China: The Cell Phone Menace

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November 30, 2005: The American FBI arrested another group of Chinese and Chinese-Americans who were caught spying for China. This again brought to light the large scale espionage campaign China is conducting in the U.S., using thousands of amateurs to collect bits of information. Put together, many of these bits and pieces produce useful material, usually in the form of military technology. China believes that a decade or two of this type of espionage, and exploitation of what is taken, will dramatically increase Chinese military power. Chinese leaders are somewhat amused at foreigners getting alarmed at China's current "military power." In fact, the Chinese military today is a ramshackle organization, with some new equipment and well trained troops, but most of the gear is old and poorly maintained, and few of the troops are ready for war. It will take time to change that, and the Chinese leadership is willing to wait, and work at change.

November 21, 2005: The government sees cell phones as a bigger threat to its power than the Internet. There are now 383 million cell phone users, and most of them have appeared in the last five years. Most users have texting service. The text messages enable the population to mobilize without government supervision. Text messaging allows Chinese to share information without government supervision. Currently, cell phone users send over 25 billion text messages a month. A current example of the power of this was the government attempt to control news about the November 13 chemical spill into the river supplying drinking water for the city of Harbin. With about 15 cell phones for every 100 Chinese, and service available in every part of the country, there was no way the government could control the story. Another cell phone worry is the vulnerability of the system to attack via electronic warfare, or the Internet. China's booming economy demanded cell phones, which first appeared in the late 1980s. China thought cell phone technology could be controlled, but that proved not to be the case.

 

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