Recent news reported that China has removed some well-known international information technology brands from its government purchasing list, and added almost 1,000 domestic brands. Western media are lamenting the loss of a big customer and rallying American and European companies to petition their governments to act immediately. They are accusing China of using security concerns as an excuse, and of, in fact, protecting its own tech industry.
No country would develop its economy with a cost to its national security. When the Snowden crisis revealed America’s shocking surveillance program to the entire world, network security became a hot topic. Last year, China formed its network security and informatization leadership team, with President Xi Jinping at the helm; the high-level leadership showed that China is strengthening its network security and elevating it to a national strategic level.*
China’s network security regulations have followed the Western format and included no special provisions. But as early as 2007, when Huawei wanted to acquire the American equipment company 3Com, America became paranoid, and Congress used “national security concerns” as a reason to stop the purchase. Huawei could not expand its business in America in spite of being the world’s largest telecom equipment supplier.
Cisco has undoubtedly been affected the most from being taken off China’s purchasing list. Reuters reported that in 2012, the company had 60 products on the list, but at the end of 2014, there were no Cisco products on the list at all. Cisco has always been the American government’s surveillance helper, so its banishment was the result of its own actions.
Routers and switching equipment are the primary links for the Internet, they are like the traffic police for the online world. The world’s largest maker of these parts is Cisco, who owns more than 50 percent of China’s online network, and transmits 80 percent of the information. American intelligence agencies adding a “backdoor” to Cisco’s primary products is an open secret at the company. How many other backdoors are in Cisco products? It makes one very wary.
Cisco runs the network at sensitive agencies like governments, police and customs; it can transfer and analyze relevant information, and any information can be controlled. Even a physically isolated network can acquire information using wireless means and do so without detection. Cisco products have become a main source for American intel; America has deeply invaded the Chinese network’s central nervous system via Cisco.
The Western media love to pressure the Chinese government, but it’s really slapping its own face. The West always likes to make itself the exception, but guests who disrespect the host are not welcome anywhere. One cannot enjoy the benefits from monopolizing technology, fattening his pockets while eavesdropping and hurting the Chinese people. If we allowed the continued purchase of Western IT equipment, it would be like adding a noose around our neck.
“The cyberworld is sort of the wild, wild West. And to some degree, we’re asked to be the sheriff.” Obama described the relationship between the American government and the network world this way during a speech at Stanford University. Used to eavesdropping on other people’s privacy, Obama is trying to turn the Internet into a tool for mighty rule, and America’s IT industry is the sheriff’s lackey.
The Chinese government has always opposed any kind of network attack, especially the attack and secret-stealing by a technically advantageous country. The Chinese online czar Lu Wei has repeatedly emphasized that when foreign network firms enter China, the bottom line is they have to follow Chinese laws. “We cannot allow [a foreign company] to occupy China’s market while also hurting China.” Cisco’s banishment from the Chinese government’s purchasing list is the American government’s fault. It’s a case of lifting a rock only to drop it on one’s own feet.
*Editor’s note: Informatization refers to the extent by which a geographical area, an economy or a society is becoming information-based, i.e., an increase in the size of its information labor force.
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