The decision to charge five Chinese military officers with hacking U.S. companies is a gutsy, confrontational move by the Obama Administration.It will enrage China and color Chinese leaders’ views of U.S. policy throughout the Pacific. It will very much add to the climate of confrontation and suspicion that has been escalating since Team Obama announced, during his first term, the “pivot” to Asia. Coming right after General Fang Fenghui, the chief of the PLA’s general staff, visited the Pentagon last week, the charges are likely to embitter relations between the U.S. and Chinese militaries at a time when relations appeared to be improving.It will certainly be read in China as sign that the U.S. is neither backing down nor knuckling under in the latest round of Pacific diplomacy. Already the backlash is underway. Beijing summoned the U.S. Ambassador to explain Washington’s actions and an official in the foreign ministry promised that China “will take further action on the so-called charges.” An article in Xinhua professes innocence:
The position of the Chinese government on cyber security is consistent and clear-cut. China is steadfast in upholding cyber security. The Chinese government, the Chinese military and their relevant personnel have “never engaged or participated” in cyber theft of trade secrets. The U.S. accusation against Chinese personnel is “purely ungrounded and with ulterior purpose,” Qin said.
Let’s just hope that the timing of this news was deliberate and that the Administration hasn’t been blindsided by its own Department of Justice. That happens sometimes in the U.S.; one branch of the executive proceeds on its own logic and timing without overall policy coordination.