Handshake to end the hacking: China and Germany pledge for peace in cyberspace by 2016

Negotiations that started during Merkel's visit to Beijing cover data security and the theft of intellectual property, German ambassador says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 November, 2015, 11:52pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 November, 2015, 9:07am

China and Germany aim to wrap up a deal over commercial cyberespionage as early as next year, according to German ambassador to China Michael Clauss.

The two countries had agreed to start negotiating an agreement to abstain from such activity when Chancellor Angela Merkel visited China at the end of last month, Clauss said.

The aim was to sign the deal at the next Sino-German intergovernmental consultations in Beijing in the first half of 2016, he said, adding that the agreement would cover not only the cybertheft of intellectual property, but also data security.

"Such an agreement would also help to promote bilateral innovation cooperation, such as on Industry 4.0 and Made in China 2025," said Clauss, referring to the two countries' development strategies for their manufacturing sectors.

He said private companies and in particular small and medium-sized firms were important drivers for Germany's Industry 4.0 strategy, and that China was hoping to involve more German technology companies in its market.

"Improving data security and removing obstacles to moving data internationally would be important steps to enhance Sino-German cooperation on innovation," Clauss said.

The talks are the latest efforts by China to end a years-long turf war with Western countries, particularly the United States, over cyberattacks on the business and governmental sectors.

Read more: 'I indicated it has to stop': Obama gets tough on cyberspying as new China-US pact agreed against threat of sanctions

In September, US President Barack Obama hinted he was considering sanctions against Chinese institutions and individuals suspected of perpetrating cyberattacks against commercial targets.

At the time, Chinese officials said China was itself a victim of such attacks and denied the country had any cyberattack forces.

Shortly afterwards, during President Xi Jinping's state visit to the US in late September, Obama said the two countries had reached "a common understanding" against cyberespionage and agreed to "promote international rules of the road for appropriate conduct in cyberspace".

During Xi's trip to Britain a month later, the two countries agreed to establish a "high-level security dialogue" on issues such as cybercrime.

They also agreed "not to conduct or support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property or trade secrets of confidential business information with the intent of providing competitive advantage".

Read more: After Xi Jinping's visit to Britain, German Chancellor Angela Merkel keen to show she 'knows China best'

Business executives are concerned that a lack of progress on protection of property rights, market access and data security as well as slow internet speeds will dissuade foreign investors from entering China and may hurt the business of those already established.

Clauss said internet speeds in China were a frequent gripe of German entrepreneurs and needed to be addressed.

Wang Yiwei, the director of the Centre for European Studies at Renmin University, said that the internet was "key for reindustrialisation" efforts.

"Cooperation and innovation requires a consensus on cybersecurity", he said.

"Cybersecurity is becoming a prominent issue. Internet hackers and infringement have hurt mutual trust between countries and hindered trade and investment," said Wang.