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Jim Sciutto On Tactics Russia And China Use To Attack The U.S.


The journalist Jim Sciutto of CNN has spent much of his adult life thinking about China.

JIM SCIUTTO: I was choosing my major in college in the weeks after the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989. That sparked my interest. And then after college, I went there.

INSKEEP: Sciutto reported from China and later returned as a U.S. diplomat. Now he has written "The Shadow War," a book on two U.S. rivals, China and Russia. He says Americans once dreamed of changing those countries' governance and records on human rights. Now many Americans feel differently.

SCIUTTO: The biggest change is the recognition. When I was there, certainly in the '90s, and then again even almost 10 years ago, there was still an impression among many China watchers that somehow we could change China, that if we as a country, our allies, as well, welcomed China into the institutions of our systems or ones that we hold dear - whether it's the WTO or others - that China would change. And in fact, China, in many ways, wants different things, permanent interests that are different from ours.

INSKEEP: You spend a little time in this book exploring the way that China has sent spies into and at the United States. Is China's spying, though, really any different than the way the United States would spy on other countries?

SCIUTTO: It is because it is done not just for national security interests, but for economic interests. The story I chronicle in the book is of a gentleman named Su Bin, who was caught. He's one of the few who was caught. And because of the secrets he stole, there's a reason why China has a fighter that looks a lot like the F-35.

INSKEEP: The most advanced American stealth fighter.

SCIUTTO: Exactly.

INSKEEP: Has the United States had the same delusion - if that's the word - about Russia, that if we engage with Russia in just the right way, Russia will become more like us?

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. And through multiple administrations. This was not a Democratic or Republican problem. It was a U.S. problem of imagining, again, that Russia wanted, if not everything we want then many of the things we want. And by the way, like China, Russia sees the current playing field as being skewed to the West. It does not want to abide by those rules. It very much wants to break those rules. And it wants to bring more of Europe under its influence.

INSKEEP: In the Cold War, as you know, Jim Sciutto, the United States worked to separate Russia and China, ultimately peeling away China to some extent with Richard Nixon's opening to China in the 1970s. Do you see an opportunity to peel away either one of these countries now?

SCIUTTO: No, frankly, because both of them have their own ambitions. Now, it doesn't mean you don't deal with them individually. Because they're not working together as some sort of new Axis alliance here. But they both have very strong ambitions and capabilities. Use the example of space. So here we have both Russia and China with weapons, kamikaze satellites floating in the heavens above us today that can take out and destroy U.S. satellites. China has a grappler, a kidnapper satellite, they call it, that can pluck U.S. satellites out of orbit. They're already up there.

So what do you do? Do you deploy your own offensive satellites, or do you do that and also say let's sit down and have a treaty, like we have, you know, the law of the sea, that kind of thing? You just have to acknowledge that the adversaries have these capabilities and intentions and find a way to address them and, hopefully, find a way to avoid an escalation.

INSKEEP: Jim Sciutto of CNN. His book is "The Shadow War: Inside Russia's And China's Secret Operations To Defeat America." Thanks so much.

SCIUTTO: Thanks so much, Steve. Great to be on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.