By Doug Kelly, American Edge CEO
On the very same day a Congressional hearing detailed the “real-world harm” Chinese hackers planned for America, U.S. law enforcement officials thwarted a massive Chinese hacking campaign targeting critical U.S. infrastructure. This same-day cyber showdown should be a clarion call to U.S. policymakers to redouble efforts to ensure America wins the tech competition race against China.
The hearing by the House Select Committee on competition with China brought to light the unsettling reality of state-sponsored Chinese hackers targeting civilian infrastructure, including water treatment plants, electric grids, and transportation hubs. FBI Director Christopher Wray gave a stark warning on China’s plans: “They’re not focused just on political and military targets. We can see from where they position themselves across civilian infrastructure … [that] low blows against civilians are part of China’s plan,” Wray said.”
At the same time Wray was issuing his warning, U.S. officials revealed the disruption of a sweeping Chinese cyber-spying operation, known as Volt Typhoon, which had infiltrated critical American infrastructure. This intercept operation, a combined effort of the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI, is a significant win in the ongoing digital battle against China and other authoritarian regimes who are targeting American military and civilian targets. The scale and scope of China’s hacking efforts are well-documented:
- China’s cyber personnel dwarf the FBI’s cyber teams, outnumbering them by 50 to one. Its covert, state-backed Cyber Corps unit boasts 100,000 members, from hackers to linguists, all dedicated to conducting multi-year campaigns against critical U.S. entities.
- China’s hacking program is bigger than every major nation combined and is growing. In fact, the FBI has seen a 1,300 percent increase in investigations linked to the Chinese government’s theft of secrets.
- China’s hackers hacked the email systems of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, the U.S. Secretary of State, and other top diplomatic officials while placing malware into critical Navy and Pacific Fleet infrastructure. One official called the malware a “ticking time bomb.”
Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher, the select committee’s chair, compared China’s cyber strategies to placing bombs on American bridges and water treatment facilities. “The sole purpose is to be ready to destroy American infrastructure, which will inevitably result in mass American casualties,” he warned. This isn’t just rhetoric – it’s a sobering reminder of the potential consequences of losing the tech race to China.
Yet while one part of Congress is rightfully highlighting the tech and security threats posed by China, other parts of policymakers are wrongfully targeting America’s tech innovators with restrictive new regulations that would undermine our ability to compete with and beat China when it comes to technology. Efforts to break up our leading tech companies, thwart competition-boosting mergers and acquisitions, and other punitive actions will hurt our ability to innovate.
In fact, a recent report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) found that the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) actions against tech firms under Chair Lina Khan is on track to stifle U.S. innovation, slow economic growth, hurt consumers and jeopardize U.S. leadership in developing critical technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI). The report suggests that in light of increasing competition between the U.S. and the CCP, Khan’s policies will have unintended consequences that will place our entire nation at an economic disadvantage compared to the rest of the world.
America must get this right – and that means accelerating, not undercutting, America’s innovation capabilities. Because this isn’t just a competition for technological supremacy; it’s a fight to safeguard our national security, economic stability, and democratic values against a formidable adversary. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the U.S. must lead in this crucial global tech race.