November 19, 2012
As Jayadeva Ranade pointed out in “'Espionage Galore in China”, “All countries regardless of the extent of warmth in their relationships unfailingly engage in espionage, but communist regimes are especially sensitive…”
Ranade was referring to China’s obsession with potential foreign spy infiltration into their domestic intelligence and security apparatus. CLICK HERE FOR ARTICLE. But it can be argued that China’s paranoia stems largely from its own espionage machinations in foreign countries -- intrigue as full-throttled and far-flung as any spy network in the world.
Take, for example China’s interest in Nepal, its impoverished and increasingly beholden-to-Beijing southern neighbor.
As revealed in an internal Indian government note issued October 19:
Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Company Ltd (ZTE) plans to build four high-technology data centres for Ncell Pvt Ltd, a telecom company in Nepal. These earthquake-resistant data centres, to be built at a cost of about $43.75 million, will be located at Biratnagar, Kathmandu, Hetauda and Pokhara.
ZTE is one of China’s largest wireless equipment manufacturers and network solutions providers and maintains close ties with the PLA (People’s Liberation Army). It is increasing footprint, along with other Chinese companies such as Huawei, and raises the possibility of installing bugged equipment in Nepal’s telecommunication network. This in turn could allow China to monitor data and voice traffic between India and Nepal.
According to Thomas K. Thomas for The Hindu, “New Delhi is planning to work through the Ministry of External Affairs to take up the concerns with the Nepal Government. According to Government sources, the Nepal Public Accounts Committee had opposed this project. …In addition, the Indian side could also make its own investments in similar projects in Nepal to ensure that communication networks between the two countries are secure.
Indian security agencies are not the only foreign entities that deeply distrust ZTE.
On October 8, 2012, the Unites States House of Representatives Intelligence Committee labeled ZTE a national security threat.
The blistering bipartisan report accused ZTE (and Huawei, another Chinese mega-telecommunications firm) of being arms of the Chinese government, which had stolen intellectual property from American companies and could potentially spy on Americans.
The committee went on to say that allowing ZTE to do business in the U.S. would give the Chinese government the ability to easily intercept communications and could allow it to start online attacks on critical infrastructure, like dams and power grids.
The report was released at a news conference held by Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Representative C. A. Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat on the committee.
The report included the fascinating detail that the committee had obtained internal documents from former employees of Huawei that showed it supplied services to a “cyberwarfare” unit in the People’s Liberation Army. It also noted advised, in the strongest terms, that the United States government should be barred from doing business with ZTE and Huawei and that American companies should avoid buying their equipment.
In testimony before the House committee in September, officials from both ZTE and Huawei said that supposed “back doors” in its software that provided unauthorized access to American companies’ computers were flaws, not intentional vulnerabilities.
The committee didn’t buy the explanation and called the supposed “back door flaws” for what they really were: illegal hacking.
ZTE is also on the European Union’s radar.
In May, the EU launched a major trade case against ZTE and Huawei, arguing that they had benefited from illegal government subsidies.
ZTE declined comment.
Does Nepal really want China controlling its telecommunications network?