I am one serious supporter of the free enterprise system as it creates economic growth and opportunity. I’m also a serious supporter defending our nation against threats.
So what happens when the free market is at odds with national security? Which one should win? I can tell you this is a major concern for me with the reauthorization of the crony capitalism and corporate welfare endeavor known as the Export-Import bank. The fact that we have large corporations which require American taxpayer funds to be used as export credit guarantees so they can sell their wares to overseas markets is rather disconcerting — perhaps the chuckleheads who were protesting in Chicago at the mercantile exchange should have focused on the Ex-Im bank.
As reported by the New York Times via 790TalkNow, “One Chinese technology company receives crucial technical guidance from a former People’s Liberation Army rear admiral. Another company developed the electronics on China’s first atomic bomb. A third sells technology to China’s air-to-air missile research academy. Their ties to the Chinese military run deep, and they all have something else in common: Each Chinese company counts one of America’s tech giants — IBM, CISCO systems or Microsoft— as a partner.
Such links, which are generally not well publicized, are now at the center of a debate among some in the American defense community, including former United States military officials, analysts and others. While the cross-border partnerships, under which American tech companies share, license or jointly develop advanced technologies with Chinese counterparts, are a growth area for business, security experts are increasingly questioning whether the deals harm United States national security.
While the capabilities shared in the partnerships are commercial in nature, such technologies have also become more critical to defense. That is spurring concerns that widespread cooperation with Chinese companies could quickly increase China’s fundamental technological capabilities in a way that could easily help military research and operations.
A report made public this week from a security firm with longstanding ties to the Department of Defense, the Defense Group Inc., said IBM’s partnerships in China, which are part of a global initiative that the company calls Open Power, are already damaging American national security.
“IBM is endangering the national and economic security of the United States, risking the cybersecurity of their customers globally, and undermining decades of U.S. nonproliferation policies regarding high-performance computing,” the report said. Edward Barbini, an IBM spokesman, rejected the report’s conclusions, saying Defense Group Inc. “wholly mischaracterizes IBM’s initiatives in China.”
But other security experts defended the study by the firm, which was founded in 1987 by a former Defense Department official, James P. Wade, who was one of the authors of the military doctrine known as “shock and awe.” Defense Group Inc. is known to be tough on China but is used by the government to produce classified military analysis and intelligence, and works with groups including the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which examines the national security implications of trade between the United States and China.
“We need to pay more attention to the judgments on whether advanced technology should be sold,” said Adm. Dennis C. Blair, who was the United States director of national intelligence from 2009 to 2010 and who headed the Pacific Command. “If you don’t pay attention, you can have damage to your national security.”
Are these American tech companies so blinded by cash flow that they’d make a deal with any country? There’s no doubt China has been behind several massive cyber attacks against the United States. As well, we have proof that China has been hacking into systems, stealing military technology and applying it to their own weapons systems development — their new fighter has a stark resemblance to the F-35 fighter. Yes, the free market is a great thing and provides much opportunity for companies to grow, hire Americans, and create a better quality of life for its employees, but at what cost when we consider the technological gains China is enjoying?
Should the boardroom CEOs take into account the young Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine who is deployed and must contend with a growing Chinese threat? Do the CEOs of IBM, CISCO, and Microsoft care so little about those Sailors who were just recently on patrol near the Chinese manmade archipelago, putting their lives on the line? Is this any different from those who purchase the “blood diamonds” which enable the funding of African civil wars — and the recruitment of child soldiers?
No, I do not think these companies should be fined, taxed, or sanctioned. I just think there should be a bit of a conscience from these companies and a consideration of our national security. I fail to believe we have don’t have single ally in the world where these technologies could be sold without the concern of national security threats. Imagine, if we had American manufacturers providing engine parts to Nazi Germany. One of the reasons why Japan decided to bomb Pearl Harbor was that the United States ceased supplying the Japanese with oil and other resources after witnessing its imperialistic actions and learning of the horrors the Japanese Army had conducted in China.
“In May, the United States Navy also said that it needed new server computers for one of its systems after the server provider, IBM, sold the computing unit to the Chinese company Lenovo. IBM said the sale had passed the United States government’s review. The issue is tricky because cooperation between American companies and Chinese ones allied with the military is a natural outgrowth of globalization. Any policies that limit American companies’ work on commercial technologies with Chinese partners could damage their competitiveness, analysts said.
“It’s so difficult to keep tech away from China commercially given how large China’s market is,” said Scott Kennedy, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Microsoft has said it is handling its partnership with a Chinese government-owned defense company as it would other system integrators globally. A Cisco spokesman said technology developed in a new Chinese partnership would be done with approval from the American and Chinese governments. Last month, during a visit by China’s president, Xi Jinping, to the United States, Cisco also announced a joint venture with Inspur, a server maker that counts China’s air-to-air missile research academy as a client. Microsoft unveiled a partnership with the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, or C.E.T.C., a government-owned defense company overseeing the former military-run research institutes that developed the electronics for China’s first nuclear bomb.”
What do y’all think, should our American tech companies be free to sell their products to China, clearly an adversary of the United States? Should there be some system of checks and balances or should it be disallowed? Me? I think any technology transaction by an American company with China should be transparent and made aware to the Department of Defense US CYBERCOM. If there are systems being utilized by the U.S. armed services that are sold to China — and I define that as a Chinese company with Chinese military affiliations or Chinese government affiliations – it should be declared and in my assessment prohibited. No technology used by our military should be sold to a country in an adversarial relationship with America.
Perhaps this issue is boring to you, but if you have a spouse, son, daughter, brother, sister or any relative standing on freedom’s ramparts to safeguard our way of life, this should concern you. And to the CEOs of IBM, Cisco Systems, and Microsoft I have one question, are any of your children serving in our military? Would you risk the safety of your children if they were distinguishing themselves by wearing the uniform of these United States?
Perhaps that’s the criteria y’all should consider when you’re sitting around hobnobbing with the likes of Xi Jinping. Enjoy your profits – that’s part of the free enterprise economic system which I support. But I pray you never have to endure the consequences of sharing your technology with the Chinese by looking into the eyes of a mom or dad, spouse or child who lost their loved one due to you selling China cutting-edge technology.