Why China Might Be A Better Superpower


Why China Might Be A Better Superpower

Unlike the US, China does not have a substantial history of invading and subjugating the inhabitants of far-flung lands.

Last Modified: 25 Jun 2013 14:14
Windwing - Murtaza Hussain

Murtaza Hussain is a Toronto-based writer and analyst focused on issues related to Middle Eastern politics.

Windwing - Why China Might Be A Better Superpower
China is one of the most influential commercial players in Iraq's oil boom [Reuters]

"The nationswhich today own the world's resources fear the rise of China and wish to postpone the day of that rise." - Rabindranath Tagore, 1915

Until the mid-20th century, China suffered what has been termed as the "Century of Humiliation" - a period of subjugation and oppression by Western military powers (as well as the Japanese). During this time Western imperialists flooded the country with drugs, raped and murdered its subjects with impunity and - due to both insatiable greed and abject ignorance to concepts such as culture and history - wantonly desecrated the priceless monuments of ancient Chinese civilisation.

At the outset of this period - when hordes of English soldiers destroyed Beijing's ancient Summer Palace in an orgy of looting and arson - Major General Charles Gordon said, "You can scarcely imagine the beauty and magnificence of the places we burnt" - which in many ways was emblematic of the entire carnivorous project of Western imperialism in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Today, however, Rabindranath Tagore's prophecy about China seems to have come to fruition, and the modern heirs to rapacious criminals such as Gordon now openly lament their fear of rising Chinese power.

In the place of the former colonial forces such as England and France, however, today, sits the US, the world's only remaining military superpower. While since the fall of the Soviet Union the US has been widely considered to be the preeminent nation globally, in recent years it has fallen into an observable malaise.

Due to its wars of aggression, institutionalised torture, unaccountable assassination programmes and general contempt for the rule of law, the American government has today sacrificed whatever was once considered admirable about its role in international affairs. Furthermore, it is fast sacrificing what was once most admirable about it domestically, as once-cherished civil liberties are being forfeited and its citizens are being compelled to submit to an opaque and pervasive surveillance state.

While China is far less free domestically, in international affairs the country continues to ascend both economically and in terms of international influence. It is thus worth asking, is this a positive development for the world at large? Could China be a more responsible, less violent and more constructive superpower than the US?

Historical contrasts

Over its history, the US has undoubtedly provided much for the betterment of mankind in the fields of science, arts, good governance and human development. The country continues to produce some of the most exceptional contributors in all these areas, and for all the cruel excesses of the US government the American people are among the most generous, hospitable and high-achievingpopulation in the world. The US is by no means a monolith and its impressive ideological diversity continues to be one of its enduring strengths. 

However, while the US was founded on the principle of national self-determination, throughout its history, its foreign policy has been based on denying that same right to others around the globe. From the early 20th century invasions and occupations of the Philippines and Haiti, the CIA coups against democratic governments in Iran and Chile, up to the near genocidal military onslaughts against the Vietnamese and Iraqi people, the US - in a relatively short time frame - has left a trail of destruction around the world which is without parallel in human history.

While couched in the deeply cynical rhetoric of freedom and democracy, the body count left by US militarism and colonial exploitation runs to millions. It has been well-documented that what has motivated these brutally malicious policies (aside from naked greed) is a crude sense of racism and a chauvinistic belief in "Manifest Destiny" - the same ruthlessly imperialistic ideology which helped justify the holocaust committed against the indigenous people of the Americas and which drove the Atlantic slave trade.

China, despite existing as a unified country 4,000 years longer than the US, conspicuously does not have such a history of invading and subjugating the inhabitants of far-flung lands. While it has had its share of localised conflicts, there is nothing in its history - even over the many centuries during which China was as at the peak of its historical power - that is remotely comparable to the industrialised exploitation and mass-murder which has characterised the Western colonial project.

Despite being one of the wealthiest and powerful countries on earth for most of its existence, China's relationship with the outside world has traditionally been characterised more by Sino-centric inertia and peaceable exchange than by armed pillage and the export of violence to foreign lands. As surmised by the famed 19th century scholar of Buddhism, Zhang Taiyin:

"Asian countries… rarely invaded one another and treated each other respectfully with the Confucian virtue of benevolence."

While China has in many ways been torn from its traditional culture by traumatic recent encounters with Western imperialist powers and the subsequent upheavals of Mao's Cultural Revolution, the country's traditionally harmonious worldview ("harmony" being a recurring theme in Chinese political culture) is still seen in modern China's global relations.

China's peaceful rise

To achieve its foreign policy goals in Iraq, the US embarked on a decades-long campaign of violence against the Iraqi people which culminated in the brutal invasion and occupation of the country in 2003. While the US succeeded in destroying the lives of millions of innocent Iraqi civilians, it failed to create an outcome which was of benefit to it and ultimately left the country with its influence and prestige greatly eroded.

China, however, has in many ways emerged as the "winner" of the Iraq war, as it is today by far the biggest beneficiary of Iraqi crude oil contracts. In stark contrast to the US primitive and brutal approach to the country, China has used soft-power to great effect and is now the most influential commercial player in the country's oil boom.

Thanks to its efforts China is today recognised as a major investor in the future of Iraq. According to the New York Times, Chinese executives are now even impressing their Iraqi counterparts by speaking with them in flawless, Iraqi-accented Arabic.

The contrast between China's culturally sensitive approach and the contemptuous and violent attitude taken by the US in Iraq cannot be overstated. In fact, these contrasts are in many ways a reflection of the differing worldviews and historical backgrounds of the two countries.

While the US seems committed to exert imperial hegemony over the Middle East using brute military force and punitive economic blockades against civilians, China has publically committed to a policy of "peacefully rising" and has built mutually beneficial and respectful relationships throughout the region.

While Chinese polices are no less self-interested, the country's forthright pragmatism is a refreshing alternative to the blatantly cynical and manipulative moralising rhetoric of Western powers. Shallow accusations of Chinese colonialism in Africa (based on Chinese commercial investments in the region) appear borne more of Western fears of Chinese power than of legitimate concerns about African self-determination.  

Evidence suggests that China's influence in Africa has been built on the basis of mutual economic interest and its investments have coincided with historically unprecedented economic growth among the people of the continent. The contrast with the unrelentingly murderous and rapacious history of actual  Western colonialism in Africa could not be starker.

A multipolar world

China today is a burgeoning player in global affairs, making forays into the Israel/Palestine conflict, taking material steps to confront environmental issues and pushing its "soft-power" approach to international relations to new lengths. In the face of its rising stature many pundits and political figures have attempted to harp upon the inevitable growing pains of any rising power and cite this as evidence of its immaturity.

While China is by no measure perfect, for years the country and its people have been unjustly demonised by those whose own hands are caked in the blood of untold number of innocents. Allegations of purported Chinese malevolence should be viewed for what they most often are - the hysterical propaganda of those who are fearful and insecure about competition for their own privileged position.

The US however should not fear the rising tide of Chinese influence. Rather, it should warmly welcome it. In a unipolar world, the US government was free to act out its most self-destructive tendencies and was devoid of any pressure to reform in order to compete with a major adversary. Indeed, the US achieved its most admirable feats when it was facing serious competition from Soviet Russia.

While China is not yet a large enough player to individually balance the US on most major issues, its status is rising. When working within the emerging "BRICS" bloc of countries, it is capable of constraining unilateral US actions. This is good for both the American and Chinese people, as the existence of a multipolar world will mean that neither government will be able to delve into unchecked excess and military adventurism.

However, as China's relationship with the US and other major powers develops, there is no doubt that the country has finally come to equal terms with its former oppressors. China's ascendance signifies the fruition of Tagore's prophecy and the long victory of the Chinese people over Western imperialism.

If China continues its remarkably successful policy of "peacefully rising" while pursuing continued self-improvement and reform, it will remain both a welcome player in global affairs and a responsible model for other aspiring world powers.

Murtaza Hussain is a Toronto-based writer and analyst focused on issues related to Middle Eastern politics.

Follow him on Twitter: @MazMHussain 


Chinese Netizens React Strongly To Prism

Chinese Netizens React Strongly To Prism

Windwing - LiKaiFu

Kai Fu Lee

CEO at Innovation Works

Windwing - Chinese Netizens React Strongly to Prism

If you think Prism has made a mess in the US, you should see the reaction in China.

China has a very active Twitter-like "microblog" called Sina Weibo, with over 400 million registered. They actively discussed Prism and Snowden, with over two million postings and discussions. The overall tone was very clear – microbloggers were angry about the perceived hypocrisy, they were sympathetic to Snowden, and they were disillusioned about the US as a democratic role model.

The first reaction for most Chinese netizens was anger towards the US government. Prism was portrayed as a broad-scale surveillance project targeting "non-US citizens outside the US." To them, this was a blatant invasion on their privacy committed by a foreign country which has no jurisdiction over them. Many microbloggers showed concern for the Chinese First Lady, who was photographed to be using an iPhone during her visit to the US. The microbloggers asked "Would the US government access her private data through Apple's iCloud?"

The netizens also felt Prism revealed American hypocrisy. Just prior to the Prism news, the US pointed fingers at China for cyber-espionage. But through Prism, the US appears to be doing exactly what it accuses China of. Another recent report by Foreign Policy about NSA's ultra secret China hacking group further exacerbated the matter. While media coverage was moderate, the most important state-owned media CCTV and Xinhua both covered the news, and the latter quoted Snowden saying that he "exposed the truth about America being the Hacker Empire." These reports left little doubt in the microbloggers' mind that the US was "one thief calling another thief."

The issues above extended into a credibility crisis for the US government and even its founding principles and values. The US government is considered by the reform-minded Chinese netizens as the role model for protecting human rights and freedom of speech. And the Chinese blogosphere is often enlivened with heated debates between the hardliners vs. the reformers about whether the US government and its founding principles and values were applicable to China. In this case, the hardliners gained an upper hand, and pushed to question: Whatever happened to protecting human rights? How can you trust this hypocrite? Does this demonstrate that the system of democracy, "checks and balances", "due process" and "rule of law" has failed? The blasting caused further collateral damage, as the hardliners challenged Google, Microsoft, Apple products -- might your beloved product be secretly handing your information to the CIA? The US government's irresponsiveness didn't help elucidate whether this situation was a terrorist-targeting project, an isolated event, or a systemic breakdown. So the reformers generally remained quiet as the hardliners piled on sarcastic comments and insults.

Naturally, then, the great majority of the netizens were sympathetic to Snowden, feeling that he was a righteous whistleblower who had the courage to expose a conspiracy. Quite a few netizens called Snowden a hero. Netizens eagerly discussed and admired how he gave up a $200,000 salary and a beautiful girlfriend. They even gossiped about his modeling career and his good looks. Ironically, there were almost no mention of how he broke the law and his contractual promise to the US government. 81% of the microbloggers supported China to offer Snowden asylum, and only 3% supported extraditing him back to the US.

Finally, a small number of netizens pondered global and China implications. Did the digital age and network technologies give all governments a powerful and irresistible tool to violate netizens' privacy and freedom? How far can "national security and citizenship safety" go to justify invasion of privacy? If a system like the US, with checks and balances, could do something like Prism, how far might other governments go? Is at least the Western free media worthy of praise, as they acted as government watchdogs without fear of retribution? These issued were raised but quickly buried by the furious discussions about espionage, hypocrisy, heroism, and disillusionment.

At this point US government needs to respond with a comprehensive response.

  • Was Prism lawful? If so, is something wrong with the law; if not, who broke the law to implement it?
  • What was the role of the companies? How can their denial be reconciled with Snowden's allegations?
  • Who were targeted by Prism? Was the program broad or narrow?
  • What steps and actions would the US government take to calm people's fear for invasion of their privacy, and restore people's faith in the US government?

A lucid and no-nonsense response by the US government is imperative, not just to address domestic skepticism, but to avoid global distrust; not just to close the allegations toward one project, but to open a process to protect human rights in the digital age.

US Hero

If Snowden were Chinese or Iranian, had leaked info about their spying and then sought asylum in US, we'd grant it and call him a hero.
Windwing - US Hero

China More Democratic Than Russia These Days

China More Democratic Than Russia These Days

Russian policymakers frequently blame the country's 1990s democratization for all its current woes. They point to the "healthy" authoritarianism in China as the reason for its economic miracle.

Yet, as Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev argues on Opendemocracy.net, "in many of its practices, China is more democratic than Russia, and its decision-making is undoubtedly superior."

Russia has popular elections but no change of power. The role of elections, Krastev points out, is to avoid a peaceful rotation of rulers and legitimize a lack of change. China, without democratic elections, has ensured a regular rotation of power for three decades. The president and the prime minister are automatically replaced every 10 years by new leaders. The old team retires from public life.

The Chinese system prevents the emergence of personalized authoritarianism and establishes clear succession rules. Russia's system is a personalized regime that seeks to block real succession of power.

China tolerates major labor unrest, with thousands of strikes unfolding every year that help the government identify and deal with serious problems on the regional level and thrust future leaders in crises that test their mettle. Russian leaders clamp down on discontent and hide their incompetency through sham elections.

While the Kremlin broadly tolerates the opposition, Krastev argues, it does not listen to it. Dissent on policy matters within the government is suppressed. The Chinese leadership sees having different views as legitimate. "The loyalty test in China starts only once the Communist Party has taken a decision. The loyalty test in Russia starts as soon as the president makes a proposal," he says.

Russia is governed by a circle of friends. The most important factor influencing membership is to have known Putin before he became president. Few of these policymakers had proper careers of their own. China, meanwhile, is ruled by a meritocracy. The party recruits the best and the brightest and invests a lot into ensuring the diversity of experience and regional representation.

China and Russia differ fundamentally in their approach to political experimentation. China's leaders love to experiment with political and economic reforms to see what works best. Russian leaders shun experimentation for the sake of stability.

What matters here is the trajectory. While Russia is faking democracy to cover up an emerging dictatorship, China's authoritarianism is evolving into a more pluralistic system.


China's Rail Link To Hit Indian Exports

China's Rail Link To Hit Indian Exports
Windwing - China's Rail Link To Hit Indian Exports

BEIJING: The $707 million Yuxi-Mengzi rail line, linking Kunming in southwest China to Singapore in southeast Asia, will become operational by the end of this year, posing a threat to Indian exporters competing for market space with China. The rail line, originating in China's Yunnan province, will traverse through Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Singapore, completing a course of over 2,000km.

The announcement comes just before Chinese commerce minister Chen Deming meets his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma at the joint economic group on August 27 in New Delhi.

China also plans to build rail routes linking Kunming to Myanmar and, eventually, Bangladesh. On completion, it will create a grand alliance of Asian markets supporting each other, while expanding China's markets. The line will provide an impetus to trade which has slumped due to cancellation of purchase contracts by recession hit West.


India:China Is So Bad. They Even Dare To Build Railways To Other Countries Without India's Approval. India Should Protest!



Media, Government Denounce Snowden As “Traitor” And “Chinese Spy”

Media, Government Denounce Snowden As "Traitor" And "Chinese Spy"

By Eric London
17 June 2013

Representatives of the national security apparatus, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, appeared on the Sunday morning news programs to denounce Edward Snowden as a traitor and a Chinese spy.

The programs appeared highly scripted. The ruling class is relying on a barrage of lies in its attempt to cover up the historic nature of the Obama administrations vast domestic and international surveillance programs.

"I think he's a traitor," Dick Cheney said on Fox News Sunday. "I think he has committed crimes, in fact, by violating agreements given the position he had… I think it's one of the worst occasions in my memory of somebody with access to classified information doing enormous damage to the national security interests of the United States."

The program host, Chris Wallace, then asked Cheney: "Do you think he was a spy all along for the Chinese? Do you think he's using this information to try to buy asylum from the Chinese?"

Cheney replied, "I'm deeply suspicious, obviously, because he went to China… So this raises questions whether or not he had that kind of connection before he did this. The other concern I have is whether or not he had help from inside the [National Security] Agency, that is to say, was there somebody else in NSA who had access to a lot of this stuff and passed it to him?"

On NBC's "Meet the Press" program, host David Gregory asked Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss, "Is [Snowden] a traitor? Should he be tried as a traitor?"

Chambliss replied, "If he is not a traitor, then he's pretty darn close to it… He needs to look an American jury in the eye and explain why he has disclosed sources and methods that are going to put American lives in danger. We know now that because of his disclosures, that the terrorists, the bad guys around the world, are taking some different tactics. They know a little bit more about how we are gathering the information on them, and I think it's important that we bring him to justice."

Earlier in the show, Gregory posed a similar question to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. "Edward Snowden, is he a traitor in your mind, and what would you like to see the administration do at this point to get him back to face justice?"

Graham replied: "Bring him to justice, and let a prosecutor make that decision, not a politician. But I think what he did compromised our national security. And I've got a very simple view of the world, and you can blame me for being simple in complex times... We need this program, and he's compromised it, and he should be held accountable."

The statements of Chambliss, the ranking minority member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Graham, a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, are part of a bipartisan campaign to denounce Snowden for "treason" for seeking to provide information to the people about the extent of the antidemocratic and illegal actions of the US government.

The Obama administration is preparing criminal charges against Snowden, and leading Democrats have denounced him for "treason."

On the same program, "Meet the Press," co-host Andrea Mitchell took up the task of character assassination against the young whistleblower.

"He had a lot of very provocative, sarcastic, sardonic comments about the PATRIOT Act," she said disparagingly. "Hard to tell when you're reading [online] message boards, but you could tell that this was a very edgy guy."

Former NSA and CIA head Michael Hayden appeared apoplectic. When asked by Gregory if it was problematic that private contractors had access to the surveillance programs, Hayden responded with visible anger: "No. No. That's not the issue. It's people of this personality type having access to this issue. So let me point out facts: Snowden is wrong."

The obsequious role of David Gregory is especially notable. Throughout the show, he made certain that the conversation did not stray from the talking points that were likely provided by the White House.

At one point, he said, "You know, but it's very interesting, because as some commentators this week have pointed out, those who are concerned with civil liberties, imagine their reaction if there was another 9/11 style attack. And what the American public would support in quashing civil liberties."

In an attempt to justify the blatantly unconstitutional surveillance programs, Gregory gave a word-for-word reading of a document that the administration is using to justify laying the foundations of a police state. The document, "Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After 9/11," is from December 2002.

"Prior to September 11th," Gregory read as the text appeared in a full-screen graphic, "the Intelligence Community's ability to produce significant and timely signals intelligence on counterterrorism was limited by NSA's failure to address modern communications technology aggressively, continuing conflict between Intelligence Community agencies, NSA's cautious approach to any collection of intelligence relating to activities in the United States, and insufficient collaboration between the NSA and FBI regarding the potential terrorist attacks within the United States."

"So," Gregory said, "the NSA after 9/11 was criticized for being too cautious, which is why we got these programs in the first place, isn't that true, Senator Chambliss?"

Later, during a roundtable discussion, Gregory broke into a discussion to state categorically, "We are a country where we shouldn't be comfortable with a 29-year-old disaffected contractor who is personally offended by a program and takes it upon himself to leak government secrets and compromise what the government in three branches thinks is important."

There is little doubt that hosts like Gregory, Wallace and their ilk are reading questions and documents from memos provided by the White House and the national security apparatus.

But attempts by these "journalists" and their military and government guests to sway international public opinion against Edward Snowden are falling short.

Despite ubiquitous condemnations from the media and the entire political establishment, a Time magazine poll found that 54 percent of Americans believe that Snowden did a "good thing" by releasing information about the government surveillance plans, opposed to a mere 30 percent who said the information leak was a "bad thing."

A poll conducted by British pollster Opinium/Observer found even wider support amongst the population of Great Britain. Forty-three percent of Britons believed that Snowden is "brave and should be heard, not prosecuted." Only 23 percent disagreed.

Support for Snowden is strongest in Hong Kong. Nearly 50 percent of respondents to a South China Morning Post poll said they oppose or strongly oppose Snowden's extradition to the United States, with approximately one in six saying they support extradition.

Of additional significance were comments made Sunday morning by author and New York Times columnist James Risen on "Meet the Press." His comments denote the true purpose behind the Obama administration's domestic surveillance programs.

"You've created something that never existed in American history before, and that is a surveillance state," Risen said. "The infrastructure, basically using software technology and data mining and eavesdropping, very sophisticated technology, to create an infrastructure that a police state would love, and that is what really should concern Americans, because we haven't had a full national debate about the creation of a massive surveillance state and surveillance infrastructure, that if we had some radical change in our politics, could lead to a police state " (emphasis added).

The comment was passed over by program host Gregory and the other roundtable guests, but its meaning is clear: the ruling class is preparing the foundations of a police state in anticipation of widespread opposition to the attack on the living conditions of the working class.

The target of the PRISM, telephone metadata and other unknown surveillance programs is not Al Qaeda, which will soon begin receiving weapons from the CIA in Syria. Rather, the principal objects of surveillance are workers and youth, whose hostility to imperialist wars and social counterrevolution makes them a threat to the privileges of the ruling class.


Inside The NSA's Ultra-Secret China Hacking Group


Inside The NSA's Ultra-Secret China Hacking Group

Deep within the National Security Agency, an elite, rarely discussed team of hackers and spies is targeting America's enemies abroad.


Windwing - Inside The NSA's Ultra-Secret China Hacking Group

This weekend, U.S. President Barack Obama sat down for a series of meetings with China's newly appointed leader, Xi Jinping. We know that the two leaders spoke at length about the topic du jour -- cyber-espionage -- a subject that has long frustrated officials in Washington and is now front and center with the revelations of sweeping U.S. data mining. The media has focused at length on China's aggressive attempts to electronically steal U.S. military and commercial secrets, but Xi pushed back at the "shirt-sleeves" summit, noting that China, too, was the recipient of cyber-espionage. But what Obama probably neglected to mention is that he has his own hacker army, and it has burrowed its way deep, deep into China's networks.

When the agenda for the meeting at the Sunnylands estate outside Palm Springs, California, was agreed to several months ago, both parties agreed that it would be a nice opportunity for President Xi, who assumed his post in March, to discuss a wide range of security and economic issues of concern to both countries. According to diplomatic sources, the issue of cybersecurity was not one of the key topics to be discussed at the summit. Sino-American economic relations, climate change, and the growing threat posed by North Korea were supposed to dominate the discussions.

Then, two weeks ago, White House officials leaked to the press that Obama intended to raise privately with Xi the highly contentious issue of China's widespread use of computer hacking to steal U.S. government, military, and commercial secrets. According to a Chinese diplomat in Washington who spoke in confidence, Beijing was furious about the sudden elevation of cybersecurity and Chinese espionage on the meeting's agenda. According to a diplomatic source in Washington, the Chinese government was even angrier that the White House leaked the new agenda item to the press before Washington bothered to tell Beijing about it.

So the Chinese began to hit back. Senior Chinese officials have publicly accused the U.S. government of hypocrisy and have alleged that Washington is also actively engaged in cyber-espionage. When the latest allegation of Chinese cyber-espionage was leveled in late May in a front-page Washington Post article, which alleged that hackers employed by the Chinese military had stolen the blueprints of over three dozen American weapons systems, the Chinese government's top Internet official, Huang Chengqing, shot back that Beijing possessed "mountains of data" showing that the United States has engaged in widespread hacking designed to steal Chinese government secrets. This weekend's revelations about the National Security Agency's PRISM and Verizon metadata collection from a 29-year-old former CIA undercover operative named Edward J. Snowden, who is now living in Hong Kong, only add fuel to Beijing's position.

But Washington never publicly responded to Huang's allegation, and nobody in the U.S. media seems to have bothered to ask the White House if there is a modicum of truth to the Chinese charges.

It turns out that the Chinese government's allegations are essentially correct. According to a number of confidential sources, a highly secretive unit of the National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S. government's huge electronic eavesdropping organization, called the Office of Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, has successfully penetrated Chinese computer and telecommunications systems for almost 15 years, generating some of the best and most reliable intelligence information about what is going on inside the People's Republic of China.

Hidden away inside the massive NSA headquarters complex at Fort Meade, Maryland, in a large suite of offices segregated from the rest of the agency, TAO is a mystery to many NSA employees. Relatively few NSA officials have complete access to information about TAO because of the extraordinary sensitivity of its operations, and it requires a special security clearance to gain access to the unit's work spaces inside the NSA operations complex. The door leading to its ultramodern operations center is protected by armed guards, an imposing steel door that can only be entered by entering the correct six-digit code into a keypad, and a retinal scanner to ensure that only those individuals specially cleared for access get through the door.

According to former NSA officials interviewed for this article, TAO's mission is simple. It collects intelligence information on foreign targets by surreptitiously hacking into their computers and telecommunications systems, cracking passwords, compromising the computer security systems protecting the targeted computer, stealing the data stored on computer hard drives, and then copying all the messages and data traffic passing within the targeted email and text-messaging systems. The technical term of art used by NSA to describe these operations is computer network exploitation (CNE).

TAO is also responsible for developing the information that would allow the United States to destroy or damage foreign computer and telecommunications systems with a cyberattack if so directed by the president. The organization responsible for conducting such a cyberattack is U.S. Cyber Command (Cybercom), whose headquarters is located at Fort Meade and whose chief is the director of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander.

Commanded since April of this year by Robert Joyce, who formerly was the deputy director of the NSA's Information Assurance Directorate (responsible for protecting the U.S. government's communications and computer systems), TAO, sources say, is now the largest and arguably the most important component of the NSA's huge Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) Directorate, consisting of over 1,000 military and civilian computer hackers, intelligence analysts, targeting specialists, computer hardware and software designers, and electrical engineers.

The sanctum sanctorum of TAO is its ultramodern operations center at Fort Meade called the Remote Operations Center (ROC), which is where the unit's 600 or so military and civilian computer hackers (they themselves CNE operators) work in rotating shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

These operators spend their days (or nights) searching the ether for computers systems and supporting telecommunications networks being utilized by, for example, foreign terrorists to pass messages to their members or sympathizers. Once these computers have been identified and located, the computer hackers working in the ROC break into the targeted computer systems electronically using special software designed by TAO's own corps of software designers and engineers specifically for this purpose, download the contents of the computers' hard drives, and place software implants or other devices called "buggies" inside the computers' operating systems, which allows TAO intercept operators at Fort Meade to continuously monitor the email and/or text-messaging traffic coming in and out of the computers or hand-held devices.

TAO's work would not be possible without the team of gifted computer scientists and software engineers belonging to the Data Network Technologies Branch, who develop the sophisticated computer software that allows the unit's operators to perform their intelligence collection mission. A separate unit within TAO called the Telecommunications Network Technologies Branch (TNT) develops the techniques that allow TAO's hackers to covertly gain access to targeted computer systems and telecommunications networks without being detected. Meanwhile, TAO's Mission Infrastructure Technologies Branch develops and builds the sensitive computer and telecommunications monitoring hardware and support infrastructure that keeps the effort up and running.

TAO even has its own small clandestine intelligence-gathering unit called the Access Technologies Operations Branch, which includes personnel seconded by the CIA and the FBI, who perform what are described as "off-net operations," which is a polite way of saying that they arrange for CIA agents to surreptitiously plant eavesdropping devices on computers and/or telecommunications systems overseas so that TAO's hackers can remotely access them from Fort Meade.

It is important to note that TAO is not supposed to work against domestic targets in the United States or its possessions. This is the responsibility of the FBI, which is the sole U.S. intelligence agency chartered for domestic telecommunications surveillance. But in light of information about wider NSA snooping, one has to prudently be concerned about whether TAO is able to perform its mission of collecting foreign intelligence without accessing communications originating in or transiting through the United States.

Since its creation in 1997, TAO has garnered a reputation for producing some of the best intelligence available to the U.S. intelligence community not only about China, but also on foreign terrorist groups, espionage activities being conducted against the United States by foreign governments, ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction developments around the globe, and the latest political, military, and economic developments around the globe.

According to a former NSA official, by 2007 TAO's 600 intercept operators were secretly tapping into thousands of foreign computer systems and accessing password-protected computer hard drives and emails of targets around the world. As detailed in my 2009 history of NSA, The Secret Sentry, this highly classified intercept program, known at the time as Stumpcursor, proved to be critically important during the U.S. Army's 2007 "surge" in Iraq, where it was credited with single-handedly identifying and locating over 100 Iraqi and al Qaeda insurgent cells in and around Baghdad. That same year, sources report that TAO was given an award for producing particularly important intelligence information about whether Iran was trying to build an atomic bomb.

By the time Obama became president of the United States in January 2009, TAO had become something akin to the wunderkind of the U.S. intelligence community. "It's become an industry unto itself," a former NSA official said of TAO at the time. "They go places and get things that nobody else in the IC [intelligence community] can."

Given the nature and extraordinary political sensitivity of its work, it will come as no surprise that TAO has always been, and remains, extraordinarily publicity shy. Everything about TAO is classified top secret codeword, even within the hypersecretive NSA. Its name has appeared in print only a few times over the past decade, and the handful of reporters who have dared inquire about it have been politely but very firmly warned by senior U.S. intelligence officials not to describe its work for fear that it might compromise its ongoing efforts. According to a senior U.S. defense official who is familiar with TAO's work, "The agency believes that the less people know about them [TAO] the better."

The word among NSA officials is that if you want to get promoted or recognized, get a transfer to TAO as soon as you can. The current head of the NSA's SIGINT Directorate, Teresa Shea, 54, got her current job in large part because of the work she did as chief of TAO in the years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when the unit earned plaudits for its ability to collect extremely hard-to-come-by information during the latter part of George W. Bush's administration. We do not know what the information was, but sources suggest that it must have been pretty important to propel Shea to her position today. But according to a recently retired NSA official, TAO "is the place to be right now."

There's no question that TAO has continued to grow in size and importance since Obama took office in 2009, which is indicative of its outsized role. In recent years, TAO's collection operations have expanded from Fort Meade to some of the agency's most important listening posts in the United States. There are now mini-TAO units operating at the huge NSA SIGINT intercept and processing centers at NSA Hawaii at Wahiawa on the island of Oahu; NSA Georgia at Fort Gordon, Georgia; and NSA Texas at the Medina Annex outside San Antonio, Texas; and within the huge NSA listening post at Buckley Air Force Base outside Denver.

The problem is that TAO has become so large and produces so much valuable intelligence information that it has become virtually impossible to hide it anymore. The Chinese government is certainly aware of TAO's activities. The "mountains of data" statement by China's top Internet official, Huang Chengqing, is clearly an implied threat by Beijing to release this data. Thus it is unlikely that President Obama pressed President Xi too hard at the Sunnydale summit on the question of China's cyber-espionage activities. As any high-stakes poker player knows, you can only press your luck so far when the guy on the other side of the table knows what cards you have in your hand.



The TAO Is A US Tao (Trap) For Everyone In Web.



India’s Quiet, Big Naval Splash


By James Hardy

India is acquiring new platforms and capabilities that are turning it into a major naval power. Why doesn't anyone seem to care?

Windwing - India's Quiet, Big Naval Splash

India's drive to develop maritime forces that can protect its coast and project power into its surrounding waters is one of the biggest defense stories of recent years, but one that doesn't grab the headlines like its ongoing fast jet acquisitions. But the numbers don't lie: in 1988 the navy's annual spend was INR10 billion ($181 million) – in 2012 it was INR373.14 billion ($6.78 billion).

New Delhi's smart combination of procurement and geopolitical alliances was on display this week when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flew into Tokyo. That India and Japan share a wary attitude to China is well known – and this is giving Japan a chance to test the waters of international arms exports in the form of the ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious aircraft.

The US-2, which is in JMSDF service and odds on to be selected by the Indian Navy for its search-and-rescue amphibian requirement, is the perfect platform for Japan to export: it's an unarmed, humanitarian-first platform that is also probably the best of its type in the world.

For Delhi, it is the latest example of a massive growth in spending – and naval ambition – that has slid under the radar.

There are a number of possible reasons for the lack of interest. First, India is also in the market for fast jets. As any visitor to a defense show will tell you, fast jets grab the limelight more than even the hottest offshore patrol trimaran.

There's also the fact that India's not the only Asia-Pacific nation to get into the blue-water navy game. But while the PLA Navy's every move is analyzed and used to prove China's embrace of – or departure from – the "peaceful rise" narrative, the Indian Navy has received a free pass over its acquisitions, whether it is its own Russian aircraft carrier or its manufacture of another flattop in Cochin.

There are a number of possible reasons why New Delhi's naval maneuvers are not raising alarm bells:

1)      The US has decided India is a friend

The United States has decided that India is a country it wants to partner with in the Pacific, with then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta describing Delhi in 2012 as an "anchor" around which a stable Indian Ocean Region could be constructed. The U.S. doesn't like everything that India does – its nuclear program and refusal to sign various intelligence agreements are just two flies in the ointment – but it likes it enough.

It also likes selling materiel to Delhi: U.S. defense sales to India since 2001 are worth about USD13 billion and rising. For the Indian Navy, these include an amphibious landing ship and at least eight P-8I Neptunes – a long-range anti-submarine and patrol aircraft that is only just beginning to enter U.S. service.

2)      India's naval forces are seen as underperforming

India has had the tools to be a major naval power since the mid 1960s. Its first aircraft carrier (a former UK platform) entered service in 1961 and given its close relationship with the Soviet Union and then Russia, it has built from a robust submarine force.

However, things have slipped. Its current carrier, INS Viraat (the former HMS Hermes), is drifting towards obsolescence, while a March 2011 report by the government's Comptroller and Auditor General (CAg) said that between 2011 and 2013, the IN would have only 61% of its envisioned frigate fleet, 44% of its envisioned destroyer fleet and 20% of its envisioned missile corvette fleet.

So while India is spending big money, its recapitalization is as much about maintaining existing levels as it is about building new capabilities. Meanwhile, many of these big ticket projects are running behind schedule and over budget (see point 3).

3)      Naval modernization and procurement is chaotic, late and over budget

The 2011 CAG report identified delays and huge cost overruns in three key programs: the Project 15A frigate, Project 17 destroyer and Project 28 missile corvette.

The CAG highlighted multiple problems, including massive delays in contract signings, unrealistic budgeting, inadequate infrastructure at shipyards and basic project management foul-ups. One example was the failure to "freeze" the design of vessels prior to the start of construction, an oversight that naturally leads to all the other problems occurring.

In September 2011 another CAG report pointed out that the MiG-29Ks to embark its new aircraft carrier, Vikramaditya, were bought without weapons, "adversely affecting the operational capabilities of the aircraft". That's putting it politely.

Recent problems with the Indian Air Force's acquisition of 12 AgustaWestland AW-101 helicopters for VIP use are also likely to run interference on the navy's plans to buy much-needed helicopters.

Defence Minister A K Anthony is reportedly tired of the constant stench of corruption that surrounds major foreign military deals, but given the dismal record of local state-run manufacturers in providing the armed forces with the kit they want on time and under budget, the Ministry of Defence's decision to tighten up regulations on procurement rules doesn't bode well for the military's hopes of getting new kit anytime soon.

4)      India's maritime forces are expanding into a (relative) vacuum

Although India has used its navy in contingencies involving Pakistan, the Indian Ocean is big enough – and empty enough – for it to expand its role without generating too much friction with its neighbors. In the Bay of Bengal the navy is leading the military buildup of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, opening an aviation base, INS Baaz, in August 2012. At the base's commissioning, navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said the island archipelago just north of the Malacca Strait offers India "a vital geostrategic advantage. Not only does it provide a commanding presence in the Bay of Bengal, it also serves as our window into East and Southeast Asia."

Ambitious words, but not of great concern to any nation except China. And therein lies the rub. Unlike Beijing, Delhi is not planning to use its navy or coast guard to enforce nine-dashed line-shaped claims that undercut its neighbors' mineral, fishing or territorial interests. Right now, the Indian Ocean is big enough for a growing Indian Navy; the same can't be said for the PLA Navy's expansion into the South and East China seas.

It's clear that some of India's newly acquired new skill sets and vessels, such as the coast guard's acquisition of 36 interceptor boats and 20 fast patrol vessels and the navy's purchase of 80 fast interceptor craft, are a valid and much-needed response to terrorist – and territorial – threats such as the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

But in other areas India is building new, strategic level capabilities. The P-8Is and the US-2s amphibians it may buy from Japan give it serious naval aviation reach, while Vikramaditya, its troubled Kiev-class aircraft carrier, will embark the MiG-29K Fulcrum D – an F/A-18 Super Hornet-level platform that is a far cry from the aging Sea Harriers currently deployed from INS Viraat.

India is also building an ambitious strategic submarine fleet that will not only be one element of its nuclear triad, but is also intended for blue water operations far from friendly shores. It also commissioned its first nuclear powered attack submarine, INS Chakra, in April 2012. The boat, which is leased from Russia, has the range and endurance to extend the navy's reach far beyond the Indian Ocean. 

Throw in Delhi's plans for an extremely low frequency (ELF) transmitter to communicate with strategic subs anywhere in the world, construction of which started in 2012, and it is clear that India is thinking big – and thinking long term.

James Hardy is the Asia-Pacific Editor of IHS Jane's Defence Weekly