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Cyber Conflict with China Getting Real


For much of the past 60 years, the United States and China have been at odds over issues like the status of Taiwan and the nightmare that is North Korea. More recently, the pivot to Asia has added China’s various maritime territorial claims to this sometimes fraught relationship. By and large, all of these are the kinds of issues states have been working out with each other for centuries.

That’s definitely not the case for the latest bone of contention between the US and China: cyber security. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Obama administration officials are threatening to escalate what has so far largely been a war of words into concrete actions against Chinese hacking:

Options include trade sanctions, diplomatic pressure, indictments of Chinese nationals in U.S. courts and cyber countermeasures—both attack and defense, officials said.

Officials said such a counterpunch, while likely not imminent, would be the natural culmination of a carefully choreographed escalation of warnings in recent weeks from President Barack Obama and top administration officials. The escalation was launched with a secret démarche, or formal diplomatic protest, to the Chinese government in January, officials said.

Apart from the wide scope of actions that the administration seems to be considering, the secret démarche is worth noting; we haven’t seen it reported anywhere else until now.

But perhaps even more noteworthy in the article is the role that Eric Schmidt has reportedly played in getting cyber security to the top of the administration’s agenda. As we’ve noted before, this may be evidence of the emergence of a more mature Silicon Valley that understands the importance of a strong and outwardly-facing America. Given that the Valley is a big contributor to the Democrats, we may very well see the Dems increasingly lean into foreign policy activism—and not just the virtual kind.

[Cyber chess photo courtesy Shutterstock]

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  • Jim Luebke

    So where have these Silicon Valley kids been? Defending against cyber warfare has been going on for decades amongst established defense contractors.

    This isn’t anything new. This is just an administration trying to route the contracts to people who will kick back some to Democrats’ campaigns.

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