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Michael Auslin On Spying And National Security

Spying and National Security

I would argue that one of the most important parts of spying during the Cold War was the social and cultural role that it played in our understanding of our challenge with the Soviet Union.

Now, let’s not be surprised that there is gambling going on in the casino today. China is spying on us and we’re spying on China. But the degree to which China is pervasively infiltrating the United States, infiltrating our security services and the government, infiltrating our businesses, infiltrating our campuses is to a degree that even the Russians couldn’t have managed.

In fact, some experts call this the “Golden Age of Chinese Spying.” They think there may be as many as 25,000 Chinese spies of one sort or another working in the United States. They get their money from the Ministry of State Security. 

We have to accept that this is a major challenge to the United States. Our secrets are not safe, and the Chinese have taken advantage of our beliefs that “this stuff is going on, but not like it was in the Cold war and therefore it’s not important.” We keep finding more and more folks who are betraying their country, and yet where is the outrage? Where is the concern? Where is the recognition that is the real form of warfare against the country?

We don’t want to close our society, we don’t want to close our research institutions. We believe that they’re the best way for knowledge to be developed, there’s no question about it. But what are the costs? We haven’t thought about those costs from an adversary that is actively taking advantage of our openness and our willingness to basically let everybody in. But there are some people who have started to talk about it.

Like I said, let’s not be shocked by the existence of spying. To the extent that we can, we’re doing the same thing back in China.

But we have to understand the degree to which China is trying to penetrate our society and successfully doing so. 


Michael Auslin, 2018 Hoover Institution Spring Retreat

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