Bloomberg Business Week had an explosive article last week detailing how China used its’ influence to add a tiny microchip on mainboards used in servers that are by several American companies including Apple and Amazon to gain corporate secrets and disrupt their supply chain. Both companies issued strongly denying statements as well as the mainboard manufacture. China also issued a denial as well. The same day this article came out, Vice-President Mike Pence gave a strongly-worded policy speech criticizing China. The coincidence shouldn’t be ignored.
Speaking at the Hudson Institute, the Vice-President did not hold back on attacking China. The opening remarks on how both countries benefit each other were the only positive comments, the rest was sharp criticism:
But I come before you today because the American people deserve to know that, as we speak, Beijing is employing a whole-of-government approach, using political, economic, and military tools, as well as propaganda, to advance its influence and benefit its interests in the United States.
China is also applying this power in more proactive ways than ever before, to exert influence and interfere in the domestic policy and politics of this country.
Now, through the “Made in China 2025” plan, the Communist Party has set its sights on controlling 90 percent of the world’s most advanced industries, including robotics, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence. To win the commanding heights of the 21st century economy, Beijing has directed its bureaucrats and businesses to obtain American intellectual property –- the foundation of our economic leadership -– by any means necessary.
The last paragraph is what caught me by surprise because the Bloomberg article had current and former government officials brief the reporter on the investigation.
. . . six current and former senior national security officials, who—in conversations that began during the Obama administration and continued under the Trump administration—detailed the discovery of the chips and the government’s investigation.
It’s very odd that this story is publish on the same day that Pence delivers a policy speech on China. While you can argue that Bloomberg held this story to be published at the right time, I do not believe that the Trump administration specifically ordered National Security Officials to go to Bloomberg and reveal everything they know about this investigation just so that this administration uses this article to continue pressing China.
It’s no secret that President Trump and the press are not on the greatest of terms but they still have a working relationship. Using them as a weapon is the fastest way to burn that bridge.
Most of the reaction to the Bloomberg article has been mostly defending Apple and Amazon and criticizing Bloomberg because both companies issued strong denials about the article. Apple went even so far as to question the sources:
We are deeply disappointed that in their dealings with us, Bloomberg’s reporters have not been open to the possibility that they or their sources might be wrong or misinformed. Our best guess is that they are confusing their story with a previously-reported 2016 incident in which we discovered an infected driver on a single Super Micro server in one of our labs. That one-time event was determined to be accidental and not a targeted attack against Apple.
So while everyone is questioning who to believe, we are asking the wrong question. We should be questioning the timing.