America Leads in Stealing yet Dares To Criticize Others

The latest news from former American intelligence agent Edward Snowden is that the U.S. National Security Agency has been digitally eavesdropping on Chinese leaders, banks and a multitude of national government agencies in response to alleged spying activity by Huawei Technologies Company.

Regardless of whether it’s the official communications of China’s national leaders or the internal documents of the government’s ministries, both are under the protection of Chinese law. And regardless of this being the age of information, we should still consider this a matter of our national sovereignty. This is the point America does not understand. America uses the same reasoning to criticize Chinese hackers for targeting its information networks. Even if the target at hand is an American company, the U.S. still regards its information as a valuable treasure. The American government has adopted the safeguarding of American companies’ intellectual property as its sacred mission.

So then, are Chinese state secrets unworthy of protection? If America’s national secrets are rightfully secrets and China may not access them, then why does the U.S. wantonly access Chinese secrets? Clearly, America is pursuing an imperialist policy with Internet security when other countries are left with no option but to respect the sovereignty of American information, but America finds itself entirely without need to respect that of other countries.

Behavior this arrogant and selfish is unacceptable for any country. It has been deemed unacceptable not only by the president of Brazil and the chancellor of Germany but also by leaders of China and other countries that have found themselves encroached upon by America’s Internet policies. China rejects the American justification for its encroachment on China’s digital sovereignty at least to the same extent that America rejects the justification offered by other countries that have encroached upon its own digital secrets. Furthermore, China opposes any spy or thief that would, by leaking Chinese secrets, jeopardize our country’s political stability, national defense or economic development.

Our country’s government has requested that the Americans explain why they have intruded upon our territorial information. America will likely not give an explanation or apologize because to do so and admit it has wronged China would likely mean compensating for its wrongs and giving a guarantee that such transgressions would never occur again. If it did this, it would have no reasonable grounds from which to criticize other countries for similar activities and would simply have to hope that other countries wouldn’t retaliate by violating America’s own information sovereignty.

On Sept. 11, 2001, America was the victim of a grave terrorist attack. In light of the fact that its national defense system was not sufficiently integrated with its spy network to prevent the attack, America realized it needed to improve its defenses to address these shortcomings. It responded by strengthening and integrating intelligence, legal and defense systems to better defend against terrorism. These actions are understandable by any reasonable observer — America did what it needed to better protect its citizens. Considering the complexity of fighting international terrorism, America’s and other countries’ actions undertaken for the purpose of building an early warning system for terrorism are completely reasonable.

However, for America to use the rhetoric of anti-terrorism to wantonly steal other nations’ secrets is a gross departure from political legitimacy. In needing to understand other countries’ suspicious financial activities, America requests that other countries share information following legal, reasonable and fair rules, while concurrently — without warning — conducting operations to steal as much information as can be gathered. If America acts this way, can it tolerate other countries behaving in the same fashion?

Not to mention the fact that spying on leaders of foreign nations is in no way considered relevant to fighting terrorism. This worldwide activity of keeping high-level officials under surveillance reveals the real issue at hand: that America desires to control the entire world. From America’s perspective, there is no equality between nations or respect for the notion of sovereignty. America’s desire is to maintain its global leadership, and for this reason, it is weary of other countries’ rapid development and progress.

Little imagined is that the ultimate result of America’s dishonorable and hegemonic prying into other nations’ secrets could be that the entity that comes out most damaged is America itself. If America appeals for support in fighting terrorism, it will get the support of the American people and the international community. Considering America’s shadowy thieving of digital information and the existence of ideologues such as Edward Snowden, who exposed these activities to the world despite the great personal danger that resulted, it goes without saying that America is faced with widespread opposition from the countries of the world. The American government should know that in the digital world, America’s technological leadership is not absolute and certainly has no guarantee of lasting. So long as today America is demonstrating leadership in digital thievery, tomorrow it could find itself the biggest victim of even more significant thefts of information.

The author is a professor at Fudan University

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