WASHINGTON—The Chinese regime responded in typical fashion to a White House warning about cyber-attacks Wednesday. The national security adviser to President Barack Obama warned Beijing on Tuesday to desist in its cyber-attacks, or the U.S. “will take action to protect our economy against cyberthreats.”
Thomas Donilon said U.S. concerns about Chinese cyber-attacks and intellectual property theft have increased, not only in government agencies but also in the private sector.
“Increasingly, U.S. businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber-intrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale,” Donilon said, according to a written statement from the White House.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying responded, saying China is also a major victim of cyber-attacks and warns of opening a “new battlefield.”
“China has always urged the international community to build a peaceful, secure, open, and cooperative cyberspace,” Hua said. “Cyberspace needs rules and cooperation, not wars. China is willing, on the basis of the principles of mutual respect and mutual trust, to have constructive dialogue and cooperation on this issue with the international community including the United States to maintain the security, openness, and peace of the Internet.”
Chen Pokong, an independent commentator on the Chinese regime’s propaganda and policy, said the response means nothing.
“It’s saying they are willing to set up a dialogue, but if you look at it the other way—when they talk about peace, etc., those nice-sounding words—the things they do are the opposite,” Pokong said. “Its essence is evil; it will simply change its tactics in carrying out cyberwar. The nature of the regime dictates this.”
Donilon had demanded that Beijing address “cyber-enabled theft” in three specific ways: publicly acknowledge the “urgency and scope” of the problem, make a commitment to stop the hackers, and cooperate in establishing international standards for cyberspace.
But Pokong said the regime ignored the first two and spouted a canned response to the third.
“After the media reports and industry accusations and government remarks, about cyber-attacking, the CCP lacks confidence, and it’s scared that the U.S. will retaliate in some way,” he said.
Hua’s response echoes earlier comments by outgoing Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Saturday, rebutting accusations of Chinese hacking.
“Anyone who tries to fabricate or piece together a sensational story to serve a political motive will not be able to blacken the name of others or whitewash themselves,” said Yang.
Donilon’s demands were the strongest and most specific to come from the Obama administration on Chinese cyber-attacks. The strong language reflects increasing pressure from a concerned U.S. business community, which has endured cyber-attacks from China for a number of years.
Speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, James R. Clapper, director of national intelligence, placed the threat of cyber-attacks ahead of al-Qaeda terrorist threats as a major national security concern.
While the intelligence community believes that the chance of an attack on critical infrastructure in the United States is presently remote, Clapper said that the cyberlandscape is developing at such a rapid rate that future security is hard to predict.
“In some cases, the world is applying digital technologies faster than our ability to understand the security implications and mitigate potential risks,” he said in a statement.
Cyber-attacks are estimated to have cost U.S. businesses hundreds of millions of dollars. A study of 56 U.S. organizations found that in 2011, cybercrime cost up to $46 million for some companies. The study, conducted by the security firm the Ponemon Institute, reported that in 2011, over 100 successful cyber-attacks were occurring every week among those companies.
Cybersecurity analysts have identified China as the primary source of cyber-attacks against the United States.
Information security company Mandiant has spent the past three years investigating its suspicion that the Chinese regime is behind one of the world’s most prolific cyber-espionage groups. “The details we have analyzed during hundreds of investigations convince us that the groups conducting these activities are based primarily in China and that the Chinese government is aware of them,” it stated in a report.
U.S. businessmen working in the defense industry in Virginia said that they felt financial pressure to manufacture in China but that security was a concern.
“We are very worried about it,” said one of the businessmen, who preferred not to have his company and name published. The man was at an Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) conference in Washington, D.C., last year.
John McClurg, co-host at the OSAC event and chief security officer of Dell’s Global Security, said that cybersecurity is an issue in China, but the scent of profit is too great for many U.S. companies to pass up.
McClurg also said that China’s approach to business differs from America’s in terms of intensity and values.
“[In China] business is war, and you only get in war to win,” he told The Epoch Times at the event.
U.S. companies must abide by rules and regulations, but in China there are few restrictions.
“[Chinese] say, ‘We are glad we are not punching under the same rules as [Americans] have because we would not have the powers that we do,’” McClurg said.
While Chinese people may work for different companies, explained McClurg, it is understood and written into law that they ultimately work for the state.
“The 1993 state security law basically recruits the entire population in a way to be a participant in any matter deemed an economic security matter,” he said.
Regarding the lengths Chinese businesses will go to in order to “win” the “war,” McClurg offered a warning to U.S. companies that are hoping to compete:
“Underestimate them at your own risk,” he said.
With additional reporting by Tara MacIsaac and Matthew Robertson
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 21 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.