Stone Age fits for paranoia-driven US

As shown by the hullabaloo over a research balloon that inadvertently entered the United States' airspace, paranoia is rife in the country.

The very obvious and slow-moving unarmed civilian balloon was blown up out of all proportion into a national security threat before it was eventually blown out of the sky by a fighter jet as it was heading out of US airspace.

Overkill, yes. But a US Air Force commander issued a memo to those under his command in January predicting that the US would fight a war with China in 2025 and they should be ready to use "unrepentant lethality". So, not out of character.

Perhaps Washington should lock itself down or at least issue a global health warning on it being non compos mentis, as it appears that the anti-China mania gripping Washington affects the mental faculties of those showing symptoms. It is not just high-altitude meteorological balloons that can get those in the throes of anti-China paranoia in a tizzy; any object can come under suspicion.

In the latest outbreak some national security and Pentagon officials have compared ship-to-shore cranes made by the China-based manufacturer, ZPMC, to a Trojan horse.

Cranes are "the perfect combination of legitimate business that can also masquerade as clandestine intelligence collection," claims Bill Evanina, a former US counterintelligence official.

But even if they do contain sophisticated sensors that can register and track the provenance and destination of containers, a crane can still be just a crane doing what a crane is supposed to do and nothing more.

It makes one wonder where the concerns come from that China could capture information on stuff being shipped in or out of the US to support US military actions around the world. Is it because the US is employing all the chips in products it manufactures for such purposes? Or is it because the US military and security agencies are up to no good? If past practice is any guide, probably both.

Of course, such allegations of Chinese products being used to spy on Americans are nothing new. Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, along with some other leading Chinese companies, has effectively been excluded from the US market based on such unfounded accusations.

There have also been similar reports in the past about Chinese-made television sets, refrigerators and washing machines "spying" on US consumers in their homes. Yet, despite such scaremongering, in July 2022, the US-based Consumer Technology Association released a report that showed US high-tech importers paid more than $32 billion in tariffs for imports from China from 2018 to the end of 2021, of which more than a half are computers and electronics, many of which though they bear Chinese names are installed with US chips.

Maybe the 21st century, in which even a reading lamp contains chips inside, is not an epoch that suits the paranoia-driven US politicians and security personnel. They will feel safe only in the Stone Age.