China has been violently suppressing human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, as well as bullying its neighboring countries by encroaching upon their territories, using military might and economic coercion.
The belligerence of Beijing has sent ripples across the globe as it threatens a number of states and faces the consequences of demands for an independent inquiry into the COVID-19 outbreak. Another Chinese threat that affects the world is cyber warfare.
These issues are being met by an alliance of nations similar to those that faced off against Nazi Germany. It all started with the signal and intelligence sharing Five Eyes group—the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Aside from the U.S., the other Five Eyes countries had maintained strong bilateral relations with China. However, all of them have now toughened their stance toward Beijing, following the passage of Hong Kong’s National Security Law.
While the U.K. and Australia have become safe havens for those fleeing from Hong Kong, Canada and New Zealand have suspended their extradition treaties with the island city. Worsening relations have also intensified the security debate around Huawei, with U.S. agencies accusing the company of being an espionage threat.
The Five Eyes are systematically restricting the use of 5G equipment manufactured by Huawei, the telecommunication giant that symbolizes China's economic rise. Even France has enforced restrictions on Huawei’s services following the Trump administration’s decision to ban foreign companies' sales of chips manufactured using American technology to Huawei.
Huawei is, indeed, likely to be used by Beijing for espionage and disrupting communications — with disastrous consequences. Many countries are already aware that the company is owned by Ren Zhengfei (任正非), who is known to have ties with China's People's Liberation Army.
Beijing’s role in cyber espionage is well known and its incursions have been going on for a long time. For example, in 2012 it hacked U.K. defense firm BAE Systems to steal data about a US$264 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) jet.
Computer network exploitation by China poses a serious and persistent economic threat to government institutions and commercial establishments.
Chart from "Report on International Security" showing Chinese cyber intrusions in the U.S., ordered according to reporting date and giving estimated duration. (Harvard, MIT graph)
According to cybersecurity expert Joe Robinson, about 30 percent of the documented 500 cyber-attacks from 2009-2018 originated in China. As many as 20 countries were targeted by China-sponsored hackers.
The U.K. is now proposing an elite group of 10 countries dubbed the "D10" — comprising the G7 plus India, Japan, and South Korea — to collaborate on the development of 5G technology and thus reduce dependence on China. Although the move seems largely symbolic, it could actually have a big impact.
China has been harshly criticized for hiding crucial information about the spread of COVID-19, which has led to an unprecedented, international health crisis. In such an environment, D10 would give momentum to countries still on the fence in regards to China and get them to join the collective fight against the imperialistic and hegemonic country.
The ban on Huawei has naturally caused consternation among Chinese diplomats, with the nation's state-controlled news media joining the chorus of voices opposing the ban. Liu Xiaoming (劉曉明), China’s envoy to Britain, called the decision “disappointing and wrong” while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) run Global Times warned of painful retaliation.
Now that China has become the new pariah in world politics, Taiwan, Japan, and Vietnam have started countering China’s intrusive aerial and naval sorties. Japan has recently started a legal process to integrate an island chain that Beijing has for long set its eyes on.
These developments give the impression of an alliance forming to meet the threat of a hegemony, just like at the beginning of World War II and the subsequent defeat of Adolf Hitler.
Sahil Mishra is a retired Indian Air Force wing commander and National Defense Academy alumnus. He took charge of ground duty after a decade of flying MiGs and served in a variety of areas, including personnel management, procurement, and training. He has a post-graduate degree in English, and writing keeps him busy in his retirement.