Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Cyber cold war likely to continue

By Colin Speakman (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-18 07:44

Tensions are growing amid claims and counter-claims of cyber espionage by the United States and China. Even the just concluded Sino-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing couldn't ease the tensions.

In May, the US charged, albeit without evidence, five Chinese nationals with breaking into US companies' systems and stealing trade secrets, and called them "military hackers". On July 11, US Department of Justice officers arrested a Chinese national, Su Bin, for "working with hackers in China" to infiltrate US companies' networks and steal valuable data on military technology. Su is the owner of Chinese aviation technology company Lode Tech and has been accused of working with two co-conspirators in China to break into the computers of Boeing and other US defense contractors.

Raising tensions further, Fox News' Bob Beckel, who hosts The Five program, said: "Chinese are the single biggest threat to the national security of the US. Do you know what we just did? As usual, we bring them over here and teach a bunch of Chinamen, uh, Chinese people, how to do computers, and then they go back to China and hack us."

His remark has been strongly criticized by many, including Chinese Americans, with California State Senator Ted Lieu demanding Beckel's immediate resignation. Lieu has said that Americans "should all be alarmed by the racist, xenophobic comments".

Alarming it is indeed, as The Washington Post recently noted that "the US-China relationship is facing its stiffest test since then US president Richard Nixon traveled to Mao Zedong's China in 1972", and German Chancellor Angela Merkel again expressed serious concern over the US-sponsored hacking into confidential German data. If the US cannot trust its Western allies, how can it trust China, a country it openly admits to be in a competitive relationship with?

China, too, is stepping up its security protection against US surveillance. In May it announced that the Central Government Procurement Center had mandated all "desktops, laptops and tablet PCs purchased by central State organizations must be installed with OS other than Windows 8". The Chinese media have painted Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google, Yahoo and other IT giants as pawns of the US National Security Agency, claiming that foreign technology service providers such as Google and Apple can become cybersecurity threats to Chinese users.

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