Last week the Committee on the Present Danger: China hosted the first of a series of Capitol Hill roundtables to discuss the threat posed by Communist China to American security. The event highlighted the multifaceted efforts by Chinese Communist Party to supplant the United States as the world’s dominant power, and also discussed the steps that must be taken to counter it.
Among the chief concerns noted at the roundtable was that China’s “intention is to dominate the United States and every other Western democracy,” warned Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee, and a U.S. Air Force veteran. “They are moving methodically towards that goal. From the intelligence perspective there is nothing that I worry about more.”
It’s a goal China could reach thanks to its successful cyber espionage, including the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hack and data breach of the personnel records of an estimated 23 million security clearance holders and applicants.
“(China) can run through those 23 million names in a heartbeat and connect dots in a heartbeat,” Stewart added. “Have we seen evidence that they’ve done that? Absolutely.”
Among the data that was hacked were millions of SF-86 forms, which contain extremely personal information that would be gathered in a security clearance background check. In addition, millions of people’s fingerprints were also compromised.
The hack began in November 2013, when the OPM network was first breached by a group since dubbed X1 in the congressional OPM data breach report. In this initial breach the hackers weren’t able to access any personal records, but a month later the attackers breached the system of two contractors. Those two companies conducted background checks on government employees and had access to OPM servers. It wasn’t until March 2014 that OPM officials realized they were hacked.
China’s role in the hack was largely kept a secret. The first official confirmation that China had carried out the attack was addressed by White House National Security Advisor John Bolton last September. He disclosed China’s involvement when the White House unveiled a new national cyber strategy that shifted the focus of security efforts from a more passive approach to an aggressive stance against cyberattacks.
“We will respond offensively as well as defensively,” Bolton told reporters last September.
This past February a Chinese national, Yu Pingan, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the hacking of several American companies. He reportedly used a hacking tool called Sakula, the same malware that was used in the OPM hack. While Yu has not been linked to the OPM operation, the fact that the same malware was used is just one more piece of evidence pointing to China.
Rep. Steward has warned that China is not seeking to be a peer competitor, and instead wants to dominate the United States. China’s intention is to be a dominant power not only politically and militarily but also diplomatically and economically, he warned.
China’s Threat: Ongoing and Persistent
“China is a clear and present danger to the world, and not just to the United States,” Col. Stefan Banach, U.S. Army, Retired, told ClearanceJobs.
Banach noted several areas where China presents a serious threat, and this includes China’s pursuit of global social control; how its Pacific Island chain maneuvers are now denying shipping lanes that could impact global commerce and create strategic shipping choke points; China’s massive technology overreach; and its One Belt One Road Strategy to create a new “Silk Road” to control the global economy.
The OPM breach is just one of the potential dangers.
The French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is quoted as saying, “Let China sleep. For when she wakes she will shake the world.” As has been seen by the OPM breach and other activities the world is in indeed shaking.
“China has a strategy,” added Banach. “They are implementing it indirectly. They are on course to control global shipping, global technology and the global economy writ large.”