One of the key conflicts – at least in U.S. view – between U.S. and China over the last few years has been “cyber attack” and “cyber espionage.” During President Xi’s recent visit to the U.S., Obama has scolded Xi very publicly – and with much fanfare – that Chinese cyber espionage against U.S. government and companies must stop. Obama told reporters:
“I raised once again our very serious concerns about our growing cyberthreats to American companies and American citizens,” Obama said. “I indicated that it has to stop.”
“The U.S. government does not engage in cyber-economic espionage for commercial gain, and today I can announce that our two countries have announced a mutual understanding on the way forward,” he added.
The U.S. has long tried to distinguish between economic and political espionage, and tries to claim the high-road that it does not engage in the former. But as I have commented before, that distinction never held any water under closer observation.
In the lead up to Xi’s visit, there has been much posturing in U.S. media that the U.S. will hit back against China for recent attacks against U.S., including one against the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that allegedly compromised the social security numbers of 21 million Americans, finger prints of 5.6 million Americans, among others.
But there was no retaliation. Why?
The answer came earlier today in this CNN report:
In Washington on Tuesday, Republican senators pushed Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to explain why the Obama administration hasn’t responded more firmly to the hack.
Clapper acknowledged that one reason the U.S. hasn’t responded is because the U.S. engages in the same type of espionage. “We’re not bad at it,” he said.
Beijing has long denied it is involved in hacking, and often claims to be a victim of similar attacks. Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reiterated that position on Wednesday.
“The Chinese government firmly opposes any forms of hacking,” he said, noting the U.S. and China agreed just days ago not to conduct cybertheft of trade secrets and intellectual property against one another for commercial gain.
So the real reason the U.S. hasn’t retaliated is because – despite Obama’s public assertions – the U.S. is doing exactly the same thing! If the U.S. retaliate, it would given China reason to cherry pick its targets to retaliate, too. Tit for tat!
Obama’s public deceptive allegations remind me of a similar episode a few years ago in the lead-up to the Sunnylands meeting between Xi and Obama. Then, if you remember, the U.S. was building up the case to the world that China is the big bad cyber hacker and snooper in the Internet (even while conceding that there was not much direct evidence). A few weeks later, Edward Snowden revealed that the biggest, baddest hacker and snooper in the Internet is no other than the U.S.!
The last few weeks, Obama has tried to build up yet again a big case against China … this time via the OPM attack. But just like last time, the U.S. end up exposing itself more than China. Complementing Clapper’s testimony above, the U.S. also announced that it has to pull back of CIA spies from China because of fear that the recent hacking can expose these agents identities.
Hey Hillary, me thinks it is time to tweet:
Obama lecturing China about hacking and snooping? Shameless!