Thirty-three years ago I was teaching English at a college in provincial China. This was the early post-Mao period, and foreigners were a rarity outside the big cities. I think I was the only one resident in that town since the Russians had left twenty years previously.
I was on friendly terms with some of the older students. When no-one else was around, they’d pass on things the college’s party secretaries had said in Political Study sessions, which were compulsory for all students and faculty.
One day one of these students told me that the chief party secretary, whose name was Dong, had told a political study class that I was a spy. “How do you know Mr. Derbyshire’s a spy?” asked one of the bolder spirits among the students. Replied Secretary Dong: “Of course he’s a spy! All foreigners are spies! Why would they come to China, if not to spy on us?”
That kind of mentality is still current among China’s rulers, as we shall see. Perhaps we could use a little of it ourselves:
Chinese espionage, both online and old-fashioned, represents a serious threat to American security and prosperity, as Washington, DC, has stated many times. Cyber theft and online pilfering of American intellectual property was castigated as “the greatest transfer of wealth in history” by the director of the National Security Agency back in 2012, and things have only gotten worse since then, with China taking the lead in stealing our secrets for profit and strategic advantage.
That’s from an April 22nd column by counterintelligence expert John Schindler in the New York Observer. Schindler is actually writing about the case of Lieutenant Commander Edward Lin, arrested last summer while about to board a plane for China, now relaxing in the brig at Norfolk, Virginia on two charges of espionage and three of attempted espionage.
The Lin case is stranger than usual (to the degree the Navy has told us anything about it—see below). Lin was apparently born in Taiwan in 1976. He came to the U.S.A. at age 14 in 1990. He enlisted in 1999, aged 23, and was commissioned three years later.
When did he become a naturalized citizen, though? The U.S. Navy account of his speech implies it was nine years previously, the same year he enlisted. The Washington Post report on his arrest, however, says he was naturalized at that 2008 ceremony.[The fall of Edward Lin, the Navy officer accused of espionage and patronizing a prostitute, By Dan Lamothe, April 11, 2016]
I don’t know which account is correct. I’m inclined to trust the Navy over the Post.
And I sure hope I’m right. If we’re allowing non-citizens to serve as officers in our Navy, then our laws and rules on citizenship and military enlistment aren’t just wrong, they are screaming insane.
As John Schindler says in that New York Observer report:
The most challenging part of how China spies on the United States is that Beijing’s modus operandi relies overwhelmingly on co-nationals. Chinese intelligence agencies seldom stray far from working with ethnic kin and Beijing-related spy cases here that do not involve ethnic Chinese are very much an exception.
The moral of the story is plain. Because Communist China 1) has a hostile posture towards the U.S.A., and is unscrupulous about stealing military, diplomatic, and commercial data, and because 2) they almost exclusively use Chinese-Americans and Chinese in America to do so, by ethnic appeals and threats to loved ones in China, 3) nobody with any connections to China should have access to sensitive data.
It would be less wearisome to say this if I hadn’t already said it before. Here I was saying it in year 2000, in reference to the Wen Ho Lee case. I repeat, this was the year 2000—sixteen years ago, Heaven help us. Quote from self, with an inner quote from Chinese-American novelist Gish Jen, who’d published a whiny op-ed about “discrimination” in the New York Times:
When we are faced by a power like China, which is violently anti-American in its propaganda to its own people, which has deployed a full triad of nuclear missiles, many of them aimed at us—whose government officials have, in fact, openly threatened us with nuclear attack—I think our own government is perfectly within its rights to deny employment in classified facilities to persons who have connections in China.
This may cause some hurt feelings among U.S. citizens; but do hurt feelings really outweigh the rather obvious dangers of a contrary policy?
Ms. Jen: “Since the Wen Ho Lee case began, the number of Asian and Asian-American scientists applying to work in our nation’s weapons labs has declined dramatically.”
Well, good. I think our nation’s security problems have therefore diminished in proportion—for which benefit, putting up with all that whining is a small price to pay.
Political Correctness is bad enough when it hampers law enforcement on our streets. When it threatens our national security, it’s collective suicide.
In our present condition of exquisite sensitivity to employment discrimination of any kind, I suppose that my suggestion to bar persons with China connections from sensitive national-security work will seem outrageously shocking to many; perhaps doubly so as I myself have such connections. Should I be barred from access to sensitive data?
Yes, I think I should. I have publicly expressed fondness for my Chinese relatives. It would be reasonable for an investigator, on learning that, to suppose that threats to my relatives in China might be effective in “turning” me.
(Whether they would or not, I can’t say. One never knows that kind of thing until it happens. I hope they wouldn’t be. That doesn’t alter the reasonableness of an outsider supposing that they might be.)
I can’t see that there is any hardship, anything to get indignant about, in being excluded from certain kinds of work on the grounds that harm might result. We are all excluded from many kinds of work for all sorts of reasons. I am excluded from working as a Professor of Philosophy on the grounds that I know next to nothing about philosophy. Blind people are excluded from work as commercial plane pilots, etc.
If I were to apply for a job with one of our national intelligence agencies, and were to be turned down because of my China connections, would I be indignant about it? No. It’s reasonable.
I am aware, however, that these are the attitudes of a person who came to maturity before the Western world went out of its collective mind over race, immigration, “discrimination,” and “rights.”
Political Correctness is probably also the reason the U.S. Navy has been sitting on this case for eight months and releasing only the sketchiest details about their Diversity poster boy and his acts of treason.
For a clue as to how these things should be handled, the Department of the Navy might care to look at China herself. New York Times, April 19th, headline: China Sentences Man To Death For Espionage, Saying He Sold Secrets.
Story, executive summary: A 41-year-old Chinese citizen named Huang Yu worked for a research institute in interior China specializing in cryptography. He sold around 150,000 classified documents to an unspecified foreign power, apparently just for money. The material included military codes.
He’s been sentenced to death. Given that the news came out earlier this week on Chinese TV, the way they do things over there, he has most likely been shot already.
In related news, China has instituted a National Security Education Day, starting the ball rolling with warnings to female government workers not to talk to, “handsome and romantic,” round-eye men because, quote, “they are probably spies after state secrets .”[China orders female government workers not to talk to ‘handsome Western foreigners, By Linda Willgress, Daily Mail, April 19, 2016]
Ah, the spirit of Secretary Dong lives on!
I’m no fan of the Chinese Communist Party. But they are not such damn fools as to let political correctness hinder them in dealing with national security threats.
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjectsfor all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He’s had two books published by VDARE.com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and From the Dissident Right II: Essays 2013. His writings are archived atJohnDerbyshire.com.