PART 2: Behind China’s Lockdown Madness—Gen. Robert Spalding on a Looming Taiwan Invasion, the Russia-Ukraine War

“They’re going to go element by element through their economy and see which of those is still open to attack from the West … to seal those up prior to invading Taiwan.” Previously, in part one of my interview with retired Brigadier General Robert Spalding, he broke down the Chinese regime’s strategy of unrestricted warfare, which is detailed in his latest book “War Without Rules: China’s Playbook for Global Domination.” Now in part two, we discuss what’s really going on behind China’s new round of draconian lockdowns. Is it potentially related to Xi Jinping’s plans for Taiwan? “The Chinese Communist Party doesn’t do things willy-nilly. It’s very deliberate,” Spalding says. How can the United States effectively counter the Chinese communist threat to Taiwan and the rest of the free world? If you missed part one of this interview, you can find it here.  Part 1 Overview Jan Jekielek: Previously on American Thought Leaders. Gen. Robert Spalding: Warfare is daily. It never ends. There’s no beginning and end like there is here in the west. Mr. Jekielek: In part one of my interview with the retired Brigadier General Robert Spalding, we discussed the Chinese regime strategy of unrestricted warfare, which is detailed in his latest book War Without Rules: China’s Playbook for Global Domination. Now in part two. Gen. Spalding: The Chinese Communist Party doesn’t do things willy nilly. It’s very deliberate. Mr. Jekielek: Behind China’s draconian lockdowns. What’s really going on? Is it potentially related to Xi Jinping’s plans for Taiwan? Gen. Spalding: They’re going to go element by element through their economy and see which of those is still open to attack from the west, to seal those up prior to invading Taiwan. Mr. Jekielek: In part two, General Robert Spalding breaks down how the U.S. can effectively counter the Chinese communist threat to the free world. Gen. Spalding: When we brought China into this international order, we began to suppress the principles and values that made us free here in America. Below is a rush transcript of this American Thought Leaders episode from Apr 30, 2022. This transcript may not be in its final form and may be updated. Jan Jekielek: This is American Thought Leaders and I’m Jan Jekielek. So What is going on with these extreme lockdowns. I don’t even know. At this moment, 300 million people or something like that. We’ve got Shanghai, I think Shanghai’s still lockdown, multiple cities across China. Those are the prominent ones. I mean really some extreme stuff. And let’s put it this way. The information doesn’t appear to be suppressed at all. And we know that the Chinese Communist Party is constantly waging this asymmetric unrestricted warfare. So presumably, they want everybody to know that there’s these really crazy lockdowns, actually to the point that there’s protests happening. And it makes a lot of people out here be scratching their heads like, what’s really happen. What is this really about? Is it about an actual zero COVID policy, which I think the CCP is probably smart enough to understand just doesn’t work or not? I don’t know. Why are they so committed to that? Or is there something else going on entirely? What do you think? Gen. Robert Spalding: Well, first of all, a good Harvard study that talks about how China controls social media. And really, it’s not about preventing protests, it’s about preventing viral protests. And so there is an ability to let off steam within the system, if it essentially starts to… If the den gets too high, then they’ll shut it down. And so it’s a way for them to modulate anxiety and anger within the system. So they allow that to happen. It’s quite effective. And like I said, Harvard did a study and documented that quite well. So I don’t think we know. It’s like a pressure cooker. I think the Chinese have a much better idea of how much pressure the system actually has and how close it is to actually boiling over because they control all the social media system. So that’s number one. So I would not think that they would let that get too close to a red line, number one. So what do they seek to accomplish by locking people down? Well, it could be to just see how far they can take it. How much can they control the population or who are the ones that are the problems? And maybe those are the people that are next on the list for targeting. Again, they have this system engineering approach to society with the social credit score. So, could be that they’re trying to find the outliers that create the problem, that are the insurgents within that they have to call out. It can be that they are dealing with the fact that they have a slow in economy. You have inflation, that’s global now, and you have very expensive resources. One of which is energy. Let’s tamp down our need for that energy. That could be one of the ways they do it, so your prices drop for those things. They also can see that inflation is spiking in other countri

PART 2: Behind China’s Lockdown Madness—Gen. Robert Spalding on a Looming Taiwan Invasion, the Russia-Ukraine War

“They’re going to go element by element through their economy and see which of those is still open to attack from the West … to seal those up prior to invading Taiwan.”

Previously, in part one of my interview with retired Brigadier General Robert Spalding, he broke down the Chinese regime’s strategy of unrestricted warfare, which is detailed in his latest book “War Without Rules: China’s Playbook for Global Domination.”

Now in part two, we discuss what’s really going on behind China’s new round of draconian lockdowns. Is it potentially related to Xi Jinping’s plans for Taiwan?

“The Chinese Communist Party doesn’t do things willy-nilly. It’s very deliberate,” Spalding says.

How can the United States effectively counter the Chinese communist threat to Taiwan and the rest of the free world?

If you missed part one of this interview, you can find it here. 

Part 1 Overview

Jan Jekielek: Previously on American Thought Leaders.

Gen. Robert Spalding: Warfare is daily. It never ends. There’s no beginning and end like there is here in the west.

Mr. Jekielek: In part one of my interview with the retired Brigadier General Robert Spalding, we discussed the Chinese regime strategy of unrestricted warfare, which is detailed in his latest book War Without Rules: China’s Playbook for Global Domination. Now in part two.

Gen. Spalding: The Chinese Communist Party doesn’t do things willy nilly. It’s very deliberate.

Mr. Jekielek: Behind China’s draconian lockdowns. What’s really going on? Is it potentially related to Xi Jinping’s plans for Taiwan?

Gen. Spalding: They’re going to go element by element through their economy and see which of those is still open to attack from the west, to seal those up prior to invading Taiwan.

Mr. Jekielek: In part two, General Robert Spalding breaks down how the U.S. can effectively counter the Chinese communist threat to the free world.

Gen. Spalding: When we brought China into this international order, we began to suppress the principles and values that made us free here in America.

Below is a rush transcript of this American Thought Leaders episode from Apr 30, 2022. This transcript may not be in its final form and may be updated.

Jan Jekielek: This is American Thought Leaders and I’m Jan Jekielek.

So What is going on with these extreme lockdowns. I don’t even know. At this moment, 300 million people or something like that. We’ve got Shanghai, I think Shanghai’s still lockdown, multiple cities across China. Those are the prominent ones. I mean really some extreme stuff. And let’s put it this way. The information doesn’t appear to be suppressed at all. And we know that the Chinese Communist Party is constantly waging this asymmetric unrestricted warfare. So presumably, they want everybody to know that there’s these really crazy lockdowns, actually to the point that there’s protests happening.

And it makes a lot of people out here be scratching their heads like, what’s really happen. What is this really about? Is it about an actual zero COVID policy, which I think the CCP is probably smart enough to understand just doesn’t work or not? I don’t know. Why are they so committed to that? Or is there something else going on entirely? What do you think?

Gen. Robert Spalding: Well, first of all, a good Harvard study that talks about how China controls social media. And really, it’s not about preventing protests, it’s about preventing viral protests. And so there is an ability to let off steam within the system, if it essentially starts to… If the den gets too high, then they’ll shut it down. And so it’s a way for them to modulate anxiety and anger within the system. So they allow that to happen. It’s quite effective. And like I said, Harvard did a study and documented that quite well. So I don’t think we know. It’s like a pressure cooker. I think the Chinese have a much better idea of how much pressure the system actually has and how close it is to actually boiling over because they control all the social media system. So that’s number one.

So I would not think that they would let that get too close to a red line, number one. So what do they seek to accomplish by locking people down? Well, it could be to just see how far they can take it. How much can they control the population or who are the ones that are the problems? And maybe those are the people that are next on the list for targeting. Again, they have this system engineering approach to society with the social credit score.

So, could be that they’re trying to find the outliers that create the problem, that are the insurgents within that they have to call out. It can be that they are dealing with the fact that they have a slow in economy. You have inflation, that’s global now, and you have very expensive resources. One of which is energy. Let’s tamp down our need for that energy. That could be one of the ways they do it, so your prices drop for those things.

They also can see that inflation is spiking in other countries. So what else happens when you close down the supply chain of the world, you got a slowing of diminishing supply in those countries. So now inflation spikes over there, we don’t have a way to control the population automatically. People get angry about inflation. Now we do it through the polls, but it also becomes… Inflation is a destructive thing, not just to your society, but also to your currency. So maybe that has a part to play. Maybe they don’t want their popular to catch on the fact that the Chinese Communist Part isy supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And actually, Putin came and got Xi’s blessing and went back with Xi’s blessing.

And I have some ideas on why that was. Maybe they’re testing how they might approach a Taiwan invasion, if it starts to go wrong or if it becomes too bloody and the population needs to be suppressed. So there’s a lot of things that can be going on. And I think again, to our knowledge of what happens in the Chinese Communist Party, I don’t think it’s because they actually believe that it will prevent the spread of COVID. That’s not it. I think the coronavirus, really is this methodology for control and they have the reasons that they’re doing it. I don’t know what they are.

Mr. Jekielek: Well, and let me pick up on what you mentioned earlier, you have a few theories about why Vladimir Putin went to China. Which scenario? I mean, Vladimir Putin’s been, I think I was talking with Kyle [Pass 00:06:07] the other day, over the last 10 years, it’s been like 40 times, 40 visits, Xi Putin’s sort of thing. Which trip are you talking about specifically here and what-

Gen. Spalding: Well, specifically, he went and they had this 5,000 word statement-

Mr. Jekielek: Oh, the Olympics trip, of course. Yeah.

Gen. Spalding: Right. And so what I believe, the reason what Xi gets out of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is he gets to sit back and watch how the west approaches that, in terms of what are they going to do to Russia as a result of that. Because I think, it gives them a way to anticipate what they may face when they go into Taiwan. And so I think it also gives them an ability to stress test their own system. Again, non-convertible currency, strict capital controls. Not Russia, Russian Ruble basically has been destroyed by the sanctions that come on the tail end of the invasion.

The Chinese, you can’t do that, but there are other ways and other methodologies that could potentially create a problem for China. So I guarantee you that Liu He, Xi Jinping’s economic advisor, is watching all of those things and they’re watching all the metrics. And they’re trying to anticipate how the west might try to get at them.

When they’re going to do, is they’re going to go element by element through their economy and which of those is still open to attack from the west. And if they have any that are vulnerable, they’ll seek to seal those up prior to invading Taiwan. Prior to World War 1, there’s a small memoir written by ambassador Morganthau. He was a U.S. ambassador to Turkey. And he got to be really good friends with the German ambassador.

And in addition to Morganthau basically fighting the Turks over the Armenian genocide, he got to learn through the German ambassador, what was the lead up to war? And the German ambassador told him, they met, he was called back to Germany, they met with all the bankers and the Kaiser. And the Kaiser looked around the table and said, “Is everybody ready for war?” And the banker said, “Not quite, we need to liquidate our holdings in the west prior to kicking off the war.”

And so they did, they liquidated their holdings, two weeks later the war started. I would anticipate that the Chinese Communist Party now will go through the steps needed to ensure that they’re going to liquidate their holdings. They’re going to do things that actually insulate themselves from economic attack, and thus enable themselves to invade Taiwan without suffering too many consequences. It may be too that they anticipate that they’re going to have to impose martial law in China.

What better way to impose martial law then by convincing the population that you are trying to protect them from this virus? So there’s a lot of things that go into thinking about how the Chinese Communist Party thinks about lockdowns, because they’re an incredible tool for control. The Chinese Communist Party doesn’t do things willy nilly. It’s very deliberate. And so what under-restricted warfare allows you to do is anticipate what those reasons are and, or what they might be.

Mr. Jekielek: Another thing you mentioned, which I thought was very interesting was a place where the Chinese regime is exposed, if it chooses, say to go after Taiwan and so forth, is its holdings essentially outside of some aspects of the Belt and Road Initiative. Basically, the ways that it’s invested in the west. This is what presumably analysts can be looking for now, is attempts to extract that based on what you’re saying.

Gen. Spalding: So look at what Saudi Arabia did to the royal family when the prince took over, basically locked him in the hotel and said, “Sign over your assets.” When we look at China, again, we do a lot of pattern matching as Americans and we pattern match systems. And we say there’s the individual and then there’s a state. And in the case of China, there’s the individual, there’s a state, then there’s a party. And typically when it comes to assets, we separate the assets of the individual from the state or the party. Now, what’s happened in Russia is we’ve gone after the oligarchs. So we’ve made that leap. The oligarchs is like going back to Kosovo, who are the least supporting Milosevic, who are the least supporting Putin. Let’s go after their assets. Let’s even go after the assets of Putin’s family himself.

So when you think about what leverage do we have over the Chinese Communist Party? We have the fact that the party, the state and the families of the party members are different. The state is not sovereign, the party’s sovereign. So if you have a problem with the state, you don’t go to the state, you go to the party. And if you have a problem with the party, you go to the family of the party members. And so that’s where the leverage is.

It’s in the asset held by the families of the party members that are, especially at the top, almost all very wealthy and they have assets outside the country. Because they’ve moved those assets outside the country, because they know within China, you could lose everything in a heartbeat. But outside, you’re going to have to fight that. So if you think about what leverage can you have over the party, it is over the assets of the family members of the party.

Mr. Jekielek: Well, and just a curiosity, I have to mention this, technically I think it’s elite and deeply illegal to be moving those assets outside of the country. Isn’t it?

Gen. Spalding: Well, yeah. But then you’re talking about a system that has rule of law. When you have rule by law, everybody’s doing something illegal. But it only matters, it’s just like the animal farm. Some animals are equal, some animals are more equal than others. So, yes, it’s illegal. So technically, you could be doing the Chinese people a favor by encumbering the assets of these communist party family members.

But ultimately, I think we’re going to have to make that leap if we want to have any hope of putting pressure on the Chinese Communist Party. Now here’s the thing, I don’t know that Xi will even blink an eye. I don’t think he works that way. I think he’s very much devoted to the party and he’s a communist through and through. And I think he’s already made peace with the fact that, that could be something that comes.

And what’s more important to him is taking back Taiwan. He said he’s not going to leave it to the next generation. So I don’t think you’re going to deter him at all. I think before Xi, you probably could have used that as maybe a tool. I think in this time, I honestly don’t believe that there’s anything we could do to stop the Chinese Communist Party from an invading Taiwan. I think we have to think more in terms of what can we preserve? What can we save in terms of lives?

That’s the thing that I think that, if we’re really moral, what’s achievable. And what’s achievable is something that says, “Hey, we are going to do our best to ensure the safety of the people of Taiwan.” We’re not going to be able to stop China’s invasion. That’s beyond our ability to control at this point, because we’ve allowed them to build up too much power, military power on their side of the strait.

Mr. Jekielek: So I don’t know if that’s a commonly held view, what you just expressed?

Gen. Spalding: I don’t think that we, Americans, are very good at saying, “We’re not the best.” It won’t even come out of our mouth. One of the words that we use so often is this idea of near peer. That China’s a near peer. We could never say China’s a peer, because then that is particularly militarily. And then to go beyond that and say, “No, China is superior.” That would be against everything that we are as Americans. It’s hard for us to basically allow that to come out of our mouth. It’s just something that’s so anathema to who we are as a people. And so we say China’s a near peer, despite the fact that war game after war game, after war game, after war game, after war game, we lose in a war with China over Taiwan. And not only we lose, we lose fast. We lose really fast.

And so we have no chance short of, short of nuclear war in winning war over Taiwan. And nobody wants to contemplate nuclear war because you’re talking about the end of potential end of civilization. So if it’s end of civilization or China gets Taiwan, what’s your choice if you’re the president of the United States. Okay. So that’s the case, what do we do? What’s our responsibility? What was our responsibility to the people of Berlin? What was our responsibility to the people of Eastern Europe that fell under the iron curtain? It was to do the best we can to provide for them and to struggle to essentially in the end defeat communism, defeat tyranny, but you’re talking about a long term struggle.

Where we have to economically, and politically, and socially, and academically decouple, and we have to allow the principles and values of free society enable us to surpass the economic power of China. And eventually allow their citizens to recognize that they live in a tyranny and it’s in not in their best interest. That’s a long struggle. But to get into a war over Taiwan and to potentially, have it escalate to a existential threat to humanity, I just don’t see any leader committing to that.

Mr. Jekielek: It’s very interesting how many parallels there are and what you described right now to what’s happening in Russia and Ukraine right now. That’s what’s striking me at least with broad strokes, obviously. You started diving into what to do here now in this situation. The Chinese Communist Party has been waging unrestricted warfare on America principally of course, on the west, using all these different means as its disposal, Belt and Road Initiative. All sorts of economic warfare, subversion of these international multilateral organizations, many things.

You’re making the case that when it comes to Taiwan at least China, the Chinese Communist Party is better positioned militarily to take it. So what to do? And I don’t mean about Taiwan, I just mean in general. You painted a whole bigger picture here and you mentioned decoupling as one of the key tools of strategy of America’s own unrestricted warfare, I suppose. Or are you suggesting that America needs to wage unrestricted warfare in response?

Gen. Spalding: Well, that goes back to the founding of America. What is America? It’s a mind virus. It’s this idea that by your nature, you’re supposed to be free as a human. And that’s a terribly, terribly powerful idea. But it’s not powerful in the sense that you’re not actually free. And so when we brought China into this international order, we began to suppress the principles and values that made us free here in America.

So in decoupling, we begin to get reacquainted with our own principles and values, what they mean. And therein, lies the allure of America. So we don’t have to wage unrestricted war on China. What we have to do is reach our true potential because Americans reach their true potential and they’re totally free, and they have the blessings of liberty, then their enthusiasm and boundless energy cannot be subdued. And that shines like a beacon around the world.

And that has been the thing for over 204 years that has made us strong. It’s not that we have weapons. It’s not that we have a strong military. It’s that people look to us and say, “God, I wish I was like that.” Or, “I wish I could be there.” And to the extent that we’ve allowed China to basically erode, through its connection to everything, international order, our own domestic institutions, those principles and values around the globe, and we can break free of that. Then we’re going to shine like a beacon again. And when we do, we can work with other nations that have similar aspirations. And to the extent that they also decouple from China, then they can begin to prosper. And as that system begins to show its true strength… The strength of China has been creating this false allure of their system.

This false allure is wrapped in the American flag. It’s wrapped in all the blessings of liberty because we’ve given it all to them. But if we maintain it for ourselves and we work with our partners to it, to enable American citizens to get reacquainted with the blessings of liberty, China cannot compete with that. They know it. That’s why they’re so afraid of the constitution because they’re afraid of this mind virus that can find itself a home within the mind of an average Chinese citizen.

There are Chinese people that would embrace American freedom if they could. Who are the people that we thought of, came to the United States that really embrace the values? It’s the huddled masses. It’s the people that are hurting. That’s why they come to America. The elites that come to America, if they’re white collar, they don’t embrace the values of America because they don’t understand what it’s about.

It’s about dreaming, not just for a better life for you, but for your children. That’s the thing that you can break the Chinese Communist Party on that idea. And they know it. And so we don’t have to embrace unrestricted warfare. We don’t have to embrace war at all. We need a military to defend ourselves, but if we could just separate ourselves from China and really allow the blessings of liberty to allow us to grow our innovation technology, talent and capital intrinsically, then the American people are going to be prosperous. They’re going to be happy. They’re going to be fulfilled. They’re going to reach their potential.

And the Chinese people will look at that and they will say, not only will they not have those things to help paper over the inadequacies of the Chinese system, the Chinese communist system, so their economy will begin to degrade and slow even more than it has. And when that happens, they’ll have unemployment, they’ll have challenges, and they’re going to look across the ocean, they’re going to say, “There’s a better way to do this.”

This was what we did during the Cold War. It wasn’t about fighting a war that was anywhere near unrestricted warfare. It was about allowing the American people to reach their true potential, and letting the people that were in the form of Soviet states to look across the ocean and say… And most of the leaders of those nations, when the Cold War ended, they were listening to Voice of America, they were listening to Radio Free Asia, they were listening to Radio Free Europe.

And most of them, that was the first place they stopped when they came to Washington D.C. after the fall of the Soviet Union, to say, “Thank you for to being my voice of hope.” And that hope was not just those radio programs. It was actually in this idea that I could embrace. I could usher in these blessings of liberty to my own nation, if I’m strong enough and have enough resolve.

Mr. Jekielek: You made a lot of recommendations at the end of the book about how to… And this is a piece of what you just described. One of the things was, I guess, recreating the U.S. information agency, which was, I guess, subsumed by the state department at some point. And many other, I mean, you have some suggestions about how to do AI development in a way that’s constructive, which I thought was very interesting.

Before I go there, the pandemic has certainly showed us that in the U.S. and in many western countries, we’re willing to adopt on one hand and accept, I guess, a direction that’s very much more similar to what communist China has than what the U.S. traditionally has. And actually, I’m moved by what you said moments ago. At the same time, I’m asking myself this question, is it that the west is accepting through its practice of the last two years or so, those types of approaches, much more so than the other way around, which is what you’re advocating?

Gen. Spalding: Well, I think that, when you have a society that’s functioning in American society, that’s functioning in all cylinders, it’s actually where people are enabled to reach their potential, where there is economic opportunity. I don’t think that we truly understand the implication of destroying industrial base to the economic soul of the country. And there was this big push and there still is, to let’s just make everybody a coder.

If everybody could just be a software developer, then we’re going to be great and other people can make stuff. But there’s a segment of our society that always wanted to make stuff and we basically destroyed that. We hollowed it out and we said, “We don’t want the dirtiness. We don’t want the mass.” We really don’t even want those people. We want those people to change and be something more than what they were.

I think that was bad. That was wrong for us. I think as we settled into that funk where we had no industrial base, we had no manufacturing capability and we had no working class that could aspire to better or could create to even have, long-term employment that they could raise a family and buy a home. You don’t have that anymore. You rent a home, rent a room in Airbnb if you can, or drive for Uber.

You don’t work in a factory for 20, 30 years and raise your kids and allow them to be something more. When you have that going on, at the same time that you have the social activism that we see on university campuses that are much less effusive about the blessings of liberty and much more about how do we destroy the system so that we can recreate it in more of a communist manner, then what I would think would be outliers in the society now have a willing populist to bring them along.

And so, again, it’s not just China that’s been able to essentially corrupt us through all the tools of modernity and especially using IT. I mean, the two colonels talk about IT as the bonding agent for society and the way that you get control over society, but we’ve done it to ourselves by hollering out the meaning of life for a big segment of our population.

So, I think that if you can restore that, if you can restore the dream of the working class so they can have jobs and they can really have hope, really we’re talking about hope here, it’s tied closely to economic prosperity and your own ability to essentially provide for yourself and your family. This is very basic. It’s something of human dignity. If you can have that, then this idea that America’s a bad place. And we break each other on the differences rather than embracing the differences, then I think that you have the Chinese Communist Party’s ability to throw hand grenades in there and make it worse, diminish it.

So there are economic factors or social, and there’re political factors. And I think they all begin to be solved if we can just get some separation and ensure that we’re investing in our own people. People for the most part, here in the United States, if they have economic opportunity, if they can raise a family, if they can have a long-term employment, if they can have hope for the future, they’re not going to… Some professor was saying on some on campus, somewhere about the fact that what you say is reality, not what is reality.

If you say, “The sun revolves around the earth,” well, then that’s your truth. But that’s your reality. That’s what we have people saying today. Everybody knows that’s crazy. But when you have a society that is not pursuing their own best outcomes, you create this division because people, they don’t have hope. And I think that’s where these things have gotten purchases, is because of what happened at the end of the Cold War and this parasitic relationship with China.

Mr. Jekielek: Around AI, we have this situation where, for example, Google has been very open to be working, doing AI R&D in China, where we know again, based on the colonels tell us that everything has to be dual use, military as well as public. But they won’t or do AI R&D for example with the U.S. military. This was a bizarre dichotomy. So that struck me as an incredible application of unrestricted warfare. How did they pull that off? It’s almost hard to imagine. You make some pointed suggestions about how to do AI development in a way that would actually be secure and thoughtful. I wonder if you could share that. And the second thing is a bit about your current work, which is again, all about it seems countering the Chinese Communist Party.

Gen. Spalding: Well, so first of all, I think what the two PLA colonels recognized was the power of information technology to change our lives. And to change our lives in ways that would actually promote the interests of the Chinese Communist Party. I can collect data about you because I can see the data that’s collected by your smartphone and I have access to that data. Like today, I could go home right after this.

I could call somebody up and I could say, “I was in this room in Washington D.C. Here’s the address. Can you draw a circle around that room? And I want you to go and find the devices in that room. And then I want you to watch those devices over the next two weeks. And then I want you to come back and tell me who owns those devices. And then I want you, after I know that, there’s these two people that I want you to pay attention to. Watch everything that they do.”

Now today, with software development kit data, that’s used for making apps for smartphones, you can buy that data on the open market. And it can be what’s called GDPR data. It doesn’t reveal your identity, but you can figure it out. Where do you go at night? Where do you keep going every single night? Oh, who lives in that house? Who owns that property? Who drives that car? You can begin with, this is what an Intel animals can tell you.

So now, if I know your device and I can watch everything you do, I can send you ads that are targeted directly to you, that I want you to see, that can have malware embedded, or it can just be something I want you to notice. When you’re going somewhere, I can send you an ad for something and have you see it. And I have a way to interact with you. I have a way to track you. I have a way to understand everything that you do, because I’m tracking this device now.

That is the current reality. That happens today every single day and it happens anywhere around the world. Anybody that’s got a smartphone in their possession, that happens. That’s one level of understanding which leads to a level of control. The next level of understanding and control is cameras. You walk out of here, you have no device, but there’s cameras in the building, there’s cameras outside the building and those cameras pick you up.

They have facial recognition, they have gate recognition. They have all kinds of forms of recognition that are peculiar to you. Again, so I start to track you. I start to understand what you’re doing. And then because I have this information, I try to think about what I can do with this information. I can sell you things. I can make your life more convenient. And then I can build a business model around doing that.

I can build an app. I can build a service, Uber. Becomes a way to take the things, this data, and then use it in new and different ways. Ways that I can use to make a very valuable company, but also ways that I can use then in the case of the Chinese Communist Party, and in the case of contract tracing here in the United States. I can use for the purposes of slowing a pandemic. Okay. Well, if I have that power over your data, then what else can I do with it? And this is where you get on the slippery slope of it becomes intoxicating, either for a corporation or a government to use that data for all kinds of unintended things that you would consider against your own interests.

Okay. So if that’s a world that we live in today, and it’s a world that we’re accelerating into with the explosion of 5G and connected cameras everywhere, and other sensors that are tracking you. How do we protect ourselves in that world? Well, we have to basically say that data about you, regarding you and your data should be protected. It should be prevented from being used in ways that are counter to your interests. That’s not something that we have dealt with. We understand our constitution. We understand the physical world, but we don’t understand the digital world.

And so what I believed was that, not only was this digital system absolutely critical to life, it’s the way that you get a ride today. It’s the way that you get food. It’s the way that you get medicine. It’s the way that you get medical help. It’s the way that you have first responders to meet your needs. It’s important. Can be taken away like that by North Korea with one weapon, because it’s not hardened. So that was an issue. And then the other issue is because I have all this dated about you, I can undermine you. I can influence you. I can suppress you. I can raise you up depending on what my motivations are whether I am a corporation, an institution, a non-government organization, or a rogue state.

Mr. Jekielek: I just have to jump in for one sec. How is it that TikTok is still in this country on a kajillion cell phones with the power of the CCP behind it?

Gen. Spalding: Because people don’t understand the power of… I mean, Washington D.C. is not full of technologists. They’re not full of people that understand technology and where it’s gone. And so protecting that data about you and of you, is equivalent to your individual liberty that’s basically enshrined in the constitution. And so to take this next leap, you have to take that data and you have to lock it down. You have to encrypt it. It has to be locked down. And the only person that can have the key is you.

Now, how do you do that in the world of today? Nobody’s going to give away their smartphone. What about the cameras? So thinking through that, how you protect that data, and then how do you preserve this ability to communicate and get access to services is what Siempre is about. Siempre as a word in the Spanish language means always. It’s about protecting liberty always.

And I thought that we needed a technological means of reinforcing our constitutional freedoms and that has to be around protecting your data. And so that’s what we’re focused on, is protecting data and securing it and making sure it’s secure and available. And quite frankly, I felt like my time working with nuclear weapons really gave me a vision of how that would be. And that’s really because the United States has never had unauthorized use of a weapon.

We’ve had accidents, but there’s never been a detonation. That’s because we have something called nuclear surety. It deals with the personnel, the material, and the procedures by which we handle those very dangerous weapons. Well, we take that approach to data and we say, “We want to make sure the personnel, the material and the procedures by which we operate on your data is given the same deference that those powerful weapons are.”

And so if we can do that, if we can create this way of securing data and protecting your individual liberty by protecting your data that’s of and about you, then we can instantiate in technology the means of protecting your freedoms. For instance, today, you could have a system where you go into a 7-Eleven, you pick up a bag of chips and you walk out and you never swipe your credit card. In today’s instantiation of that, I just described that everything about you would be known in that situation. You could have another situation where that data that’s being collected about you can be used to do a transaction, but that transaction looks very much like a credit card transaction today. And no other information is passed to the store. Not your name, not your phone number, not your address. And nobody else has it either.

As you walk around the city, that data is used for making your life more convenient, but ultimately once it’s used, it’s always kept secured and encrypted, but it’s not given out. And I think we build a system today on open data and everybody’s data being available to any company in any corporation, any government. And what I think that our vision is that at least in those communities, in those areas that want it, we can provide a different future.

Mr. Jekielek: Well, and I think something you’re also developing is hardened cell towers, basically. And a system that could basically stand in juxtaposition to Huawei’s deployment of its technology across the world at mass scale. I mean, this is the beginnings of this, or where are you at?

Gen. Spalding: Well, I mean, so if you look at the evolution of computing technology, there’s been this time to be decentralized and decentralized, centralized and decentralized. With 5G, we’re moving into this world of decentralized computing. So we had these big, what they call hyperscale clouds, that today power the apps that run behind the scenes that power your smartphones. As we move more to this world of cameras, we’re moving to more of a decentralized disaggregated computing structure. In order to do that, how do you provide the security and resiliency of that capability? Well, that’s what we looked at. And so one of the things that we found in looking at that and trying to thinking about this problem differently, if we have an electromagnetic pole, say from a high altitude nuclear weapon, or a solar flare, how do we create a system that we’re surviving what today, our system won’t?

Well, we went through the engineering. The cool thing that we found out about that is our devices already will survive. The engineering, the geometry, the circuitry, the way it’s structured is small enough that you can’t get an EMP to propagate and therefore that device continues to work. So you have a device in your pocket today that works. And North Korea, lights off an EMMP over the United States, infrastructure goes down, you can’t call anybody.

There’s no cell tower to connect to. There’s no data center to run the back end of your smartphone. So in conjunction with this decentralization and disaggregation of computing power, we created a cell tower and a data center that would allow that system to survive in that tower itself. And so, our goal is to provide that infrastructure, not just to the enterprises and the banks, and all the companies that need it but also to our military.

So, we want to provide these to any military that’s an ally or partner of the United States to allow them to communicate on the battlefield. But at the same time, if you think about it, say American military forces can continue to communicate, but the American people can’t. You can’t buy milk, you can’t go to the gas station, you can’t pay for anything, you can’t call for help. You can’t get medical services because all of that’s done through your device.

What good is it that our military can talk? I mean, the social fabric begins to unravel pretty fast. We saw that during the Hurricane Katrina, how quickly civil society began to erode. These devices have become essential to life. And so having that ability to have that connectivity and resiliency, and in an addition, have protection over your data, that’s what we’re about. And the cool thing about this thing is, you can create something brand new that is not just a cool technology. It’s also providing for a different way of looking at how we preserve our nation.

Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. Any final thoughts?

Gen. Spalding: You know, one of the things that I appreciate is what you’ve been doing as a journalist. I think that it’s very hard in this day and age to maintain your independence, to maintain your objectivity when it comes to this vast ocean of data, that’s meant to be polluted, it’s meant to be dragging us down. So I just want to say thank you for that, because I believe in the fourth estate, I believe in the importance of the fourth estate. I believe in this country. I believe in the constitution. I believe that we have to fight to preserve it. And I recognize you as one of the important people doing that. Well, so thank you.

Mr. Jekielek: That’s very appreciated. General Robert Spalding, it’s such a pleasure to have you on again.

Gen. Spalding: Thank you.

Mr. Jekielek: Thank you all for joining General Robert Spalding and myself for this episode of American Thought Leaders. His book again is War Without Rules, and I’m your host Jan Jekielek. If you haven’t subscribed all ready, you can now try a 14-day free trial and get access to all of our deep dive interviews, documentaries, and exclusive content on Epoch TV, from American Thought Leaders to the Larry Elder Show. Just go to https://ept.ms/freetrialjan.

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