The Chinese government says it is willing to enter into talk with the government of the United States about cyber terrorism and hacking. Yesterday, a White House official made a statement calling on China to stop the hacking coming from inside its borders, and asserted that the international community could not tolerate the behavior any longer.
The statement was made by National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon at the Asia Society in New York. The remarks caused quite a stir as they represent the strongest line on the alleged hacking coming from any administration official. In recent months Chinese hackers have hit some of the most prestigious institutions in the United States, including the New York Times.
The Chinese government denies any involvement in the hacking of American companies, though it does allow for the possibility that rogue operators in its country are responsible. Today a spokesperson for the country’s foreign ministry, responding to the statement from Donilon, said China was willing to discuss the issue.
“China is willing, on the basis of the principles of mutual respect and mutual trust, to have constructive dialogue and cooperation on this issue with the international community including the United States to maintain the security, openness, and peace of the Internet,” said Hua Chuying, speaking for the Foreign Ministry.
It is unclear what level of commitment China will be working at on the hacking issue. Government officials, including the country’s Foreign Minister, have claimed that the country is opposed to waging any kind of war over the internet. China is, according to its own statements, not interested in cyber terrorism as a tool of warfare.
This issue is likely to weigh heavily on relations between the world’s largest economies in the years to come. If the comments from Chinese officials are to be believed, the issue may be diffused before it can cause major problems. There are clear reasons for both countries to shy away from concrete agreements.
Both the United States and China have extensive intelligence networks and, because of competing central ideologies, many in each country perceive the other as a threat. Neither will want to stop cyber intelligence gathering and neither will want to make international agreements that are made to be broken. The cyber aggression between the countries is unlikely to disappear overnight.