Tit for tat. You hack me, I’ll hack you. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. Washington is outraged at China for allegedly stealing trade secrets from U.S. businesses. Using a bit of everyday logic it is inferable that China is riled by the snooping of the NSA. And Germany, a good friend of Washington, and corporations, and your telephone, your emails, your…Snooping appears to be the order of the day in the post-Cold War world. In this espionage tug-of-war one thing is what you say and do publically, something quite different what happens under the hat.
Recently the mass media paraded the indignation of the Obama administration at five Chinese military sleuths who, according to an indictment of the Justice Department, attempted to pilfer confidential information from American companies.
Yet at least some of the victimized U.S. corporations—doing great business in China—would not like the indignation to go so far as to affect their flourishing commercial operations. Business interconnects in the “globalized” economy and for the “big players” competition for markets includes snooping. For example, according to the Associated Press, Westinghouse is building four nuclear reactors in China; the Allegheny Technologies steelmaker operates a joint venture in Shanghai; Alcoa, the biggest foreign investor in China would certainly not like to give up its business there.
At a time when the capitalist world is still in financial turmoil, U.S. investors in the world’s second-biggest economy are having a hay-day in China, a market that last year brought a nearly 50% take for U.S. firms. They no doubt are concerned that Chinese hackers might steal some of their trade secrets.
The exchange of goods between the U.S. and China reached a record $562 billion last year and U.S. companies earned nearly $10 billion, also a record according to the Associated Press. Direct U.S. investment in China is more than %50 billion. Significant also is the fact that General Motors sells more cars in China than in the U.S. And Chinese companies have become big investors in the U.S., where Chinese investment was estimated at $14 billion last year.Yet here is little information available in the press concerning the spying of the NSA in China. If the documents Snowden revealed show large-scale business spying in Germany, there must certainly be important operations also in China.
Big business in the U.S. is supposed to be private, although giant corporations often receive subsidies, tax reductions and in times of crisis they receive government bailouts. In China there is more scrutiny of the State, so there is a blur in terms of the roles of what is private and what is state in both countries.
One of the complaints of U.S. companies operating in China is that the Chinese firms are given an edge over foreign competitors. That charge supposes that in this globalized world foreign and local businesses should be given equal treatment. Nevertheless, most developed countries in their rise to wealth have imposed preferential tax treatment in favor of their own business interests.
Often fiction speaks more clearly than “reality.” The present world certainly bears strong resemblance to George Orwell’s “1984” in which he says: “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable," and then you have the technological mind control present in A. Huxley’s “Brave New World.” Spying, long a secret aspect of political and economic struggles, has now obtained recognized status as the modus operanti of the tug-of-war for power in the post-Cold War world.