On the afternoon of Sunday, June 7, 2020, a 36-year-old Chinese national named Wang Xin was at Los Angeles International Airport waiting to board Air China flight 988 back to his native Tianjin.
Things were tense in the US; Covid-19 was still raging, George Floyd protests were erupting all around the country, and Wang couldn’t wait to get home.
But he never made it. Before boarding his flight, Wang was approached by several men who flashed their badges and identified themselves as US federal agents. Wang was then taken into custody and questioned… and he eventually told the agents the truth.
Wang had already been in the US for 18 months at that point working within the University of California system to conduct cutting-edge genomics research. One of the published papers that he co-authored in late 2019, for example, focused on “TMEM131 family proteins in intracellular collagen assembly”.
Some of his work had even been funded by the National Institutes of Health.
But Wang confessed to federal agents that day that he was actually a People’s Liberation Army officer with the rank of Major, and that he had been ordered by his PLA superiors to “bring back information” about the University of California’s research, laboratory, personnel, and more.
This is all tantamount to industrial espionage. And Wang is far from alone.
At an event I attended this past weekend, I had the chance to spend a lot of time with a former CIA officer who spent more than 20 years working at the agency. As a former intelligence officer myself, he and I had a lot to talk about.
He reminisced about how one of his early assignments at the CIA was to track some Chinese intelligence operatives who were posing as university students in the United States… which is something he said is incredibly common.
Quite often Chinese intelligence operatives spend 6-8 years in school, completing PhDs in difficult “STEM” subjects like electrical engineering of advanced genomics.
But China doesn’t stop at just sending its operatives to American universities. They make sure their people subsequently get hired at prominent US companies, especially in industries like technology, energy, pharmaceuticals, etc.
Yet even then, as my CIA colleague explained, the spy’s value is minimal to the Chinese government. It takes another 15 to 20 years for them to work up the corporate ladder and have access to critical technological secrets.
Only then can the spy provide the Chinese Communist Party with highly prized secrets.
China is essentially willing to patiently invest DECADES of painstaking effort to achieve its intelligence objectives. And that’s pretty normal for the Chinese; their leadership tends to establish clear goals and long-term strategic visions that often look 30+ years into the future. A single decade is nothing for them.
Now, China’s authoritarian government obviously has a mountain of reprehensible flaws, and they have no intention of changing for the better. But one thing’s for sure: they know how to play the long game… and use it to their advantage.
Contrast this with the US government, which at present cannot even plan beyond the next few weeks.
Remember that the legal limit for the national debt was breached on January 19, 2023. And ever since then, the Treasury Department has had to resort to “extraordinary measures” in order to keep the government funded.
Now, it’s utterly pathetic that the federal government of the largest and supposedly ‘most prosperous’ economy in the world has to borrow trillions of dollars each year to make ends meet.
Consider that the Treasury Department collected a record $5 TRILLION in tax revenue last year; as recently as 2019, $5 trillion would have been more than enough to fund the entire government AND STILL run a budget surplus.
And yet, today, even $5 trillion is not enough money. So, the US government still needs to go deeper into debt in order to keep the lights on. Like I said, utterly pathetic.
But what’s worse is their inability to resolve this problem.
The guy who shakes hands with thin air insists that he will not negotiate a single penny of spending cuts in order to reach a compromise with Congress on raising the debt ceiling.
Obviously, it’s silly to think that the federal government shouldn’t cut spending. And it’s downright impossible to argue that there isn’t plenty of fat to trim.
Yet POTUS simply refuses to make a single cut, even though it’s precisely what the country needs.
And we can’t just chalk it up to the guy being senile and demented, either– this is a criminal level of incompetence, because it is deliberate and reckless.
Maybe he’ll change his tune before it’s too late. But it’s not just the debt ceiling issue. Nor is this short-sightedness a problem that is unique to Joe Biden.
Both Congress and the White House, for example, understand that Social Security’s trust funds are set to run out of money in less than ten years. And yet both sides and both political parties have agreed to take Social Security ‘off the table’. No changes to the program. No discussions. No solutions.
There’s a looming deadline to fix Social Security… and yet they’re happy to just kick the can down the road… just as previous Congresses and administrations have done.
These people are incapable of thinking long-term and solving challenges that are 10+ years out. At the moment they can’t even compromise on the next month’s debt ceiling crisis.
Quite simply they’re unwilling and/or unable to play the long game. And the country is worse off for it. The whole world is worse off for it.
This is why it makes so much sense to have a Plan B– something which requires long-term thinking.
We just talked about Social Security and how they refuse to do anything about it. But we can easily think long-term and set up the right kind of structure, like a solo 401(k), which provides more flexibility to save money for retirement.
We can also acknowledge the risks of America’s obvious financial and social decline and think about long-term solutions.
One option is to establish legal residency in a foreign country you enjoy visiting, which, over a few years, can lead to a second passport for your entire family. This will give you more freedom and opportunity, and act like a sort of insurance policy if you ever need it.
It takes time to set up, of course. But this isn’t a problem for people who play the long game… and recognize that there’s no downside in being prepared for obvious risks.