China-US relations

Is China violating anti-hacking agreement with the US?

  • Intelligence agency thinks so, but says number of attacks has dropped dramatically
PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 November, 2018, 11:14am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 November, 2018, 9:58pm

A senior US intelligence official has accused China of violating an agreement with the United States aimed at stopping cyber espionage through the hacking of government and corporate data.

When asked if China was violating the 2015 agreement between then president Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, National Security Agency official Rob Joyce said on Thursday: “We think they are.”

But he said the number of attacks had dropped “dramatically” since the agreement.

“While it’s not black and white, [China] met the agreement or they didn’t meet the agreement, it’s clear that they are well beyond the bounds today of the agreement that was forged between our countries,” Joyce said.

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Speaking in Beijing on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying rejected the U.S. allegations.

“The U.S. accusations lack factual basis. China firmly opposes them,” she told a daily news briefing.

China and the United States have important shared interests in cyberspace, Hua said.

“We urge the U.S. side to cease its baseless criticism of China, and meet China halfway in jointly safeguarding the two countries’ momentum for cooperation and communication in the realm of cybersecurity,” she said.

In September 2015, Obama announced he had reached a “common understanding” with Xi on curbing economic cyber espionage, but threatened to impose US sanctions on Chinese hackers who persisted in committing cybercrimes.

The two leaders said they agreed that neither government would knowingly support cyber theft of corporate secrets or business information.

The agreement, however, stopped short of any promise to refrain from traditional government-to-government cyber spying for intelligence purposes.

That could include the massive hack of the US federal government’s personnel office this year that compromised the data of more than 20 million people.

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US officials have traced that back to China, but have not said whether they believe the Chinese government was responsible.

The US and China will hold a delayed top-level security dialogue on Friday, the latest sign of a thaw in the countries’ strained relations amid an ongoing trade row ahead of a planned meeting between US President Donald Trump and Xi at the G20 summit in Argentina at the end of November.