Chinese President Xi Jinping is in the United States this week for his first state visit. However, prior to his arrival, accusations were flying that the Obama administration planned to levy sanctions against certain Chinese officials and companies responsible for cyber espionage.
No such sanctions have come, but cybersecurity has still been the focal point of President Xi’s visit.
During a stop in Seattle, President Xi denied that the Chinese government is involved in stealing U.S. trade secrets, or supports Chinese companies that do so.
“Cyber theft of commercial secrets and hacking attacks against government networks are both illegal; such acts are criminal offences and should be punished according to law and relevant international conventions,” Xi said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Instead, Xi noted that the United States and China have shared interests in cybersecurity and that China is “ready to strengthen cooperation with the US side on this issue.”
Meanwhile, national security adviser Susan Rice stated that Chinese state-sponsored cyber espionage must stop because it is a national security concern and will impact U.S.-China relations. While speaking at George Washington University, Rice stated, “this isn’t a mild irritation, it’s an economic and national security concern to the United States. It puts enormous strain on our bilateral relationship, and it is a critical factor in determining the future trajectory of U.S.-China ties.”
However, it is important to note that the language being used by the administration is considerably softer then what was being used prior to Xi’s arrival earlier this week. PoliticoPro noted that there are differing opinions within the administration on the best way to respond to Chinese actions but there is an agreement that, “they want to communicate they mean business, but not imperil a trade relationship worth $590 billion last year. They want to get Xi’s attention but not embarrass him on his visit,” reports Philip Ewing.
Check out this interesting Wall Street Journal article about how cyber experts were able to track down a Chinese military hacker responsible spearfishing attacks across Southeast Asia.