Google CEO Eric Schmidt Rips China Calling Country an 'IT Menace'

Google’s Eric Schmidt has written a book in collaboration with fellow Googler Jared Cohen called The New Digital Age, and the Wall Street Journal has been reviewing it and pulled out some interesting bits to share. One of the prevailing themes of the work is that Schmidt sees China as an increasingly major problem in the cyber realm.

That view is not at all surprising. China is a growing superpower, and China-based Huawei recently became the world’s third-largest smartphone maker, behind only juggernauts Samsung and Apple, and its mobile Internet population is exploding. While China’s reach has been growing, so has the scope of its threat to other nations. A U.S. Congressional panel deemed Huawei and ZTE (also a Chinese company) a threat to this country in terms of cyber espionage, and China is alarmingly restrictive on filtering and monitoring Internet usage within its borders.

Google's Schmidt (Image credit: WSJ)

Schmidt and Cohen see an awfully cozy relationship between the Chinese government and its IT vendors, which apparently has resulted in China becoming, in their estimation, the world’s foremost filterer of information and most prolific and sophisticated hacker of other country’s governments.

The Chinese government appears to be perfectly comfortable using cyber crime to attack or otherwise infiltrate other country’s digital borders, and Schmidt and Cohen see that as a major disadvantage to the U.S.; essentially, the U.S. government won’t fight fire with fire on that front--which may be a tactical mistake even if it is the law-abiding one.

(Image credit: WSJ)

With respect to the fact that the U.S. doesn’t exactly have a perfect record on cyber espionage--the article brings up, for example, the Stuxnet virus that the U.S. may have been involved with--the WSJ quotes the book: “The disparity between American and Chinese firms and their tactics will put both the government and the companies of the United States as a distinct disadvantage,” because “the United States will not take the same path of digital corporate espionage, as its laws are much stricter (and better enforced) and because illicit competition violates the American sense of fair play. This is a difference in values as much as a legal one.”

For as dreary an image as Schmidt and Cohen paint in regard to China, the WSJ says that the pair sees China’s paradigm as one that will probably fall apart at some point. They note that the combination of an increasingly mobile and connected populace and restrictive state control is “exceptionally volatile” and could actually lead to revolution in the country within decades.