Chi­nese tale sheds light on dis­trust

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

At­tend­ing a China-US In­ter­net in­dus­try fo­rum in­Wash­ing­ton early this week, LuWei, the head of China’s State In­ter­net In­for­ma­tion Of­fice, told a Chi­nese tale that dates back to 239 BC.

It is about a man who loses his axe, and sus­pects that his neigh­bor’s son has stolen it. So he watches his neigh­bor’s son closely and de­cides that his gait looks like that of a thief, his ex­pres­sion looks like that of a thief, and his voice sounds even more like a thief. In a word, ev­ery­thing about the boy looks like a thief.

But that feel­ing sud­denly changes after he fi­nally finds his axe while dig­ging in his own back­yard. He then looks at his neigh­bor’s son, and finds that he looks noth­ing like a thief any more.

This is a sim­ple story that most Chi­nese know since their child­hood. And it is a great tale to re­mind peo­ple that the deep strate­gic dis­trust be­tween China and the United States is largely self-ful­fill­ing.

For ex­am­ple, the US has been ac­cus­ing the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment of the state-spon­sored cy­ber theft of US cor­po­rate se­crets, but so far it has failed to pro­vide solid ev­i­dence and much of the ac­cu­sa­tion has been based on sheer spec­u­la­tion.

Yet what is known to the rest of the world is the US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency has been op­er­at­ing the world’s largest surveil­lance ac­tiv­i­ties that steal in­for­ma­tion about not just for­eign gov­ern­ments, world lead­ers, but also or­di­nary cit­i­zens, who have ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do with ter­ror­ism.

As a jour­nal­ist cov­er­ingWash­ing­ton, I have found that such para­noia is deeply in­grained in the minds of many US politi­cians.

For ex­am­ple, at a press con­fer­ence onWed­nes­day, the newUS Un­der Sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury Nathan Sheets de­fended the US’ stance of not sup­port­ing the Asia In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank and BRICS Bank, which both seek to invest in much needed in­fra­struc­ture to boost global growth, es­pe­cially in the de­vel­op­ing world.

Yet the ques­tion is: Why does the US seem to have a po­si­tion on the two banks be­fore the two in­sti­tu­tions have even been for­mally launched. Does that mean the US can fore­tell whether a child is go­ing to grow up to be­come a sci­en­tist or thief when still in the womb?

Another ex­am­ple was at a hear­ing last month when NSA Di­rec­tor Michael Rogers, also head of the US Cy­ber Com­mand, told the USHouse Se­lect In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that China and one or two other coun­tries were ca­pa­ble of launch­ing cy­ber­at­tacks that could shut down the power grid and other crit­i­cal sys­tems in parts of the US.

While it may be true that China and sev­eral other coun­tries, in­clud­ing some US al­lies, have the ca­pa­bil­ity, it does not mean any of them will ac­tu­ally use it.

It is clear that the US alone would have the ca­pac­ity to par­a­lyze the world’s In­ter­net, not to men­tion the glob­ally po­si­tioned surveil­lance. Should ev­ery­one in the world start to panic or ac­cuse the US?

Also, the US has a stock­pile of 7,500 nu­clear weapons, more than enough to de­stroy the planet mul­ti­ple times over. Again, should the rest of world panic or ac­cuse the US? Maybe they should after the US re­cently de­cided to spend $1 tril­lion to up­grade its nu­clear arse­nal over the next three decades.

For th­ese Amer­i­can politi­cians, ev­ery move China makes is seen with deep sus­pi­cion. And such deep sus­pi­cion, or para­noia, has al­ready pre­vented the two coun­tries from ex­pand­ing co­op­er­a­tion in many ar­eas to ben­e­fit the two na­tions and the world.

For­mer US sec­re­tary of stateHenry Kissinger has warned about a self-ful­fill­ing prophecy be­tween China and the US if they con­tinue to see each other as ad­ver­saries.

And this they will do if they con­tinue to al­low deep sus­pi­cions to pre­vent the two coun­tries from com­ing to­gether and nar­row­ing their dif­fer­ences. The au­thor, based in­Wash­ing­ton, is deputy ed­i­tor of China Daily USA. chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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