‘Spy’ stories from Washington read like thrillers but don’t reflect global economic reality

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2018/10/31 22:38:41

The US is trying to play a dangerous game, when some scholars and media outlets describe economic interaction between China and the US as a spy novel or espionage movie.

"How China used a tiny chip to infiltrate US companies?" Bloomberg Businessweek published a story on October 4, saying that Chinese spies infiltrated the supply chains to install tiny chips onto motherboards produced by Super Micro Computer Inc.

Perry Hayes, president of Super Micro Netherlands, denied recently that any Chinese spy chips had been found in the company's products.

"We are confident the recent Bloomberg Businessweek stories are wrong," Hayes was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying on Wednesday. We don't know how many people will believe Hayes' words. It's obvious that a sensational media report about spying is more eye-catching than Hayes' fact-based analysis.

In the US, conspiracy theories have become increasingly popular as the Trump administration claims China is stealing advanced technology from US companies and using it as an excuse to intensify a trade conflict with China. There have been several alleged cases of Chinese espionage against the US in just the past four weeks. Some of them have complicated plots as dramatic as an espionage novel. Those stories are eye-catching as an integral part of the China-US trade conflict, but they are not supported by facts.

China and the US are growing highly interdependent in economic terms. The recent decades have witnessed the rise of global value chains, with one product being assembled in one country using components and parts imported from around the world. In the era of global interdependence, it will be very difficult to identify the national origin of some products. For instance, an Apple laptop computer is actually a "coalition" of components from various countries. Every country on the global supply chain can install spying devices onto components produced by their companies if those countries want. Every country is also under suspicion by others, because no one can refuse products using components produced by other countries.

If we believe the conspiracy theories, people may have to worry about the possibility of deliberately putting poisonous chemicals on grain and fruit that trade internationally.

If people let their imagination run wild, anything is possible. It's worrying to see the rise of conspiracy theories in the US. If we follow the US logic, the best way to deal with spying issues is to wall oneself off from global trade and go back to an isolated economy.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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