The larger question is why the Chinese do this and what the regime’s spying compulsions say about what it is.
In an op-ed in these pages last year, Mike McConnell, Michael Chertoff and William Lynn noted that “The Chinese government has a national policy of economic espionage in cyberspace.” The three former national security officials chalked this up to Beijing’s need for rapid economic growth to improve the lot of its people. “It is much more efficient for the Chinese to steal innovations and intellectual property,” they wrote, “than to incur the cost and time of creating their own.”
That’s right as far as it goes, though nobody should get the idea that Beijing’s cyberraids are part of some Robin Hood-like quest to spread the technological wealth around. A major reason the Chinese spy is because it comes naturally to a regime that feels threatened by the open exchange of information, and even by people’s private thoughts. So it is with most despotisms.
Still, whatever else the Chinese thought they were doing by hacking us, they didn’t stop the publication of a single article. Now they have only magnified their embarrassment, as their intrusion was eventually bound to be detected and publicized. Perhaps they will now try to deny us travel visas, harass our journalists or otherwise interfere with our business in China.