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Oct. 12, 2017
Notes from the Pentagon

China targets American technology in drive to become innovation leader
China has stepped up efforts to work with American businesses in a bid to acquire advanced technology, part of a drive to become a leading technology-innovation power.

“China is pushing to further deepen technology collaboration with U.S. business and academic institutions as part of a national effort to transform its economy, including by putting China at the leading edge of global technological innovation,” said a U.S. intelligence official who provided a recent assessment of China.

“At the same time, Beijing is trying to downplay concerns that this state-led technology acquisition drive creates an unlevel playing field, forces technology transfers to China, limits foreign companies’ access to the Chinese market and is a threat to U.S. and other companies economic strengths,” the official added.

The intelligence assessment of Chinese technology acquisition comes as the Trump administration is cracking down on Beijing’s efforts to further steal U.S. technology. In August, President Trump ordered an investigation into Chinese theft of American intellectual property.

Also, the Treasury Department-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has tightened restrictions on Chinese purchases of U.S. companies.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said a month later that China posed an unprecedented threat to the world trading system.

“The sheer scale of their coordinated effort to develop their economy, to subsidize, to create national champions, to force technology transfers and to distort markets in China and throughout the world is a threat to the world trading system that is unprecedented,” Mr. Lighthizer said in a speech.

The intelligence official also said Chinese President Xi Jinping is rapidly consolidating power and is focused on positioning key allies and avoiding any political disruptions before the Communist Party conference later this month. Mr. Xi will begin his second term as supreme leader after the party congress.

“Beijing is increasing control of domestic dissent to project unity before the congress,” the official said.

According to the official, Chinese leaders are working to undermine the U.S.-led world order and specifically the U.S. alliance network that is promoting U.S. values worldwide. Chinese leaders regard the current world order as “constraining China’s rise,” and Beijing is seeking to reshape the world order to suit China’s preferences and its growing influence.

Militarily, China’s armed forces are modernizing faster than any nation other than the United States.

“Chinese leaders believe a strong military is essential for China to achieve great-power status and become the pre-eminent power in East Asia, with increasing influence globally as well,” the official said.

On North Korea, the official said China has condemned Pyongyang’s latest missile and nuclear tests but continues to advocate restraint and dialogue.

China’s growing military aggressiveness in Asia is increasing the danger of a conflict with the United States, according to a research institute study.

“Despite cautious and pragmatic Chinese policies, the risk of conflict with the United States remains, and this risk will grow in consequence, and perhaps in probability, as China’s strength and assertiveness increase in the Western Pacific, a region of vital importance,” the study by the Rand Corp. states.

The report identifies several flashpoints that could trigger a U.S.-Chinese conflict, including the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, Japan and the South China Sea. The report also warns that a cyberwar between the two countries could erupt.

The most likely war-triggering hot spot is North Korea. Rand analysts assess that China is unlikely to intervene in support of North Korea if a second Korean war breaks out, despite Beijing’s defense treaty with Pyongyang.

A more likely spark would be a Chinese military operation following a North Korean attack on South Korea, a pre-emptive U.S. nuclear strike on North Korean nuclear facilities or a collapse of the Pyongyang regime.

Under Kim Jong-un, North Korea has rapidly expanded its nuclear and missile programs. Its increasingly provocative tests “have increased the potential for a spiral of unintended escalation into conflict on the peninsula or even a pre-emptive American strike on North Korean nuclear assets,” according to Rand. A new conflict on the peninsula would involve U.S. and South Korean efforts to push North Korea’s military northward and out of artillery range of Seoul.

“The further U.S. or South Korean forces advance beyond that point, the more likely a Chinese intervention,” the report says.

The report does not see the collapse of the North Korean regime as likely.

For the South China Sea, the waterway has become a major zone of strategic rivalry between Washington and Beijing.

Taiwan remains a target of Chinese military planning, and a conflict could erupt there. China’s growing might has eroded the U.S. military’s capabilities to intervene to prevent a takeover.

On cyberwar, the report says a conflict could begin and remain in cyberspace, most likely in response to heightened tensions in other geographic flashpoints.

“Having conducted repeated intrusions into U.S. networks to exfiltrate sensitive data without known U.S. reprisal, the [People’s Liberation Army] might seek and receive authority to interfere with U.S. intelligence collection and dissemination on a range of sensitive Chinese programs,” the report said. “Chinese leaders might not grasp that such operations would be defined as cyberwar by the United States and thus lead to retaliation.”

U.S. retaliation could include cyberattacks against Chinese critical infrastructure, such as networks used to support transport systems, including commercial shipping and military logistics.

“With the passage of time and improvement of Chinese capabilities, the United States will likely find itself forced to shift from deterrence by denial, based on direct defense of its interests and allies in the Western Pacific, to deterrence by punishment, based on the threat of escalation, using longer-range weapons and more survivable platforms,” the report concludes.

“Although the United States can maintain escalation dominance for some time, China will develop escalation options of its own, including [anti-satellite weapons] and offensive cyberwar capabilities.”

Russia is developing a microwave pulse weapon capable of shutting down all electronics within a 2-mile radius.

The state-run media reported Sept. 28 that the weapon will be used to damage enemy equipment with a powerful directed energy pulse and is moving from the research to the experimental phase.

The report quoted Vladimir Mikheyev, a Russian official with an electronic technologies company known as KRET, about a series of scientific research programs code-named Project Alabuga that concluded several years ago.

Tests of electronic jammers that explode at heights of 1,000 feet and shut down electronics in an area some 2 miles wide have been tested for several years, the reports said.

“Because of this, a potential enemy loses the capability of effective control of his own weapons — communications and means of command-and-control and guidance do not function,” the report in the Moscow news outlet Rossiyskaya Gazeta said.

Mr. Mikheyev said there is a need for electronic warfare weapons. EMP bombs can cause varying effects, from electronic “blinding” to physical damage of main electronic components, such as circuit boards and other systems.

In addition to the electronic arms, Russia is building newer electromagnetic pulse weapons as part of the Russian state military-industrial complex. The EMP weapons include projectiles, bombs and missiles carrying a special magnetic explosion generator, the report said.

North Korea recently announced that its latest underground nuclear test of a suspected hydrogen bomb could be used for an EMP blast.

A nuclear detonation EMP is created when a warhead is exploded in space above a territory. The resulting EMP wave is capable of disrupting electronics over an area of 1,000 miles.

EMP weapons are also being developed by China.

It is not known if the United States has an EMP weapon or whether there are plans to use current nuclear weapons in an EMP mode.

Tactical EMP weapons are believed to be derived from testing equipment used to determine if electronics used in nuclear weapons and delivery systems are hardened against an enemy EMP attack.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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