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US desperate to maintain cyber supremacy

By Liu Quan (China Daily)

Updated: 2015-06-12 07:42:38


US desperate to maintain cyber supremacy

A man uses his cell phone to read updates about former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden answering users' questions on Twitter in this photo illustration, in Sarajevo, Jan 23, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

Cyber security must be high on Central Military Commission Vice-Chairman Fan Changlong's agenda during his ongoing visit to the United States, especially after the US Department of Homeland Security said last week that the computers of the Office of Personnel Management had been hacked and data on about 4 million federal employees stolen.

As if they were waiting, major US media outlets immediately jumped the gun to say China had "hacked" US government websites. The New York Times website even alleged the same Chinese hackers had stolen personnel information from health insurance giants Anthem and Premera Blue Cross.

The US government and media are never tired of speculating on the "China cyber-threat" theory, which seems to have replaced the "China climate threat", "China environment threat" and "China food threat" theories. True, their enthusiasm for sensationalizing cyber issues ebbed after former National Security Agency operative Edward Snowden exposed the US' surveillance program, which even targeted American citizens and allies, but they are unlikely to give up this game as long as cyber security remains a major issue.

China is home to the largest number of netizens, which the US uses as an obvious excuse to accuse it of being behind almost every cyberattack, in particular, those that it cannot locate.

The latest wave of speculations comes along with the US Department of Defense announcing its Cyber Security Strategy, which lists cyber-action as a priority, implying that the US will more proactively handle cyberspace crisis and intervene earlier rather than later.

The US has spent huge amounts of human and financial resources, and energy to build a cyber military force and develop new cyber-weapons. In fact, it issued the International Strategy for Cyberspace in 2011 saying any cyberattack on the US would be treated as an act of war and vowed to strike back accordingly. And after the strategy was opposed by many, the US used the "China cyber threat" theory to ease the pressure. It is resorting to the same trick now.

The US' speculation, however, highlights another factor: China's cyberspace-related industries are developing fast, which has aroused US concerns. The US started developing its information technology industry since the 1990s and transformed it into one of the pillars of the national economy, gaining a solid competitive edge globally. And it has invested heavily in new technologies like big data and cloud computation over the past decade to maintain its leading position in the IT industry.

Given these facts, the US will never welcome China as a competitor. In fields such as electronic components, bandwidth and wifi devices, China is catching up with the US, and its enterprises like Huawei already pose a challenge to traditional US giants like Cisco and Intel. In a report this March, the World Intellectual Property Organization said that last year China submitted 255 million patent applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty framework, 18.7 percent more than in 2013 and the third-highest in the world.

The US is hell-bent on curbing China's advance in cyberspace because it does not want its dominant role challenged. But by labeling unfounded accusations against other countries and trying to thwart their progress, the US is surely not helping its own cause.

The author is director of the Institute Cybersecurity, affiliated to the China Center for Information Industry Development.