Are giant Chinese CRANES the next spy balloon? Beijing dimisses ‘overly paranoid’ claim it is using cargo equipment at U.S. ports as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to secretly collect intelligence
- The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that top U.S. security officials fear Chinese-made cranes at U.S. ports could act as ‘Trojan horses’ for Beijing
- China’s foreign ministry on Monday blasted the U.S. for being ‘overly paranoid’ when asked about potential Chinese spy cranes
- Tensions were already high between Washington and Beijing after President Joe Biden had the Pentagon shoot down a Chinese spy balloon last month
China’s foreign ministry on Monday blasted the U.S. for being ‘overly paranoid’ after Pentagon officials expressed that Chinese-made shipping cranes could be used as a ‘Trojan horse’ for spying.
The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that U.S. officials are growing concerned that the massive cranes used at U.S. ports, including by the military, are a security threat.
They are made by Chinese-based manufacturer ZPMC and contain sensors that track cargo, which Beijing could use to learn the destination of military shipments around the country and the world.
Additionally, the cranes can be remotely accessed, meaning a nefarious actor could tamper with them and interrupt the flow of goods, Bill Evanina, a former top U.S. counterintelligence official, told the Journal.
‘Cranes can be the new Huawei,’ said Evanina, referencing the Chinese telecom giant banned in the U.S. The cranes could represent the ‘perfect combination of legitimate business that can also masquerade as clandestine intelleigence collection,’ he said.
The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that top U.S. security officials fear Chinese-made cranes at ports could act as ‘Trojan horses’ for Beijing
Cranes can be remotely accessed, meaning a nefarious actor could tamper with them and interrupt the flow of goods
The ZPMC cranes entered the U.S. market two decades ago and were chosen by businesses because of they cost less than Western-made competitors, the Journal said.
China’s foreign ministry dismissed such fears Monday and said the suggestion that there would be Chinese spy cranes would only serve to ‘mislead the U.S. public,’ CBS News reported.
A Chinese embassy representative in Washington told the Journal that U.S. concerns were ‘paranoia-driven.’
‘Playing the “China card” and floating the “China threat” theory is irresponsible and will harm the interests of the U.S. itself,’ the embassy official warned.
House Oversight Chairman James Comer indicated he believed the threat was legitimate during a Monday morning appearance on Fox News Channel.
‘We’re learning every day the extent of the Chinese spy ring here in the United States,’ he said when asked about the Journal’s cranes story.
Tensions were already high between Washington and Beijing after President Joe Biden had the Pentagon shoot down a Chinese spy balloon (pictured) over the coast of South Carolina last month
‘Now there’s bipartisan agreement within the Congress that the United States needs to identify every single facet of the Chinese spy ring in American from TikTok now to what we’re reading in the Wall Street Journal about these cranes,’ he continued.
He feared China could be ‘monitoring any shipment of arms,’ including those bound for Ukraine.
‘What would be the possibility that China has these sensors on the cranes that know what we’re doing and alert Russia?’ he mused.
The GOP-led House has already set up a new committee – the House Select Committee on the strategic competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party – which held its first meeting last week and will study the China threat.
Last year, Republican Rep. Carlos Giménez introduced legislation banning future purchases of Chinese-made cranes after learning the software could be used for nefarious purchases.
His bill would incentivize other manufacturers to make the cranes.
Giménez is a former mayor of Miami Dade County, whose port uses the ZPMC-manufactured cranes.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she didn’t have any comment on the Journal story, though said the Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation are studying the issue.
‘This is something that the President takes very seriously and will always take action to make sure we protect our national security,’ she said more broadly, after being asked by Fox’s Peter Doocy, ‘How worried should Americans be about China spying on them here at home?’
Tensions were already high between Washington and Beijing after President Joe Biden had the Pentagon shoot down a Chinese spy balloon over the coast of South Carolina last month.
In addition to that, the U.S. has warned China not to give material support to Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.
Last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he believed China was mulling giving ‘lethal support’ to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war, however a Pentagon official said several days later there’s no sign yet that Beijing has agreed to do that.