Recently, a Chinese student linked to Beijing’s Public Security Ministry was sentenced to prison for spying on sensitive communications equipment at a U.S. military base in Key West, Florida.
The student, identified as Zhao Qianli, is a Chinese national who told the FBI he was a music student visiting Florida as a tourist. However, he was arrested by military police after taking pictures at Naval Air Station Key West.
According to police, Zhao had waded into the surf along a beach at the base to get around a security fence.
After getting around the fence, Zhou began taking images of communications antennas and equipment at a site called an “antenna farm,” which is sensitive equipment used by the military and intelligence agencies at the base.
Zhao pleaded guilty to one count of illegally photographing a military facility and was sentenced to one year in prison. After his arrest, FBI investigators searched Zhao’s hotel room and found a blue shirt and belt buckle worn by Public Security Ministry police in China.
The ministry is China’s main political police and intelligence service focused on domestic security. It’s unusual for Public Security Ministry personnel to conduct overseas spying, which is typically carried out by spies from the People’s Liberation Army.
Zhao spoke fluent English and carried no identification at the time of his arrest, a sign he was operating covertly. He told police who confronted him that he was a tourist who was lost and had strayed on the base by accident.
However, investigators discovered Zhao was in touch with Chinese intelligence officers inside the United States before sneaking onto the base.
Zhao told investigators he had visited Key West to see the home of the late novelist Ernest Hemingway. However, a search of his cell phone and camera found no images of the home or any images other than the ones from the base.
Zhao’s lawyer insisted during the court trial that Zhao was not a spy and compared him to American student Otto Warmbier who was arrested in North Korea and later died after he was released from captivity.
The fact is it’s no secret that China and Russia are America’s biggest adversaries when it comes to spying and competing for global power. That’s why I want to share with you the top ways Chinese spying activities affect the average American.
Impact on economy. Economic espionage includes such activities as stealing trade secrets, manufacturing capabilities, material development, source code and software.
Primarily this is carried out by the People’s Liberation Army. Cyber espionage and recruitments of agents are the primary means to collect this type of information.
Economists estimate the annual cost to the U.S. economy from China’s economic espionage is $320 billion. Congress estimates China’s IP theft has resulted in the loss of 2 million American jobs.
The cumulative effect on the U.S. economy is trillions of dollars and falling global economic competitiveness.
In other words, not only is China a major trade partner for the U.S., but their espionage activities negatively affects our economy on a daily basis.
My point is, if you aren’t prepared for an economic collapse, do so now, because China could play a major role when it happens.
National security. The most critical issue for U.S. national security is the loss of military technological advantage. China’s advances in weapons systems, including robotics, avionics, and naval systems are based mostly on technology stolen from the United States.
This massive espionage campaign, combined with two decades of increased defense spending, provide China’s Navy and Air Force with substantial capabilities.
The thing about our national security is that it’s all about technology. You and I don’t need to worry about Chinese agents kicking down our front door.
However, we do need to worry about them carrying out cyber attacks targeting our personal information and intellectual property.
Politics. Covert influence campaigns have been carried out by China all around the world resulting in governments passing laws designed to prevent China’s involvement in politics.
The U.S. has begun to investigate certain organizations and individuals for compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act. As we witnessed with the Presidential election, foreign governments closely watch the political climate in the U.S.
Some of the ways foreign governments try to influence elections are by cyber-attacks, altering voter information and creating advertising that shares misinformation.
There is no question that China is going to continue to increase espionage activities against U.S. interests. While they may not target you or I directly, there is no doubt that Chinese espionage can and will affect some part of your life.