The below is a guest post written anonymously by someone who fears both repercussions from the CCP and an onslaught of abuse by “those who do not want to see their own spigot of money from China cut.” We are publishing this because it is important and because nearly all of us who regularly write for this blog have children of our own to whom we must explain the world and our own roles in it.
China is taking actions that violate fundamental rules of human conduct in sectors that directly impact foreign business operations with China. The Chinese government is taking actions that are clearly wrong. Internet Sovereignty does not justify government sponsored cyber-theft inside China. The Great Firewall does not provide a shield against liability for Chinese government sponsored cyber-theft outside of China. The War on Terror does not justify putting millions in concentration camps and forcing millions more to engage in slave labor to benefit the Chinese state and private companies. These are all acts which violate universally accepted rules of conduct. Theft is wrong. Concentration camps are wrong. These are not Western values. These are universal values. It is not the duty of foreign businesses and governments to accommodate violations of these values. It is the duty of the perpetrator (the CCP) to simply stop.
When the governments and business people respond to these violations of basic values by looking for a technical fix, they validate these wrong actions. Failing to repudiate these actions and continuing to engage as business as usual validates these wrongful acts and essentially accepts a fundamentally flawed paradigm: The Chinese government has the right to act this way and it is the duty of the foreign governments and businesses to adapt and mitigate.
The truth is the opposite. Theft is wrong. Concentration camps are wrong. Subjugating the people of Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong is wrong. Bullying neighboring countries like India and the Philippines is wrong. The Chinese government must stop with these things and if it does not stop — which it will not — we should cease doing business with China.
We should not enact costly, intrusive and increasingly complex series of statutes and regulations. We should not spend money on cybersecurity protections that do not work and on pointless and disingenuous factory inspections that do virtually nothing. See The Chinese Government is Accessing YOUR Network Through the Backdoor and There Still is NO Place to Hide and China Products Made With Forced Labor Are Now in U.S. Customs’ Crosshairs. They are a waste of time, and failing to admit this is lying to ourselves and to the world. Even worse, they implicitly validate what China is doing. The responsibility rests with the Chinese government. They need to clean up their program and if they do not do so — and they won’t — we should just stop. It is a binary choice. We should not stop because we (wrongly) believe this will cause the Chinese government to change. We stop because dealing with a government that operates on this basis is just wrong and not stopping will corrode our own morals and well-being.
The damage to business interests and national security resulting from China’s wrongful actions is a secondary issue. If we do not have the moral sense to draw the line at theft and concentration camps, we concede moral bankruptcy. Trading moral bankruptcy for short term profit is simply a bad deal and it will not work. It will be our doom.
So what are we talking about?
China Law Blog’s recent posts on Chinese cybersecurity showed two things. First, in China, the hacker is the Chinese government. Second, the Chinese government has created a cyber regime that ensures that your communications and trade secrets and intellectual property are open to theft by the Chinese government hacking regime. When the thief is the government itself, There is no place to hide. See e.g., PRC Government Hacking: How It’s Done.
The typical response to those posts is as follows. Since foreign companies must work in China, the response to the Chinese government’s organized cyber hacking and theft is for foreign companies to make use of various cybersecurity tools. A typical example of this sort of response was recently posted on the Financial Times Magazine Technology section. The title says it all: Cyber security: why we have to coexist with China: We need to face Chinese tech with scrutiny and safeguards — not with disengagement.
China Law Blog has already explained the futility of this approach. It does not work. But the attitude of the FT post hides a much more important issue. Simply stated, government organized theft of information, trade secrets and intellectual property is wrong. It is a crime. We should not be discussing how to accommodate Chinese government theft. A legitimate concern for Internet Sovereignty does not justify theft. The Great Firewall is not a license to steal.
By treating Chinese government theft as something we must accept as the price of doing business in China, we normalize and validate Government theft. Consider where this takes us. China now operates a massive system of concentration camps. Chinese citizens are interned in those camps based on their religion and ethnicity.The graduates of these camps are now being used all over China in a government organized forced labor program. As a result, the Chinese supply chain has been completely poisoned.
China is actively engaged in both a cultural and a literal genocide in Xinjiang/East Turkistan. See China cuts Uighur births with IUDs, abortion, sterilization. This is unequivocally wrong. There is no ambiguity about it. Comparisons with Nazi Germany are apt and yet the primary response to this has been similar to the FT recommended approach on cyber-insecurity. Western companies are tasked with ensuring their supply chain has not been infected. As with cybersecurity, this is impossible. The factory supplying the final product may be free of forced labor, but it is impossible to confirm that forced labor from the concentration camps is not present somewhere in the supply chain. For a cotton t-shirt consider: the fabric, the thread, the cotton farm, the fertilizer, the machinery. The task is impossible. We are playing an immoral game to contend otherwise.
But it is a fundamental mistake to ask foreign companies to go through this exercise. It is a fundamentally mistaken policy to impose measures designed to mitigate the theft and forced labor organized and committed by the Chinese government itself. For cyber-insecurity, it is wrong even to explore using techno-geek measures to fend off Chinese government hackers. For forced labor/concentration camps, it is wrong to explore using measures to try to ensure that a particular supply chain is free of forced labor, moving three/four layers down the chain in a desperate attempt to prove there is no infection. One even has to ask whether the companies doing this believe in their task or are doing it merely to be able to claim to consumers that “we are not directly aiding and abetting a genocide.” But is not the better question whether the funding provided by these companies aids and abets a genocide and is not the answer to that a resounding yes? Is there no line which we will not cross for an extra dollar or two
The appropriate response is to tell China that if it behaves like this, we will cease doing business with you at all. Some critics say doing this will impose our values on another country. For the refutation of this see Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia. Most importantly, go read the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and perhaps watch a bit of the Nuremburg Trials as well. These are not “our” values; these are the world’s values. These are — dare I even say it — universal values.
Other critics like the FT article author say we must coexist to do business. But if no stealing and no concentration camps is a universal value, this should not be subject to discussion. We are not obligated to “coexist” by doing business with countries that violate these universal values. Internet Sovereignty is not a license to steal. The Great Firewall is not a barrier protecting against liability for hacking foreign governments and businesses. The War on Terror is not a justification for concentration camps or forced labor or genocide. A technical approach to mitigating these issues only validates actions we know are wrong.
Drawing the line here is not a case of pushing Western values onto the Chinese government. As values go, we can argue about the right to read the New York Times. But who among us is prepared to argue that we should turn a blind eye to killings and rapes and sterilizations and genocides to maintain 4th quarter earnings? If we do not have the moral sense to draw the line at theft and concentration camps, we are indeed morally bankrupt and that will be our doom. See also It’s Time for Conscious Uncoupling With China.