U.S. Accuses China of Spying; China Calls Charges Hypocritical

By:  Bob Adelmann
U.S. Accuses China of Spying; China Calls Charges Hypocritical

The United States accused five Chinese of espionage against American corporations, while China called the charges "overbearing and hypocritical."

On Monday the U.S. Justice Department filed indictments against five Chinese military officers for hacking into the computer networks of six American companies to obtain trade secrets and other sensitive business information. Although China has been engaging in espionage against the United States since the end of the Second World War, this is the first time charges have been levied on nationals living on foreign soil.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a news conference:

When a foreign nation uses military or intelligence resources and tools against an American executive or corporation to obtain trade secrets or sensitive business information for the benefit of its state-owned companies, we must say: Enough is enough.

The indictments were very specific, naming the exact location of the computer network used in the attacks, the group conducting and directing the attacks, and the individuals primarily responsible for carrying them out. It named the six American companies targeted as well: Alcoa, Westinghouse, United States Steel, Allegheny Technologies, SolarWorld, and the United Steel Workers union.

Each of the attackers was hit with 31 criminal counts of a conspiracy carried out by the Peoples’ Liberation Army over the last eight years. Added Holder, "This is a case alleging economic espionage by members of the Chinese military and represents the first-ever charges against a state actor for this type of hacking."

In the past when the Chinese government has been accused of cyber spying, it has scoffed at the charges, demanding details. As Assistant Attorney General John Carlin explained:

They responded [to such charges] by publicly challenging us to provide hard evidence of their hacking that could stand up in court. Well, today we are. For the first time, we are exposing the faces and names behind the keyboards in Shanghai used to steal from American businesses.

The response from China’s Foreign Ministry was immediate and predictable. Ministry spokesman Qin Gang claimed Holder’s charges were “made up” and would “damage Sino-American cooperation and mutual trust.” He added:

The Chinese government, military and associated personnel, have never engaged in online theft of trade secrets....

China [instead] is a victim of severe U.S. cyber theft, wiretapping and surveillance activities.

Zheng Zaguang, China’s assistant foreign minister, summoned Max Baucus, the U.S. ambassador to China, to tell him that his government “protested” the indictments, saying the U.S. attitude toward internet security was “overbearing and hypocritical.” Further, the indictment “seriously violated norms governing international relations” and “slandered the image of the Chinese army.”

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