A few weeks ahead of a visit to Washington from Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Obama is talking tough about Chinese cyber-attacks.
“We’ve made very clear to the Chinese that there are certain practices that they’re engaging in that we know are emanating from China and are not acceptable,” Obama said in an appearance at Ft. Meade. “And we can choose to make this an area of competition – which I guarantee you we’ll win if we have to – or, alternatively, we can come to an agreement in which we say, this isn’t helping anybody. Let’s instead try to have some basic rules of the road in terms of how we operate.”
The Hill notes that the Administration is “reportedly weighing sanctions against Chinese interests or companies in response to the hacks.”
Chinese government hackers have reportedly stolen commercial data from many U.S. companies, and personal data about many American government employees — including those with security clearances, plus private data from Americans’ health-care companies. Obama has done little or nothing to stop this coast-to-coast raiding of Americans’ property, but has instead worked elsewhere to boost the Democratic party’s political power.
In the Pacific, China’s government is building new island-bases in internationally disputed waters, while Obama focuses his foreign-policy efforts on completing his nukes-and-cash sellout to the deepening alliance of Iran and Russia.
However, Obama did make a gesture of displeasure by refusing to stay at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel during the U.N. General Assembly this month. A Chinese conglomerate now owns the hotel, making it difficult to protect the president’s personal information if he were to stay there.
None of this passive-aggressive bluster from the President who drew the “red line” in Syria, and arranged the nuclear sellout to Iran, is likely to impress the Chinese much. The vague threat to escalate a cyber-war and make the Chinese sorry for messing with American hackers is an especially Obama-esque touch.
It remains to be seen if the cyber-espionage sanctions threat amounts to anything, but it should be noted those sanctions have already been portrayed as hitting corporate interests in China, while pointedly excluding the government of Beijing from blame. Admittedly, the distinction between “private” and “government” operations can be thin in China, but there is ample room for Beijing to work these sanctions down into a bit of wrist-slapping against companies out of favor with the Politburo anyway, just to prove how serious China is about cracking down on hackers.
The Chinese government has always maintained that it does not engage in, or condone, cyber-espionage. Indeed, Beijing likes to posture as the greatest enemy, and biggest victim, of hacking in the world. They’re sticking to this line, while chastising Obama for his aggressive rhetoric.
“We hope that the U.S. stops its groundless attacks against China, start dialogue based on a foundation of mutual respect, and jointly build a cyberspace that is peaceful, secure, open and cooperative,” said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman. “Maintaining cybersecurity should be a point of cooperation rather than a source of friction between both China and the United States.”