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An Act of War or Just Another Two Minute Hate?

If it is true that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has planted malware “deep inside the networks controlling power grids, communications systems and water supplies that feed military bases in the United States and around the world,” as The New York Times reports, then China has committed an act of war.

If so, the U.S. response is beyond inadequate. Reportedly Secretary of State Blinken raised the issue on his trip to Beijing. In that trip, says the State Department. the Secretary made clear again that “any action that targets U.S. government, U.S. companies, American citizens, is a deep concern to us and that we will take appropriate action to hold those responsible accountable.”

That’s a pretty limp-wristed response to a Pearl Harbor-like attempt to disable the U.S. military in advance of a war.

So, is it true? Is the Biden administration so wet that it responds to war only with whining?

Or is this another Huawei-like con job sponsored by the China Hawks to support their hate China campaign?

Huawei, you will recall, was accused of inserting spyware technology in the telecom networking devices it manufactures so it could listen in on Americans’ conversations. No evidence was ever presented. In the way of these things, that claim was eventually dropped from anti-Huawei propaganda, but never withdrawn. In a classic government agitprop move, a blatantly false claim was aired, used to support a policy change (an allied ban on Huawei equipment), then dropped when the goal was achieved, but never corrected.

Today, Huawei remains banned for reasons insufficient to justify the ban in the first place but sufficient to maintain Huawei’s pariah status. The current justifications are that Huawei, like all Chinese companies, is required by law to cooperate with Chinese intelligence services (let’s see any American company deny a request from the National Security Agency) and has accepted subsidies from the Chinese government (but far less than Intel et. Al. will get from the CHIPs act).

By those standards, all Chinese companies should be banned in the West. A fortune cookie embargo should be declared immediately.

If the claim about the malware attack on the U.S. military is true a real embargo would be an appropriate response. A complete suspension of trade between China and the United States and all its allies would be as effective as it was justified. The West would suffer, but China would be devastated.

So why is that not being done?

Let’s be quite clear that we don’t know what the truth is. China may well be guilty as charged. If so, it should be treated as an enemy.

We do know that, below the headlines, the news coverage gets ambiguous quickly. “Believe” and “may” and “could” and all sorts of weasel words over-populate the text. It turns out that the U.S. is not quite sure the malware is there, is not quite sure what it can achieve and not quite sure who planted it.

A tipoff to the hype is that the Times quotes an unnamed U.S. Congressional official describing the malware as “a ticking time bomb.” Congressmen make great sources as they generally know nothing and will say anything.

Like any story using intelligence sources, the fact of it all being so secret enables the hype. The Times reports “officials acknowledge that they do not know the full extent of the code’s presence in networks around the world, partly because it is so well hidden.”

Yes, and Bush’s war on Iraq was justified by fragments of intelligence that supposedly prove Saddam was closing in on the atom bomb, but for security reasons most of the evidence had to remain secret. The Hunter Biden laptop story was a classic case of Russian disinformation. And the Wuhan lab had nothing to do with a plague that stopped the world.

Oh, and Spanish agents blew up the Maine, because Spain really, truly, wanted to provoke war with America.

And the vaccine will stop COVID-19 in its tracks.

And the FBI and the IRS are above politics.

Once our government starts lying, we don’t know who or what to believe. We know the U.S. government lied about Huawei and we know that a decade before that U.S. intelligence hacked into Huawei’s network. How are we to know what to make of a report on Chinese hacking that seems like an act of war, but to which our government responds ever so gently.

Can we get around the lying? Can we make it irrelevant?

One way might be to enforce our own laws against hacking. China complains, justifiably, that we do it to them routinely. How about we make and then abide by a treaty establishing that hacking into vital systems will be considered an act of war, and which binds the allies of each nation to act accordingly.

If the U.S. government wants to be believed, it should respond to the actions with which it charges China seriously.

If U.S. officials themselves do not believe what they are leaking to the press, then stop with the two-minute hates before you start a war.

P.S. You’ve got to come to COSM 2023, Nov.1-3 in Bellevue, Washington. COSM 2022 and 2021 were probably the best tech gatherings we’ve ever been to, and the 2023 version is not to be missed.

COSM is the ultimate expression of George’s worldview, the Gilder Team’s insights into what is happening in tech, how it matters to the world and especially to our readers and tech investors.  Save the dates of Nov. 1-3:

The focus this year is on AI and all its works. Key speakers include:

  • The Wall Street Journal’s Andy Kessler on the economics of AI.
  • Juan Lavista Ferres, Microsoft’s chief scientist on AI’s potential for global problem solving.
  • Ray Kurzweill will shock you with the prospects for AI immortality.
  • Archana Vemulapalli, head of solutions architecture at Amazon AWS, will plunge into the AI open or closed debate.
  • Michael Milken will propose a new AI-enabled high-yield healthcare system.
  • …and more

Plus, you will meet lots of key folks from the companies we cover.

  • Ariel Malik, the venture capitalist backing a dozen graphene companies spun out of Jim Tours Rice University Lab, will give important updates on the graphene revolution.
  • Steven Balaban, of Lambda Labs, a George Gilder favorite, will cover the prospects for companies enabling AI on the edge.
  • DO NOT MISS Vered Kaplan CEO of Orgenesis on the amazing prospects of affordable cell therapy.
  • Another half a dozen start-up heroes.

Speaking of heroes, the brilliant and brave Michael Shellenberger (recently harassed by Congress People of Limited IQ) will speak on Free Speech in the Digital Age.

As always, Carver Mead will give a riveting reflection on our three days together.

Social time is great—meet old friends and fellow subscribers and investors.

George and Nini, of course, and the rest of the Gilder Team, John, Steve, Paul and Richard will be there, too.



P.P.S. Come join our Eagle colleagues on an incredible cruise! We set sail on Dec. 4 for 16 days, embarking on a memorable journey that combines fascinating history, vibrant culture and picturesque scenery. Enjoy seminars on the days we are cruising from one destination to another, as well as dinners with members of the Eagle team. Just some of the places we’ll visit are Mexico, Belize, Panama, Ecuador and more! Click here now for all the details.

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