By Fareed Zakaria
Some experts believe that the scale of China’s cyberespionage is off the charts. “It is the largest theft in human history,” Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution told me, pointing to one example. The United States will spend around $1 trillion developing the F-35 fighter, which will be its most advanced weapons system. “But we can now see clearly that elements of the F-35 have made their way into a similar Chinese plane. American investments that were meant to give it a 15-year battlefield advantage have been totally undermined,” Singer said. And he points out that China targets everyone from defense contractors down to furniture makers, whose chair designs get stolen and copied within a year.
Cyberattacks are part of a new, messy, chaotic world, fueled by globalization and the information revolution. In a wired, networked world, it is much harder to shut down activity that blurs the lines between governments and private citizens, national and international realms, theft and warfare. And it certainly will not be possible to do so using traditional mechanisms of national security. Notice that Washington is using a legal mechanism (which will be ineffective and largely symbolic) for what is really a national security issue.