On Thursday, America was joined by four close allies—Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand—in its condemnation of China’s spying activates over the last twelve years. According to their statement, China has been launching cyber-attack campaigns to obtain classified information regarding trade and technologies from companies based in twelve countries.
Such activities constituted a violation of a 2015 pledge made by Chinese President Xi Jinping in the White House where he vowed to stop conducting cyber-attacks for commercial gains.
“This campaign is one of the most significant and widespread cyber intrusions against the U.K. and allies uncovered to date, targeting trade secrets and economies around the world,” said British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
This was the third time since September that American indicted Chinese intelligence personnel for hacking activities.
“This is just the beginning,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said. “Together with our federal partners, we will redouble our efforts to safeguard America’s ingenuity and investment.”
The Thursday accusations centered around allegations against two Chinese nationals, Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong, both of whom belonged to an intelligence group known as “Advanced Persistent Threat 10” or “Stone Panda.” According to U.S. officials, since 2010 they led a hacking campaign stealing technology pertaining a turbofan engine utilized in American and European commercial jets. Both individuals were believed to have acted “in association with” the Chinese Ministry of State Security.
In response, President Xi delivered a speech saying that China would not be dictated to by an outsider. China would continue to make changes in the area of intellectual property theft, he said. But the Chinese government, rather than foreign authorities, would get to decide the pace of its reforms.
“China’s goal, simply put, is to replace the U.S. as the world’s leading superpower, and they’re using illegal methods to get there,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. He considered companies targeted by the Chinese intelligence office a “who’s who” of US businesses.
Australia echoed the U.S. by conveying “serious concern” over Chinese commercial hacking. In a government-issued statement, a New Zealand official said the country “joins likeminded partners in expressing that such cyber campaigns are unacceptable.”
Beside the four countries already in the U.S.-led coalition, other nations including Canada, Japan, the Netherlands and Sweden also expressed intentions to condemn Chinese cyber-attacks.
However, many did not believe that the accusations would make a difference. Derek Scissors, a China analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, believed the U.S. should instead sanction Chinese companies. Diminishing their capacity to conduct business with American companies, according to him, would be a more effective strategy.
“Just as when the Obama administration did it, indicting a handful of Chinese agents out of the tens of thousands involved in economic espionage is necessary but not important,” said Scissors. “International denouncements may irritate Xi, but they place no real pressure on him.”
Featured image via Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP