Obama, Xi Reach Understanding On China Cyber Spying

Although exactly how much is substantive and how much is public relations fluff remains to be seen, it is clear that Chinese President Xi came to the U.S. prepared to offer new initiatives on a wide variety of topics. One key area of concern for the United States is cyber security, or more specifically the constant China cyber spying we have seen over the last few years, and Xi apparently came prepared to offer an olive branch on this issue.

In a speech on Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama noted that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping had reached a “common understanding” on the next steps forward to stop cyber spying, and claimed the two men had come to an agreement that neither side will undertake “economic espionage” using the internet.

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Obama’s speech followed several hours of discussions with the Chinese President as a part of Xi’s first U.S. state visit. In his comments, he did not waste any time in pointing to a breakthrough in bringing Chinese hacking of government and corporate databases to an end.

“I raised, once again, our rising concerns about growing cyber threats to American companies and American citizens. I indicated that it has to stop,” Obama told the throng of reporters at the standing room only White House presser, with Xi at his side. “Today I can announce that our two countries reached a common understanding on the way forward.”

Path forward to end China cyber spying

The two leaders also said they were planning to create a “senior expert group” to discuss cyber security issues in greater detail, and a “high-level group” to work on fighting cyber crime. Demonstrating the urgency of the matter, the leaders agreed the two groups should hold their first meeting by the end of 2015 and then biannually.

Xi was greeted on his arrival at the White House Friday morning with a spectacular ceremony on the South Lawn that featured a military honor guard and 21-gun salute. Following the ceremonial formal welcoming, the two men sat down to negotiations.

Both sides were trying to put a positive spin on the talks by highlighting the nations’ cooperation in the battle against climate change.

President Xi announced that China, which is the largest global emitter of global warming related greenhouse gases, will implement a national carbon cap-and-trade system in 2017 to minimize emissions. This national carbon cap-and-trade system is a ramping up of the seven regional pilot carbon markets already operating in China. Cap and trade systems are designed to limit carbon emissions by creating markets for firms to buy and sell the right to produce specific amounts of emissions.