What does the world’s fastest supercomputer; a Chinese Dissident and America’s top secret Internet-phone Surveillance System have in common?

June 18, 2013

Recently three revealing news items caught my attention. The first was about Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese dissident who fled China to become a visiting scholar at New York University.

I understand Mr. Chen doesn’t speak a word of English and was self-educated in China.  Therefore, his one-year job as a visiting scholar at NYU could be seen as a form of welfare offering him a way to earn money just by hanging around sharing his story of how horrible China’s government is.

Now that his one-year visiting scholarship job is ending, he is accusing NYU of being pressured by China to dump him. Is this an example of biting the hand that feeds you? I’m not surprised. Who wants to be unemployed?

“Chen, who has been blind from childhood and taught himself law, was a campaigner for farmers and disabled citizens. He exposed forced abortions in China before he was placed under house arrest in Shandong province. … NYU pointed to a PBS television interview in May 2012 with Cohen, who had said Chen would be at NYU for a year at most while he adjusted to a new country.” Source: Reuters

Then again, maybe the truth about Mr. Chen is that he’s just a paranoid guy with a wild imagination who likes to complain and now that he’s living in the US, he has to find something to complain about here. Maybe the Chinese really locked Chen up because they grew tired of hearing his unsupported, alleged complaints.

The second bit of news was China asking the United States to explain its Internet surveillance program: “China made its first substantive comments on Monday to reports of U.S. surveillance of the Internet, demanding that Washington explain its monitoring programs to the international community.

“Several nations, including U.S. allies, have reacted angrily to revelations by an ex-CIA employee over a week ago that U.S. authorities had tapped the servers of internet companies for personal data.”  Source: CNBC

I think there has to be another reason China is making this demand.  Either China wants the world to see that its biggest critic for Internet surveillance in China, the United States, also spies on its citizens and was keeping it a secret, or—then again—maybe China wants to learn from the United States how to build a better Internet surveillance system.  After all, the US is known for its innovation.

The third bit of news was about China’s new supercomputer. CNBC reported that “China has built the world’s fastest supercomputer, almost twice as fast as the previous U.S. holder and underlining the country’s rise as a science and technology powerhouse.”

It’s no secret—I think (no leak intended)—that the United States uses supercomputers to monitor its Internet surveillance system and eavesdrop on citizens’ phone calls and e-mails. And now that China has a super computer twice as powerful as anything in the United States, China may want to put it to good use just like the US is doing to keep a closer eye on its citizens—and so-called paranoid dissidents like Chen Guangcheng.

That way China will be able to move faster and grant these dissidents immigration status to the US where they will seek political asylum and be given positions as visiting scholars who don’t have to teach classes and who get paid just to hang around and socialize badmouthing China.

That should help divert the attention of America’s citizens off of their own government’s Internet and phone surveillance systems and back on China where the US government wants it to be focused.

Discover Liu Xiaobo’s Manifesto, Charter 08


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel, Running with the Enemy, was awarded an honorable mention in general fiction at the 2013 San Francisco Book Festival.

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