The US department of justice's decision to charge five People's Liberation Army officers for "business spying" is ill-advised, if not downright stupid.
The initial response from Beijing is that the charge is a pompous farce that will in no way advance American interests.
In addition to a flat denial of US accusations, which lack any credible evidence, Beijing has struck back, presenting proof that the US is "the present-day world's biggest cyberthief", and "the foremost state sponsor of cyberattacks on China".
The statistical information about US cyber intrusions the Chinese authorities produced makes it difficult for Washington to proclaim its own innocence.
The US indictment appears particularly awkward because Washington is simply rubbing salt into its bleeding wound from Edward Snowden's revelations. It is common knowledge that China, its military in particular, is the biggest online target of the omnipresent US National Security Agency and US Cyber Command.
It is thus a matter of course that Beijing should call the indictment a cock-and-bull story and a thief crying catch thief.
Nor can Washington expect any sympathy from Chinese Internet users. To them, the indictment is but an additional footnote to US hypocrisy.
The charges are said to underscore a longtime Obama administration goal to prosecute state-sponsored cyber threats. Yet the Snowden leaks seem to indicate that the NSA and US Cyber Command are the most formidable state-sponsored cyber threats in today's world. If they can be exonerated for what they have done and are still doing, blaming anyone else is shameless double standards.
US Attorney General Eric Holder should know very well that an indictment like this has little chance of being executed. Those charged are far away in their home country, where neither the government nor the people accept the legitimacy of the US charges. More important, the charge itself is flawed in both moral and jurisprudential terms.
It is yet to be seen if Beijing will make a tit-for-tat response by prosecuting specific Americans, which will be fully justifiable. But Beijing has already determined to suspend the work of a joint panel on Internet security, on the grounds that the Americans lack sincerity in the dialogue to establish a cooperative approach to cyber security.
The indictment will prove a sorrowful miscalculation, because Washington has nothing to win and a lot to lose.
(China Daily 05/21/2014 page8)