Top U.S. Spies Warn: War with China Looms…And It’s Not Looking Good
The intelligence alarm is pinging Red in the Western Pacific – but is anybody, even the White House, paying attention?
It’s happened again. A few days ago, cybersecurity officials in Washington, DC, confirmed that Chinese hackers who are associated with that country’s intelligence services last month exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft email systems to gain access to the communications of senior U.S. officials. Among the hacked were multiple top diplomats at the State Department as well as Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
Some of this surely is routine cyberespionage, albeit conducted in unsubtle Beijing fashion, which is standard practice in the intelligence trade everywhere these days. Neither were these classified emails that Beijing got access to. The damage from this hack appears to be modest, at least so far. Nevertheless, its timing is significant, while the political message is difficult to miss.
Recently, the Biden administration has been attempting to repair damaged relations with the People’s Republic of China. The White House has downplayed February’s Chinese spy balloon incident, portraying it as insignificant, with the Pentagon implausibly claiming that the People’s Liberation Army’s airborne intelligence collection platform was not actually collecting intelligence as it flew clear across the continental United States. Last month, right when Chinese intelligence was cracking into the emails of State Department bigwigs, Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Beijing to make nice. After that trip, Blinken claimed that he had made “progress” with the PRC in improving the poor relations between the nuclear-armed rivals.
However, nobody outside the Biden administration has detected any such improvements. The key point here is that Beijing has stopped answering the Pentagon’s “hotline” to China’s military leadership, which is a critical component to tamping down crises between America and the PRC. Without that military-to-military backchannel, the chances of a misunderstanding turning into a war rise considerably. Last February, as tensions climbed over the PLA’s spy balloon affair, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin attempted via the hotline to contact his counterpart in Beijing, who refused to take the call. During Secretary Blinken’s Beijing sojourn last month, America’s top diplomat repeatedly asked to have the hotline restored, only to be rebuffed by President Xi Jinping.