ShareThis Page

Confronting Confucius

| Sunday, Nov. 25, 2007


This indeed is a strange world.

On the same day, at midmonth, two stories made headlines, each believable and about China. But two days later an intelligence report with scant headline treatment detailed China's war-like hostility toward the United States.

The first story was a study from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. It outline how China is running an "aggressive and large-scale industrial espionage campaign" against American technology. The commission said Chinese espionage posed "the single greatest risk" to U.S. technology and called for active efforts to protect our industrial secrets and computer networks.

Once again we are being reminded that China is not merely a major economic rival but a major threat to American national security. The report details the transfers of sensitive technology to Chinese companies. "Sophisticated weapon platforms are coming off production lines at an impressive pace and with impressive quality," it says.

The same day the commission's study was published, another was released by two respected Wall Street companies. It showed in detail how half the venture funding for Chinese business and consumer services came from America, particularly seed capital for the critical information services and technology industries.

Also that day the Washington private equity firm the Carlyle Group said it plans to redouble its efforts to gain new footholds in China. It's already invested millions of dollars in steel through insurance companies.

Everything in the security business appears to be going very well for China. As the Congress of the Communist Party of China concluded this month, a spectacular promotion was announced.

The former head of the China National Petroleum Corp. and minister of Public Security, Zhou Yongkang, was named the supreme coordinator of China's intelligence services. He also was given a seat on the permanent committee of the Politburo, the second security boss in history to be seated.

But Mr. Zhou is no friend of President Hu Jintao; he is related by marriage to the leading figure in the anti-Hu Shanghai clan. So, we in the West should expect some action against us from Zhou. One thing is certain: His espionage agents will redouble their activities.

Now in his 60s, Zhou grew up in the shadow of Chairman Mao Zedong and knows that Mao is still China's revered hero who once said, "If nuclear war kills half a billion of our people, we will still have half a billion left." Then, it is said, he laughed.

Zhou Yongkang is a dangerous and frightening man.

Our intelligence friends are taking a renewed interest in a recent arrival on the international scene from Beijing. These are the result of a three-year-old Chinese government-sponsored operation -- known as Confucius Institutes -- whose ostensible purpose is to promote interest in the Mandarin language and culture among foreign high-tech companies, students and executives.

Confucius Institutes were created by Beijing's Education Ministry and the Center for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. Already there are institutes running in about 50 countries. In many countries, discreet partnerships have been formed between the institutes and very respectable high-tech Chinese groups.

Zheng Baoyong, vice president of Huawei Technologies, sits on the board of the Confucius Institute in Texas, which has partnered with the University of Texas at Dallas, a hub in the U.S. telecommunications corridor.

The first Confucius Institute was in the French city of Poitiers, where the Futuroscope is located. It was backed by the ZTE Technologies equipment company and has partnerships with Nanchang University, where ZTE's engineers are trained.

So, it is not surprising that our counterintelligence wonders if Confucius Institutes are being used as linchpins for the transfer of technology to Chinese companies.

But both Zhou Yongkang with his intelligence apparat and China's military establishment are really disturbed to know that Americans are reading a third report this month. It is about nuclear warfare and the threat posed by China to our country.

This report tells us all about China's intercontinental nuclear missiles and pinpoints where they are based, together with the strategic thinking that led to their being located in that specific geographic area.

The report informs us that the base of their military's "star" combat unit is the People's Red Army No. 51 Corps, headquartered in Henan Province. That is where DF5 and DF5A intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) targeting the United States are deployed.

The trajectory of these ICBMs would be through the space of Russia and the Arctic to reach the United States. Each ICBM brigade controls nine strategic missiles; each missile battalion takes control of three such missiles.

What more will it take to convince our leaders and bankers that China should be treated as the main enemy?

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.