Podcast: Dean Cheng provides an “Update on China: Lawfare, Technology and More”

Interested in getting an update on China and U.S. national security?  Want to know more about  “the issues of industrial standards, political norms, and China”?   What are the national security consequences to the U..S. and other rule-of-law countries if China succeeds in controlling industrial standards?

In answering these questions and more, you have China expert Dean Cheng to help you.  As Lawfire® readers know, we are in the process of posting videos from the recently completed 29th Annual National Security Law Conference sponsored by Duke’s Center on Law, Ethics and National Security (LENS), and I’m very pleased to tell you that the video of Dean’s presentation, an “Update on China: Lawfare, Technology, and More,” is now available.

A perennial Conference favorite, Dean focused his remarks this year on “how the Chinese are trying to extend their sovereignty, their influence over international common spaces.”   He notes that there are a number of ways China seeks to do this, but a key method is establishing international political norms and industrial standards.” 

He then puts his concerns in context:

“The currency of power has shifted. In the industrial age, what mattered was stuff, how many merchant ships did you produce a year, how many I-beams did you produce a year, how many tons of bauxite did you smelt for aluminum ingots every year. In today’s world– that was the Industrial age. In today’s world, those things still matter, the ability to generate power and build merchant ships and build ports and all of those things.

But what really matters is the ability to generate information, to transmit information, to analyze information, which is still a human function despite ChatGPT, and to then exploit information, and to do all of that more rapidly and more accurately than your counterparts, whether that means you are faster than they are, or whether that’s because you are throwing spanners and monkey wrenches into their information gathering and processing capacity.”

Later he points out with respect to outer space:

In the context of outer space, we see China gearing up in terms of space exports. They are one of the leading nations out there in terms of turnkey satellite exports. The Chinese will build a satellite, launch the satellite, design the satellite, train ground crews, build a ground facility, do the space launch. Oh, and by the way, they will insure the whole thing for one low, low price, which is generally lower than what Airbus or Boeing or United Launch Alliance or even SpaceX can do.

So for a lot of countries, particularly in the less developed world, China has been a major benefactor in terms of allowing them to partake in global space capacity. As we watch a new moon race emerge, as we watch China pushing to put its own people, humans, on the moon, one of the interesting things to think about here is, again, about norms and standards. Who writes the rules for international space traffic management?

What about industrial standards with respect to vital technologies like microchip?  Dean contends:

Today the US military is not the world’s largest consumer of microchips. Apple, Microsoft, Google Android phones, Samsung, Chinese manufacturers, et cetera are much larger consumers of chips. So the standards that went into the chip in that Patriot, in that Hellfire, in that harpoon, is often commercial off the shelf. And the security standards and other things might be tested, particularly on the proprietary and highly classified stuff.

But the chips that are commodities, that are the overwhelming percentage of chips in any system, have probably the same manufacturing and other tolerances that the chips that go into your car, or the chips that went into your cell phone, including your iPhone. So from a national security perspective, if China succeeds in establishing the framework and the context, that will have downstream consequences. And the really scary part to think about here is that that may not be very visible. What’s the old joke, a fish doesn’t know it lives in water?

To what extent does DOD, and by the way, not just our DOD, Japanese Ministry of Defense, the German Ministry of Defense, the Polish Ministry of Defense, to what extent do they understand the water that their supply chains live in?”

During the Q & A Dean also makes some really interesting observations about the implications of AI and how China might use it.   Obviously, you’ll want to hear everything Dean has to say, so the link is here

Don’t miss these other podcasts from LENS’ 29th Annual Conference :

My fireside chat with CIA General Counsel Kate Heinzelman can found here.

Brig. Gen. Linell Letendre’s presentationGuardians of Code and Conscience: Exploring Legal and Ethical Frontiers of Generative AI” is found here.

Col (Ret.) Dawn Zoldi’s presentation “Domestic Drones and National Security,” is found here.   

As more podcasts from the Conference become available, they’ll be posted on Lawfire® so stay tuned! 

Unless otherwise indicated, Conference speakers are expressing their personal opinions, and not necessarily those of their employer (to include the U.S. government), the Center of Law, Ethics and National Security, Duke University, or any other person or entity (see also here)

Remember what we like to say on Lawfire®: gather the facts, examine the law, evaluate the arguments – and then decide for yourself!


You may also like...