Feb

6

LectureHop: China’s Not-So-Secret War

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This past Tuesday, amid a captive audience of caffeinated law students and pedantic professors, Dr. Klaus Muehlhahn, discussed the history of Chinese national security policy.  Bwog’s Human Firewall Jenna Matecki brings us word from “Intelligence Wars: Security, Sovereignty, and Information in China, Ca. 1940.”

Despite a thirty-minute kick-off of academic formalities and introductions, the audience remained huddled and buzzing with anticipation to discuss questions raised by Dr. Muehlhan’s new paper, which explores numerous instances of Chinese breach of law in the name of security, sovereignty, and information during the chaotic year of 1940. That is to say, his work concentrates on the nature of the authoritarian grip of the state and imprisonment of those who dared to question it by blinking the wrong way.

As explained by Muelhahn, the Chinese governance of this era had a long “tradition” of extreme sensitivity to national security threats.  These governments respond accordingly in an effort to safeguard their population’s actions to maximize power. Mass and somewhat arbitrary imprisonment of “enemies of the state” soon ensued and the prisoners were censured, interrogated, and tortured  to protect the image of state infallibility. But this only came about by a blatant disregard for the very laws that should hold such powers accountable.

Attendees were intrigued by Muelhahn’s suggestion that the government had knowingly disregarded their rule of law in such a manner – and the professor noted his personal difficulty in being able to procure more than two official documents for his research. He stated that even seventy years later, most documents of this time period are still considered sensitive, classified material. Some are too difficult to track down through official channels and others have just disappeared.

Muelhahn suggests that the recent headlines represent a modern day example of the “phenomenon of limitation- the suspension of law”.  Keep that in mind.

In 1940, prisoners of the state were labeled as “security threats.” Yet, Muelhahn suggests that this “construction” of a security threat meant that it did not necessarily have to be real: once you are labeled an enemy of the state, you would not only be guilty, but subject to having all of your personal information read, your family threatened, tortured and psychoanalyzed, and most disturbingly, your identity broken down and then reconstructed to the government’s liking. You could only return to normal life by accepting your new identity and espousing government propaganda.

Klaus’s research and insight all centered around two recently recovered secret Chinese interrogation manuals. These documents cite a “secret war” waged by the Chinese government in the name of national security. This is an intelligence war against their own people, who, from their vantage point, had more of a chance at undermining national security from the inside than out.

According to Klaus, “China’s tradition” of censuring its citizens is not new. One cannot help but feel his research based on two documents from over seventy years ago may help our understanding of the question posed by Google last week. Can the Internet be dictated by national interests? Is hacking into personal e-mail accounts of “enemies” in the name of national security lawful? What does Internet security mean? We are in the era of the blog, where can publish and claim credibility and put forth telling portrayals of societal norms or crude, slanderous remarks. Are such words threats against the state, society, or simply, someone next door?

Photo by Jenna Matecki

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1 Comment

  1. when  

    does assassins start?

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