Obama Raises IP Theft with New China Leader

President Highlights the Importance of Addressing Cyberthreats
Obama Raises IP Theft with New China Leader

In a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on March 14, President Obama raised concerns about cybersecurity, but his tone was not confrontational, according to a White House readout of the conversation with the newly installed leader.

See Also: The State of Vulnerability Management

The readout says Obama "underscored the importance of working together ... to address issues such as the protection of intellectual property rights. In this context, the president highlighted the importance of addressing cybersecurity threats, which represent a shared challenge."

Press Secretary Jay Carney, at a briefing on March 13, said China was receptive to discussions on cybersecurity, citing a Chinese foreign ministry statement that says: "China is willing on the basis of the principles of mutual respect and mutual trust to have constructive dialogue and cooperation on this issue."

The Foreign Ministry statement adds that Internet security is a global issue. "In fact," the statement reads, "China is a marginalized group in this regard and one of the biggest victims of hacking attacks."

Two major Chinese military websites, including that of the Defense Ministry, were subject to more than 140,000 hacking attacks a month last year, almost two-thirds from the United States, the ministry said last month, according to a Reuters report.

Obama and other top administration officials have accused Beijing of at least tolerating cyberattacks that have pilfered trade secrets from American corporations. "We've made it very clear to China and some other state actors that, you know, we expect them to follow international norms and abide by international rules," Obama said March 13 in an interview on ABC News' Good Morning America.

Two days earlier, White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, in a speech, said the Obama administration is calling on the Chinese government to take serious steps to halt cyber-intrusions emanating from China that have resulted in the theft of intellectual property from American companies [see U.S. Asks China to Probe, Stop Cyber-Intrusions].

This isn't the first time the administration raised the cyberthreat issue with the Chinese, though it's not clear if the president himself has brought up the matter before. At a Feb. 19 briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the administration has raised cybertheft to Chinese officials. "I can tell you that we have repeatedly raised our concerns at the highest levels about cybertheft with senior Chinese officials, including in the military, and we will continue to do so," Carney said.

Carney's remarks came a day after IT security provider Mandiant issued a report that details how a unit of China's army has hacked into Western businesses to steal trade and other corporate secrets [see 6 Types of Data Chinese Hackers Pilfer].

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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