In January 2010, when Google accused Chinese hackers of infiltrating its network to track emails of human rights activists, the Obama administration didn’t disclose what U.S. diplomats in Beijing believed: China’s Politburo had directed the attack.
Today the White House no longer shies from publicly accusing Beijing of launching a sophisticated range of cyberattacks on U.S. computer networks to steal corporate and government secrets, including those of naval propulsion systems and gas pipeline technology, worth billions of dollars.
The dispute will take center stage when President Barack Obama meets China’s new president, Xi Jinping, on Friday for a two-day informal summit at the Sunnylands retreat in Rancho Mirage, Calif. White House aides say Obama will call for Beijing to take strong action against cyberattacks originating on its soil.
Obama has elevated cybersecurity to rank with economic and defense issues as a “constant focus” in relations with China, a White House official said. The flood of digital break-ins “threatens to damage U.S.-China relations, as well as potentially damage the international economy and China’s reputation.”
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said every nation has “a responsibility to seriously investigate what may be happening within its own borders, including its virtual cyberborders, and make best efforts to put a stop to activities.”
Washington and Beijing agreed in April to hold talks to try to set international rules for cybersecurity. Aides said Obama and Xi will discuss the agenda for the first meeting of the cyber working group on the sidelines of an Asian economic summit in July.