China-based hacks into commercial and political networks across the planet have made the news again, with the Trend Micro report on an attack called LuckyCat that targeted Asian defense systems as well as Tibetan networks. The attack was traced back to a graduate of Chengdu’s Sichuan University, Gu Kaiyuan. Gu currently works for Tencent and both he and the company denied that he had anything to with the attacks.
Past attacks also may also have originated in Chengdu – most notably the Ghostnet attacks that were traced back to the University of Electronic Science and Technology in April 2010. Back then we wrote Chengdu’s Spy Network, which included an interview with a graduate of UESTC who told us point blank that the PLA had actively recruited in his school.
Considering the targets and efforts by security firms like Trend Micro to trace the attacks back, it seems like a no-brainer that the Chinese government is behind the attacks. Spying is big business in China and has both helped firms like Huawei and Pangang and many others get a leg up on their international competitors. The rampant espionage can also backfire, as Huawei has learned time and again in its efforts to acquire foreign assets.
All of these attacks have so far garnered little response from the West. Some pundits say that the West is refusing to disclose the severity of the attacks in order to keep the damage secret, others feel that the spy war rages and only the Chinese spies ever make it into the media, because the Chinese media either will not or cannot report on whatever attacks China has suffered.
But we now have a very vocal, very famous combatant that has thrown their collective hat in the ring with a serious of defacements and announcements: AnonymousChina.
I am a stranger in a strange land. I need connections or I will wither and die. And the connections I need are not just with my native people, or with people similar to me, but with the people who inhabit this strange land. I learned to speak Chinese out of survival instinct and I speak with everyone I can, randomly, impulsively, to maintain a healthy equilibrium. A constant contact that helps bouy me when my spirits sink.
I read of the toxic culture that poisons the ability of Mexicans, among others, to pursue happiness in the US, but so far there is little in the way of scholarly studies on the level of toxicity in China’s culture. Perhaps because the immigrant population is so low. But we all know about the China Blues. For years I relied upon taxi drivers, one-second encounters, and a potpourri of interactions with young, old, male, female. When in dire straits, I headed to the Tibetan district in Chengdu – or if I were lucky enough, a trip to western Sichuan’s Tibetan regions – to lift me up when I was down. I could always count on a nod being met with a nod, a wink with a smile, a gaze with understanding.
But I’ve noticed something over the years … some Tibetans don’t nod anymore. And some of them even meet my overtures, my pleas actually, with hostility. And I am trying to figure out what happened.
Tom from Seeing Red in China pointed out some China Quarterly essays and one of them is the inspiration for this essay …
Few of China’s problems seem so intractable as the issue of the Chinese soul and what morals are available to guide it in the 21st century. The whole concept of a soul and of morals is intangible and esoteric, making it difficult to find stable ground in a society currently in the throes of a pragmatic emergence onto the world stage. The struggle in China over what is right and wrong intensifies each day, as news reports flood the web-waves with callous, indifference to human life – no matter how innocent – and the unscrupulous, unpunished actions of the greedy elite.
This struggle is not just vital for China and its rise out of Cultural Revolution anarchy, but the moral compass that China re-invents for itself will be the core from which China’s cultural power emanates. Right now Chinese culture is referred to tongue-in-cheek as one of the deepest, broadest, riches and oldest cultures in the world, source of countless great works and great thoughts. Yet in China today the cultural wars over the soul of Chinese people is tilting in favor of materialism and a patchwork of Western and Eastern values woven together haphazardly – easily ripped apart by the winds of stress and strife.
There are parallels between China’s struggle and the struggles of other peoples all across the world, especially in the West, where the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition has receded in the face of growing apathy toward religion and the rising numbers of those who believe in a patchwork of their own: Christian beliefs melting into pagan speculation mixed together with modern universalist appreciation for all religions and beliefs … political correctness flipping itself into defiant, antagonistic stances … we too are a magpie culture in the West, but for different reasons.