That the Chinese government poses an active threat to American stability and security is a fact few would argue against. The degree to which they may already have the necessary tools in place to interfere with this country’s defenses, however, is alarming, to say the least.
As Katie Bo Lillis writes for CNN, “Since at least 2017, federal officials have investigated Chinese land purchases near critical infrastructure, shut down a high-profile regional consulate believed by the US government to be a hotbed of Chinese spies and stonewalled what they saw as clear efforts to plant listening devices near sensitive military and government facilities.”
The extent to which that last threat remains unaddressed is particularly troubling.
The China-based Huawei telecommunications company has spent more than a decade becoming the go-to source for cheaper equipment on cell towers across much of the Midwest. By offering lower prices to the rural companies that might have otherwise struggled to provide consistent service to their areas, Huawei was able to essentially corner the market in these sparsely populated regions. However, that the areas often lacked densely populated cities is part of what made the region so appealing to the US government when they were looking to build some of their most secretive military installations, including “an archipelago of nuclear missile silos.”
In fact, one of the reasons that the government first became alerted to Huawei’s activity is that the company began selling equipment near US military assets at such a discounted rate that it was impossible for them to make a profit. By looking further into similar deals, the FBI was able to trace a clear—and alarming—pattern of behavior. While Huawei claims that their equipment is only intended for legitimate, FCC-approved commercial activity, a closer examination revealed that it was capable of much more, including the ability to “recognize and disrupt DOD-spectrum communications.”
In response, Congress approved $1.9 billion to remove and replace all of the Chinese-made Huawei and ZTE equipment in the area, but the work has yet to begin in earnest. A recent update from the FCC (PDF) concluded that following through on the plan will now cost roughly $3 billion more than Congress allocated initially. And while there is still hope that they will begin soon, when the region will be rid of the potentially dangerous technology is far less certain.
Too good to be true?
Most of us have heard the old cliché that if something appears too good to be true, it probably is. Still, in the moment it can be hard to resist the temptation. We can often come up with explanations and justifications that are just believable enough to drown out the alarm ringing in our minds and allow us to go through with something we know is likely to prove problematic down the line.
I don’t know if the telecommunications companies that initially allowed the Huawei equipment to go up in their areas had any reservations in doing so, but chances are the thought of providing services that might have otherwise been unattainable was a hard prospect to turn down. The same reasoning is perhaps what led the FCC to approve those deals. After all, while the Chinese government was hardly trustworthy in 2011, we didn’t know as much about the extent of their efforts at espionage then as we do now.
Still, there were plenty of reasons to be at least a bit wary of such activity, and now both the government and those companies are faced with some very costly decisions to rectify those mistakes.
“The quickest way on”
C.S. Lewis once cautioned that “If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road . . . going back is the quickest way on.”
The wisdom of that statement is easy to recognize but hard to practice. Far too often, we continue down what we know to be the wrong path, hoping to find another way back that will never come. Satan specializes in getting us to believe the lie that the way out is just a few more steps ahead, as we drift further and further away from the Lord with every passing moment.
Ideally, we’d be able to recognize the truth of our situation and repent of our own volition. That is certainly the end God would prefer. However, we frequently need the help of others to get there. That’s why Scripture encourages us to hold each other accountable and to be humble enough to allow others to do the same with us (Galatians 6:1–5).
Our biggest mistakes often occur when there’s no one around to point them out. So seek out community with other believers. Ask them to pray with you when those alarms start to ring in your spirit. And embrace the kind of accountability that can call you back from the wrong path before you go too far.
Where do you need that accountability today?