Democracy & Technology Blog There they go again…

What a mindnumbingly senseless precedent the Dubai Ports World fiasco has set.
This time around it’s the State Department’s purchase of 15,000 “Think Pad” computers. “What’s wrong with that?” you might ask — “I’ve got a Think Pad. IBM, right?” Ah, but a year ago, IBM sold its low-margin PC division, including its Think Pad line, to Lenovo Group of China — scratch that, cue thunderclaps and witch cackles, Lenovo Group of Red Communist China. The $13 million worth of PCs, you see, are therefore now a probable effort to spy on our diplomats. At least two members of the U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission, including its chairman, Larry Wortzel, are worried and think you should be worried, too. “Members of Congress, I think, will react very strongly when they see a deal like this come through,” Wortzel says. His Commission colleague, Michael Wessel, warns, “The opportunities for intelligence gains by the Chinese are phenomenal.”
With trillions of dollars of international trade, you can see this protectionist paranoia will never end. They say our port security will be corrupted, our PCs will be tapped, and that the Barbie Dolls and DVD players on Wal-Mart shelves are destroying America. In my homestate of Indiana, we barely just turned back a xenophobic melee over the bid by ominous Australians to manage our Toll Road. This won’t end — unless we put a stop to the hysteria — now.
-Bret Swanson
Correction: the Lenovo PCs in question are not “Think Pad” laptops but “ThinkCentre” desktops and tower PCs.

Bret Swanson

Bret Swanson is a Senior Fellow at Seattle's Discovery Institute, where he researches technology and economics and contributes to the Disco-Tech blog. He is currently writing a book on the abundance of the world economy, focusing on the Chinese boom and developing a new concept linking economics and information theory. Swanson writes frequently for the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal on topics ranging from broadband communications to monetary policy.