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These days, it is widely understood that, in the words of The Economist, “the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.” The massive scope of cyber-enabled data theft perpetrated by China over just the last decade supports this assessment. Already back in 2011 the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive was assessing that “Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage.” Ten years later, it has been discovered that Chinese hackers have compromised more than 400,000 Microsoft Exchange servers in 115 nations, including more than 30,000 in the United States, giving Beijing full access to the victims’ emails and leaving them vulnerable to further exploitation.
If the United States is going to prevent China from systematically syphoning “the world’s most valuable resource,” it must understand the strategic rationale of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for hoarding data, how that data is subsequently employed, how it is being collected, and what can be done to mitigate the threat.
China’s Targeting of Data is Rational