I’m Not Convinced

A fair number of my friends are in the military. Every time I discuss international affairs they’re quick to point out that China is the one to watch. This is particularly true in the US Navy, where they’re very concerned with generating ways to counter any threat from the Middle Kingdom.

There’s certainly reason enough to take a good, hard look at what the Chinese could do, and what it would take to stop them if they try. Ever since 1949, China has claimed sovereignty over the island of Taiwan. They make no bones about their implacable desire to gain control of what they claim is a group of Chinese citizens in open rebellion against the one legal government. This news item details an official statement from the mainland Chinese government, warning Taiwan about their efforts at “creeping independence”.

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Sir Edward Grey’s Ghost on the Taiwan Strait

Some times events outrun the good idea for a blog post you somehow don’t get around to typing up. I had an idea a while ago that the “strategic ambiguity” which had been, for some unaccountable reason, US policy regarding Taiwan, was dangerous and stupid.

The analogy I saw was with the position of Britain vis a vis Kaiserian Germany in the period prior to World War I. Britain refused to make an unequivocal, publicly acknowledged alliance with France. Britain’s liberal government, led by Prime Minister Henry Asquith and Foreign Minister Edward Grey, seemed to think that they were preserving a balance between Britain’s interests and the isolationist and pacifist sentiments of many of their liberal colleagues. Also, by refusing to commit, they were able to get away with smaller defense budgets than an open military commitment would have required. They refused to come to grips with realistic eventualities, and willed the ends without willing the means.

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Another Security Risk from China?

Bruce Schneier writes:

China is getting a copy of the Windows source code. I’ve already written about the security risks of open-source versus proprietary software. One of the problems with open source is that the bad guys get to look at the code. One of the good things about open source is that the good guys get to look at the code, too. If I were the Chinese government, I’d turn that code upside down looking for vulnerabilities, and then not tell anyone about them. This seems like a huge security risk to me, even though Microsoft might consider it a smart business move.

Good point. Microsoft probably sees China as just another customer, but from a security standpoint we should be wary. If there is any advantage to be gained here, the Chinese government will take it. The fact that we habitually view a technology as benign does not preclude someone else from using that technology as a weapon. (See, in this regard, Lex’s recent post about China’s space program.)