The United States suspects another Chinese Trojan horse: hidden sensors in its port cranes

China and the US have been playing the cat and mouse game for months. Tensions between the world’s two major powers They have been growing for months. The demolition of a chinese spy balloon A few weeks ago everything changed, but the massive campaign to uninstall TikTok from government phones has made clear the level of mass hysteria they have with each other regarding what data they might be collecting on each other. Sabotage and surveillance have become two factors to take into account in each of the commercial relations that take place between the US and China.

And the last suspicion falls today on the ports. Specifically in the cranes.

The suspicion. According to the Pentagon, giant cargo cranes in US ports (which are made in China) pose an espionage riskas they believe they might be collecting intelligence using a software that tracks shipping containers. That is, officials are increasingly concerned that the Chinese-origin companies that operate in most of its ports could provide Beijing with a potential surveillance tool hidden in plain sight.

a trojan horse. This is how some members of the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon have compared the cranes of the Chinese manufacturer ZPMC. According to them, you are contain sophisticated sensors that can register and track the origin and destination of the containers that the US receives and sends, which allows them to collect information about the materials that the US trades for its military operations around the world.

On the other hand, as explained by Bill Evanina, a former senior US counterintelligence official in This Wall Street Journal report, cranes could provide remote access to someone looking to disrupt or sabotage the flow of goods: “Cranes could be the new Huawei.” Let’s remember that the US also prohibited its officials from using Chinese brand devices after warning that they could be used to spy, something that the Chinese manufacturer has always denied.

Because? ZPMC cranes arrived in the US about 20 years ago. They mainly offered good quality in relation to the low price, much cheaper than those that can be found in the country. That is why this Chinese company has become a major supplier to the Westespecially for automated ports and they already work side by side with Microsoft and others to connect equipment and analyze data in real time.

The problem is that ZPMC now controls about 70% of the global crane market and has sold its equipment in more than 100 countries. And these operate through software made in China and controlled by a Chinese team that works with US visas, something that has set off alarm bells in the US. Also, in 2021, FBI agents searched a cargo ship delivering ZPMC cranes to the port of Baltimore and found intelligence gathering equipment on board.

China’s response. The Asian giant, how could it be otherwise, says all these suspicions are driven by “paranoia” of obstructing trade and economic cooperation with China. One Chinese official said bluntly that “Playing the ‘China card’ and floating the ‘China threat’ theory is irresponsible and will harm the interests of the United States itself.”

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The tendency. And he is not wrong. The tension between the two countries is growing and the recent incident of the balloons as an alleged means of Chinese surveillance has led to international debate on how espionage could be changing methods and how nations control each other, going beyond the intelligence gathering tools traditional spies and satellites.

And it is that in recent years, US Homeland Security has warned of a variety of Chinese-made equipment that could facilitate surveillance or sabotage in the US, such as baggage inspection systems or electrical transformers. But above all, what is most concerning is the fact that China makes nearly all of the world’s new shipping containers. And not only that, but also control the data service of those shipments.

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Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a freelance writer working on news website. He contributes to Our Blog and more. Wise also works in higher ed sustainability and previously in stream restoration. He loves running, trees and hanging out with her family.

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