By Ian Bremmer
The views expressed are his own.
All eyes should be peeled on China, but not for the reason you think. While the biggest structural risk right now is global rebalancing, especially between China and the U.S., there is another important threat from China: cyberwars. Cyberattacks are one of the biggest fat tails (along with climate and North Korea).
It’s no surprise that the latest Google hack attack came from China. The presumption is that the vast majority of cyber attacks hitting the U.S. are coming from the Chinese government. It’s very hard to know where threats are originating – country-wise and/or person-wise -- because it’s very difficult to go back and figure out the paper trail. But at a minimum, there is an environment in China that tolerates cyber attacks.
Proprietary information around technologies – gaining profit shares, increasing revenues – allows a country to be much more economically competitive. China has leverage because everyone wants to get into China. If you want to make something in their country, you have to share the technology.
The Chinese government can really benefit from having access to proprietary data, whether it’s about Exxon's oil reserves or pricing of commodities of proprietary technologies, such as American telecommunications. China’s become much more competitive and therefore has become much more of a threat. If it’s using a non-judicious system to gain economic advantage, we need to take that very seriously.
China did something similar with high-speed rail – and that was through legal means. They undermined German and French companies in order to gain access to the technology and they now have built the best high speed rail system. If they can access that kind of information through hacking, that’s going to be seen as a direct threat.