An update on my last post — on the raw deal with the MBTA’s Chinese Communist Party spy trains.
I suggested we should take experts raising concerns about how China could use infrastructure against us very seriously, such as with the MBTA subway car contract.
Most of us don’t know anything about the ‘spy world’ outside of James Bond movies, and so easily dismiss risks because they ‘seem silly.’
Well, experts don’t think it’s so funny.
How could subway cars be used against us? Here’s a Bloomberg article on this very subject, featuring a quote from retired U.S. Army Brigadier General John Adams — which gets at one very likely way.
The inspector general of Washington’s transit authority found that third-party contractors and vendors could unwittingly make the subway system vulnerable to cyberattacks. In theory, as CRRC helps to maintain the cars it built, the company could create backdoors for intrusion via software updates. Those “could be turned on and off as needed,” Adams says.
Ian Easton, who’s the Senior Director of Project 2049 — a think tank on Indo-Pacific security concerns — was so worried about the issue of these CRRC subway cars that he raised it in an interview he was having about increasing tensions between the US and China over Taiwan, in the context of how these backdoors could be used to create major disruption, such as during a time of conflict.
In the interview, Easton drills home the point that — by Chinese statute — every major Chinese company, public or private, has to build back doors into its products for China’s military and intelligence services. By law!
Here’s the key quote:
They have to put backdoors. You know, if you’re a technology company in China, you have to put backdoors in all of your products…. And this is also a problem for the United States, as it is for Taiwan, that now we have critical national infrastructure like some of our port facilities and some of our subway cars, and other, you know, critical — this is life or death stuff.
And you’re putting it in the hands of the Chinese Intelligence Services and the military, because you think you’re actually dealing with real civilian companies that can say no to the Chinese Communist Party when push comes to shove. And of course they can’t. These are just commercial arms of the party, and by way of extension the military.
The problem has become a lot worse since Massachusetts “opened the door” to Chinese state rail cars being built to be used on US soil. It started with the MBTA contract, but also includes contracts in cities as far flung as Chicago and LA.
Of course, China isn’t really ‘fighting fair’ with these contracts — CRRC is a state-owned company with communist party backing. It doesn’t have to turn a profit on any of these deals, so it can easily undercut any other bidder.
But don’t take my word from it — from the Bloomberg article:
CRRC’s critics say the Chicago contract was the almost inevitable result of a state-owned company undercutting rivals with financial help from back home and dangling baubles like new factories before local politicians.
Can people start to see why all of this is getting very dangerous for our country? It’s bad enough when Lockheed or Boeing use local jobs to get politicians to do what they want — now we’re going to give that power to the Chinese state?
And as I pointed out in my last blog — it’s not just theoretical that these small numbers of jobs could sway US politicians. When CRRC’s MBTA contract was receiving federal scrutiny, Congressman Neal swooped in to protect the Springfield assembly plant (and by extension, a Chinese Communist Party state owned business) — not our nation’s security.
Thankfully, China has completely failed to deliver on these subway cars, only managing to produce a few scant number, each of which are too dangerous to use. Massachusetts should use this opportunity to cancel the contract while we still can — and if Massachusetts leads here, perhaps mass transit systems in other states will follow.