Washington and Beijing have reassured each other that they would not conduct or support “cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property”. In fact they want to ramp up cybersecurity cooperation, including combating hacking crimes and internet fraud.
Officials attending the First US-China Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Dialogue, held in Washington last week, pledged to implement the entire consensus on China-US cybersecurity cooperation reached in 2015 by Chinese President Xi Jinping with then US president Barack Obama.
The consistency of the new US administration in continuing cooperation with China in the critical cyberspace arena is plausible and such cooperation is seen as vital for the sound growth of the world’s two largest economies.
The Chinese online market has joined that of the US as one of the two major engines driving the global internet economy, the Boston Consulting Group said in a report prepared jointly with a group of internet giants that included Baidu and Alibaba.
The number of Chinese internet users reached 710 million in 2016 – one-fifth of the world’s total. Although China lags behind the US in terms of total connectivity, more Chinese go online using mobile phones (90 percent versus 78 percent), according to the Sept 28 report.
Both the US and China have been seriously affected by cyber hazards, and in recent years, there have been claims that some of the hackings originated in China – allegations denied by Beijing.
The US was at the top of the list for both the number of breaches by country and the number of identities stolen by country; China ranked sixth in terms of stolen identities, according to a 2017 Internet Security Threat Report by Symantec.
The report said this was not “unsurprising”. The US has a large population, high adoption of technology, and a large number of companies based there, said Symantec, which has established the largest civilian threat collection network in the world.
In China, experts and internet associations have already been calling on netizens to be “constantly vigilant” and on guard against cybersecurity problems, given the country’s massive number of users and booming mobile internet.
At the inaugural law enforcement and cybersecurity dialogue, the US and China agreed to continue their implementation of the consensus reached by the Chinese and American presidents in 2015 on China-US cybersecurity cooperation, according to an intergovernmental joint statement issued on Oct 6.
This includes timely response to requests for information and assistance concerning malicious cyber activities.
The two sides also agreed that “neither country’s government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sectors”.
In addition, the US and China also intend to improve cooperation with each other on cybercrime. They agreed to respond to mutual legal assistance requests, in a timely manner, including those regarding cyber fraud, hacking, use of the internet for terrorism or disseminating child pornography, according to the joint statement.
“It is clear that the US and China have shared cybersecurity interests, but having these concerns mirrored in sustained cooperation is a work in progress,” said Celia Louie, an International Policy Institute fellow at the University of Washington.