Vincent Ni: For a long time, Huawei has been accused by some American politicians of “spying on Americans for the Chinese government,” but their evidence has always been sketchy. They played on fear and possibility. I don’t agree or disagree with them, but when Chinese commentators accuse U.S. companies of doing the same thing, Americans’ usual response is “where is the evidence?”

I’m not surprised by the New York Times report. After all, spying and fetching data are in the job descriptions of governmental organizations such as the National Security Agency—be they in China or the United States. They will not stop their operations because of revelations about the nature of their work, but they might instead make efforts to further beef up their capacity to be more technologically sophisticated in order not to expose themselves so easily. (Think: Edward Snowden was just a contractor!).

The key question—as raised from the very beginning of the Snowden revelations—is how the N.S.A. can use the data they obtain more carefully for genuine protection of citizens? I don’t think there is an answer to this. In Britain, for example, the line between liberty and government interference has been debated for hundreds of years. We will still be discussing this until the next “big shock” emerges.

From a journalist’s point of view however, no matter what the U.S. government is doing behind the curtains, there is always an opportunity for us to report and comment, as long as the evidence is sound. From Watergate to the Snowden affair, this is not the first time the U.S. government finds itself embarrassed. But after these scandals, they always seem to be able to move on, allow greater transparency and fiercer debates. This is perhaps what we in China should learn.


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