to stop.

This isn’t confined to the academic space. IP theft is stock-in-trade for China. If they don’t get it from our own universities, they’ll get it in China from U.S. businesses.

Intellectual property losses each year are staggering. China claims the leading infringer spot, according to The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property.

China uses a very heavy-handed approach in their theft of intellectual property (IP). It’s actually state-sanctioned, and businesses who want to operate in China have to play ball. Except for China; they play hardball.

One way this is accomplished is by requiring US firms doing business to “voluntarily” hand over their technology. Coercion is a more accurate description, according to Scott Kennedy with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In a recent interview, he likened it to “coerced pressure”.

“If you want to invest in China, produce in China, sell in China, you will need a Chinese partner that will share ownership of your company. You will need to contribute technology, patents, licenses to that joint venture, which you will share. And you will do R&D together in which the Chinese company will gain a stake in,” he said. And that’s only the beginning.

Kennedy cited an example of a U.S. firm from Massachusetts that made semiconductor chips for wind power. This firm owned the chips and the IP. It didn’t matter. Their Chinese “partner” stole the technology, opened up their own production facility, and drove the U.S. firm out of business in China.

What’s the solution? Here’s a start.

Cut by 75 percent the number of Chinese students allowed into the country. It is well documented these students form the cadre of collectors for China’s espionage operation inside our universities.

Next, review the programs that are being funded by federal dollars that have national security implications. Tough decisions will need to be made as to the composition of the research staff. We have to quit giving our adversaries the ammunition to shoot us with.

Lastly, ban the Confucius Institutes. They’re nothing more than legalized prostitution with universities willingly trading values and morals for money.  

As for doing business in China, maybe the United States should reciprocate retroactively and require Chinese companies to have U.S. partners.

Now that we finally have a cyber warfare policy, it’s time to craft a people warfare policy.

Morgan Wright is an expert on cybersecurity strategy, cyberterrorism, identity theft and privacy. Previously Morgan was a senior advisor in the U.S. State Department Antiterrorism Assistance Program and senior law enforcement advisor for the 2012 Republican National Convention. Follow him on Twitter @morganwright_us.