Wednesday, October 24, 2012

There is a more to Huawei’s trouble with Congress than meets the eye.

Huawei’s debacle with US Congress raises troubling questions at many levels. Huawei will be paying a heavy price for a colossal failure to communicate across the two cultures, but this story is more than about just one company.

Huawei initiated the dialogue by inviting a Congressional investigation of its company operations. The House Select Committee on Intelligence responded but did not give Huawei officials the desired endorsement. Instead, the House Committee specifically recommends that the US government and private sector entities do no business with Huawei on the ground that their equipment constitutes a national security risk--a devastating hit on Huawei’s reputation that could hurt Huawei’s business around the world.

Based on the company’s past engagements in the US market, Huawei should have anticipated a hostile reception. Its past attempts to make a minority investment in a floundering 3Com and an acquisition of a relative start-up were stymied by the US government as a perceived threat to the US national security.

The company is said to have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants and Washington lobbyists to help Huawei deal with the Congressional committee. Apparently these advisors did not appreciate the rather formidable built-in bias Huawei needed to overcome. Drawing from their investigative report, it is clear that the Committee began on the presumption that Huawei represents a real threat to national security. Nothing in the eleven-month investigation changed their minds.

Just the mere possibility that cyber espionage can take place via Huawei equipment was enough to brand Huawei a risk to national security. To overcome the bias, Huawei would have had to prove that Huawei equipment could never host cyber attack against the US, obviously not a stand Huawei could take credibly.

By way of mitigating the Committee’s concern, Huawei offered to have all their equipment thoroughly tested and certified by an independent laboratory before the equipment could be introduced into the US market similar to the arrangement accepted by the government of Great Britain. The Congressional Committee rejected Huawei’s proposal for the following reasons: (1) The US market is too large for any testing to be sufficiently comprehensive. (2) The testing only applies to the configuration being tested but the configuration could be altered subsequently during installation or later upgrades. (3) Such a certification can even encourage a false sense of security and reduced vigilance. In other words, there was no way for Huawei.

The Committee asked Huawei to provide information on their contracts, pricing practice for their products and services and scope of their operations and, recognizing the sensitive nature of the information being sought, offered to receive such information under a confidentiality agreement. Apparently, Huawei did not have the confidence that Congress could keep information confidential and refused to comply. Thus the Committee concluded that Huawei might be selling “at least some of its products in the United States below the costs of production,”--a huge leap indeed based on information the Committee did not get.

The Huawei officials also failed to established empathy with the House Committee—to put it mildly.  Given a Congressional body with no understanding of China or at least none that they would admit to, empathy may have been too much to aspire. The Committee could not even make a distinction between state owned enterprises (SOEs) and privately owned ones. Somehow in their minds, a large successful private enterprise must be connected to the Chinese government, and a sinister connection at that.

They insisted on wanting to know about how Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s founder, was able to leave his SOE employer to start his own company, as if that was unheard of, while actually in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, people in China were leaving SOEs in droves. How was Ren invited to attend the 12th National Congress, the Committee asked? Huawei’s answer should have been: Jiang Zemin began to recognize the important role of entrepreneurs in China’s economy and selectively honored them by inviting some to the national confab.

The House Committee’s conclusion on Huawei, as its report readily admitted, was based on hypotheticals and not on specific illegal acts committed by the company. The hypotheticals are easy to conjure. However, the only known successful cyber attack the world knows for certain is the deployment of American made Stuxnet worm on the Iranian centrifuges. Certainly Americans have the bona fides to imagine how cyber attacks can be done.

The Internet is populated with screaming accusations from network security consultants—undoubtedly looking for work—pointing to China as the source of rampant cyber attacks, thus providing cover for Congressional paranoia. The Committee does claim to have smoking guns describing Huawei wrongdoings but these are classified and not available to the public.  

In a way, this is reminiscent of the Cox Committee’s investigation in the late 1990’s on the alleged espionage activities of Chinese in America. The unclassified part of the Cox Committee report painted a lurid picture of Chinese espionage running amuck in America. Tens of thousand storefronts in America registered to Chinese entities were cells and every ethnic Chinese was a potential spy for China. The Cox Committee also assured the public that they had smoking guns though consigned to the classified section of the report and not available to the public.

By now the smoke from the Cox Report has largely dissipated and the only concrete result was the arrest of Los Alamos scientist, Dr. Wen Ho Lee. He spent nine months in solitary confinement before the presiding judge apologized to Lee and threw out the case. The legacy of the hysteria created by the Cox Committee investigation is a lingering suspicion of the loyalty of Chinese Americans and the erosion of the idea that US Congress behaves honorably.

Sadly, politicians have continued to find profit in taking pot shots at China. The incumbent President Obama, a Nobel Peace laureate no less, proclaimed a military pivot to Asia, and thus encouraging conflict in the waters around China, to show that he is not soft on China. His opponent, Romney, promises to declare a trade war against China on the day he takes office—if elected. Members of Congress regularly take the floor to blame China for all the economic woes in America. None of the American leaders of any stature have spoken about the importance of getting along with China.

Bashing China has no apparent down side for American politicians unless and until the bilateral relations between the two most powerful nations spiral out of control leading to tragic consequences. The challenge for the incoming leaders of Beijing is to strike a balance between being more transparent to ameliorate American feelings and reassuring its own constituents that China’s sovereignty is not being compromised by American demands. It will be up to the American people to punish mindless China bashing by voting the offenders out of the office and encourage leaders that recognize the importance of promoting mutual trust between the two nations.

What’s at stake is the future peace and prosperity of the world depending on China and the US getting along without rancor.

A shorter version appeared in China-US Focus.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

American Cover Up of Japan's WWII Atrocities by Unit 731

Those accused of committing war crimes in World War II were tried in Nuremberg and Tokyo. Sometime after the conclusion of those war crime trials, in December 1949, 12 Japanese physicians and military officers were tried for their crimes against humanity. The trial was held in Khabarovsk, Russia and the testimony described acts of horror and brutality beyond imagination. Americans are unaware of these crimes because General Douglas MacArthur, at the time in charge of occupation of Japan, suppressed the findings.

I was recently reminded of this part of WWII history when I came across an 8-page article published on June 5, 2001 in The Japan Times about the trial of Unit 731. This biological research unit was established in Harbin by Japan's military hidden behind a wall and a veil of secrecy. No outsiders knew what was going inside the camp. 

Most of the information in this blog is derived from the article in Japan Times, generally recognized as the equivalent New York Times of Japan. The following passages taken verbatim from the article give some "color" to the accusation of war crimes:

The crowds (at the trial) heard about doctors who subjected their victims--termed "logs"--to all kinds of experiments: injection with animals' blood, exposure to syphilis, hanging upside down until death, surgical removal of their stomachs with the esophagus then attached to the intestines, amputation of arms and reattachment on the opposite side. Some 10,000 people were reported to have died in Japan's 26 known killing laboratories in China, Japan and other occupied countries.

Unit 731's physicians, preparing to fight in the Soviet Union or Alaska, would experiment on victims in the bitter Harbin weather, where winter temperatures can fall into the minus 40s Celsius. Guards would strip a victim, tie him to a post outdoors and freeze his arm to the elbow by dousing him with water, researchers say. Once the lower limb was frozen solid, doctors would test their frostbite treatment, then amputate the damaged part of the arm. The the guards would repeat the process on the victim's upper arm to the shoulder. Another test, another amputation. After the victim's arms were gone, the doctors moved on to the legs.

When the prisoner was reduced to a head and torso, orderlies would lug him elsewhere in the compound and use him for experiments involving bubonic plague or other pathogens. Virtually no one survived. Unit 731 found a ready supply of human guinea pigs: members of resistance movements, children who strayed too closed to the outer perimeter, a teenage girl found carrying a pistol, Mongolians, Koreans, Russians. Any non-Japanese, really, was a potential victim.

While Soviet officials deliberated on what to do with them (after the war), Gen. Douglas MacArthur secretly granted immunity to the physicians of Unit 731 in exchange for providing America with their research on biological weapons. Presented with evidence that downed US airmen had been victims of grotesque experiments, MacArthur suppressed the information.

MacArthur's action outraged Stalin and he ordered a trial of Unit 731 doctors then in Russian hands. The trial ended in 5 days and the accused were found guilty and sent to prison, none were executed. In 1956, except for one that committed suicide behind bars, rest were quietly sent back to Japan and released. Lt.-Col. Naito Ryoichi, one of the military doctors, founded Japan Blood Bank that later became Green Cross. General Ishii Shiro, leader of Unit 731, was never caught and tried; he died of throat cancer in his own bed in 1959.

As the Japan Times article pointed out,
the Khabarovsk trial casts light on a wound that still festers in Asian international relations. Anger at Japan runs deep in both Koreas, China, the Philippines and other nations occupied in World War II to whom Japan has never paid reparations or issued a satisfactory apology.

The trial revealed that the Japanese military was planning to attack San Diego with kamikaze piloted planes loaded with fleas infected with bubonic plague. Hiroshima and Nagasaki intervened and the plan was never carried out. Had it been otherwise, American might think differently about the pains of WWII.

Monday, October 15, 2012

What's Next for House Committee on Intelligence?

Fresh from their head-line grabbing investigation of Chinese Telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE, Chairman Mike Rogers and Ranking Member C.A. Ruppersberger of House Select Committee on Intelligence (the spy kind and not related to IQ kind) announced that the Committee will next investigate how the Chinese acquisition of AMC Theaters will adversely affect national security.

AMC is the second largest chain of cinema theaters in North America with over 5300 screens. Each screen is a potential conduit for messages to corrupt our American youth, Chairman Rogers said.

Studies have shown that flashing subliminal messages at the moviegoers in between frames can induce involuntary purchase of soda pop and junk food. The Committee intends to ask Dalian Wanda, the acquirer, if the company intends to insidiously suggest to the American audience to gorge on chop suey.

The Committee also intends to ask Dalian Wanda as to its connection to the Chinese government and the PLA. Given that the company is based in the city where Bo Xilai was once mayor, we can presume the company has unsavory intentions and the Committee intends to find out what that is.

Dalian Wanda might offer to let an independent third party vet all the prospective projectionists before they are hired but that proposal will be rejected by the Committee. It will be too easy for the Chinese owner to slip in secret agents while the operating projectionists go on bathroom breaks and insert messages that turn the minds of American youth into mush. (Thanks to video games from Japan, the minds of American young people are already in a fragile state but that's a topic for another investigation.)

Chairman Rogers regrets that he did not initiate similar investigations when Wanxiang began to acquire auto parts companies in the US, including many in his home state of Michigan. Now Wanxiang USA is probably too big to tackle.

While the acquisitions saved many of those companies from going out of business and thus kept many employed, there is no telling what dastardly deeds that can be done to undermine the security of the US. For instance, spare auto parts could be manipulated to fail when put into American made cars and thus give Chinese cars an unfair economic advantage.

Sensors on the auto parts can be designed to send sensitive intelligence (the spy kind, not the smarts kind) back to Beijing and we wouldn’t even know it. For instance, the sensor could be telling Beijing that certain Senator is not at the office but his car is parked in his mistress’s garage.

As investigations by the Cox Committee have proven a decade or so earlier, every entity from China registered in the US is spying on us. If we begin on the presumption that the Chinese are up to no good, we will be able to sleep better at nights.

The House Select Committee on Intelligence (the spy kind not related to intelligence) intends to safeguard our national security. We stand on the premise that we don’t want the Chinese here and we don’t want Chinese investments here. They can take their American dollars and invest elsewhere.

This pseudo press release with tongue firmly planted in the cheek may seem ludicrous but is inspired by the actions of the House Committee on Huawei and ZTE and the pervasive paranoia currently afflicting American politics.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Let a Japanese Professor Explain the East China Sea Dispute

It has come to my attention that a well respected scholar from Japan, Professor Yabuki, has spoken about the dispute involving the Diaoyu/Senkaku controversy. One fascinating pieces of information is that Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been hiding certain facts of the meeting in 1971 between Japan's Prime Minister Tanaka and China's Zhou Enlai. Non-disclosure has allowed Japan to insist on certain denials and perpetuate the difference in China's position vs. Japan's current position.