In addition to increasingly aggressive overt territorial military conquests in contested waters of the South China Sea, along its disputed border with India, stepped-up suppression of pro-democracy protests in Taiwan and Hong Kong, China’s Communist Party (CPP) is also escalating covert cyber-espionage and clandestine human operative infiltration of American and allied intellectual property.
Although known to have been going on for several years, the U.S. Justice Department has now characterized China’s rampant cyber theft of biomedical research, technology, and other valuable intellectual property as a top national security threat.
Last week, on July 22, the U.S. government ordered China to "cease all operations and events" at its consulate in Houston. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the consulate was directed to close "in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans' private information."
Ortagus further explained that China "has engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations," and that those "activities have increased markedly in scale and scope over the past few years."
Chinese media reported that the consulate had been given 72 hours to close.
That same evening, billowing smoke rose above the consulate’s Houston Midtown area a little over a mile from my home. Aerial video revealed compound staff burning what were suspected to be documents in outdoor courtyard trash barrels.
China has threatened to retaliate by shutting down American consulate in Chengdu.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R- Fla., the acting chair of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter Wednesday that closing China's consulate in Houston "needed to happen," and claimed it is a "central node of the Communist Party's vast network of spies."
As reported by CNBC, the FBI alleges that other Chinese consulates in America are complicit in similar espionage activities. According to a court filing, a biology researcher who lied about her connection to the Chinese military in order to receive a U.S. visa had temporarily avoided arrest by taking refuge in the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.
The mandated Houston China consulate closedown order occurred almost immediately following U.S. charges filed against two alleged Chinese hackers accused of a "sweeping global computer intrusion campaign" aimed at infiltrating and stealing coronavirus treatment and vaccine research information.
The indictment reportedly links Li Xiaoyu, 34 years old, and Dong Jiazhi, 33, to CCP-sponsored cyber theft efforts intended to leap-frog other nations in the global race to find a vaccine to blunt the pandemic which has killed more than 600,000 world-wide.
Other alleged hacking targets included breaches dating back to 2009 of highly security-sensitive information about military satellite systems, wireless networks and communications systems, microwave and laser systems, a counter-chemical weapons system, and ship-to-helicopter integration systems.
Ray Duda who Runs the FBI’s Seattle office, described the accused as "one of the most prolific group of hackers we’ve investigated."
The pair, according to the indictment, have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars in sensitive valuable secrets from companies and research institutions, including more than a dozen defense contractors in the U.S. and nine other countries.
The two also allegedly provided China’s Ministry of State Security, the CCP’s spy agency, with passwords of email accounts belonging to dissidents, including a Hong Kong community organizer, and the pastor of a Christian church.
U.S. Assistant Attorney General John Demers recently said, according to a Wall Street Journal account, "China has now taken its place, alongside Russia, Iran and North Korea, in that shameful club of nations that provide a haven for cybercriminals in exchange for those criminals being 'on call' to work for the benefit of the state — here to feed the Communist party’s insatiable hunger for American and other non-Chinese companies' intellectual property, including Covid-19 research."
This growing China cyber threat extends to warfare targeting of our vital power and national defense infrastructures.
As discussed in my book "Cyberwarfare: Targeting America, Our Infrastructure, and Our Future," (2020) the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission estimates that there are up to 250 groups of hackers in China that are sophisticated enough to pose an "advanced Persistent Threat" to U.S. interests in cyberspace. Since the late 1990s, the CCP has invested heavily in all things a nation would do when preparing for proactive and reactive cyberwarfare attacks.
Beijing’s increased espionage aggression is occurring at an already dangerous time when relations between China and the United States have plummeted amid an ongoing trade war, the coronavirus pandemic, and U.S. criticism of China's human rights abuses in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang territory in northwest China, home to millions of persecuted ethnic minority groups including Turkic Uighur Muslim populations.
Speaking at the Nixon Presidential Library on July 23, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that if America doesn’t act now to address these threats, "ultimately the CCP will erode our freedoms and subvert the rules-based order that our societies have worked so hard to build. If we bend the knee now, our children’s children may be at the mercy of the Chinese Communist Party, whose actions are the primary challenge today in the free world."
In just under the next 100 days, American citizens will determine who will lead our nation to address that all-important challenge.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. Larry has written more than 600 articles for Newsmax and Forbes and is the author of several books. Included are: "Cyberwarfare: Targeting America, Our Infrastructure and Our Future" (2020), "The Weaponization of AI and the Internet: How Global Networks of Infotech Overlords are Expanding Their Control Over Our Lives" (2019), "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity" (2019), "Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations" (2018), "Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful" (2017), "Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self" (2016), "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax" (2011). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles." Read Larry Bell's Reports — More Here.
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