China says committed to countering Internet hacking

China says it opposes Internet hacking and is committed to cracking down on such activities, ahead of President Xi Jinping’s visit to the U.S. next week.

BEIJING, CHINA (SEPTEMBER 17, 2015) (REUTERS) – China opposes Internet attacks and wants to work with the United States in cyber space, a senior Chinese official said on Thursday (September 17), after U.S. President Barack Obama warned of a forceful response to Beijing over hacking.

Tensions over cyber security will take centre stage at a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Washington next week.

Obama on Wednesday (September 16) told executives that the United States has emphasised to China that industrial espionage in cyber space would be considered an “act of aggression”, and called for an international framework to prevent the Internet from being “weaponized”.

Beijing and Washington face “common challenges” on Internet security, making it “especially important for the two sides to increase mutual trust and cooperation in cyber space”, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang said at a news briefing in Beijing.

“The Chinese government resolutely opposes and cracks down on any kind of internet hacking activities. Whoever is carrying out hacking attacks or business espionage in China is violating the country’s law and will be punished by law,” Zheng said.

Zheng also said “we can cooperate and we should cooperate”, including on setting international Internet standards.

Last week, U.S. officials said Washington was considering sanctions against both Russian and Chinese individuals and companies for cyber attacks against U.S. commercial targets.

However, a person briefed on the White House’s thinking said on Tuesday (September 15) the United States does not plan to impose sanctions on Chinese entities for economic cyber attacks ahead of Xi’s visit to avoid what would be seen as a diplomatic disaster.

Law enforcement cooperation is also likely to be on the agenda during Xi’s visit, with Beijing pushing Washington for help in tracking down and repatriating dozens of alleged Chinese fugitives living in the United States who are wanted in China as part of a widespread crackdown on corruption.

U.S. officials say they are not averse to such cooperation, but that despite requests, Beijing has failed to produce the kind of evidence of criminality needed under American law to support deportation.

Xi has launched a sweeping campaign against graft after assuming power three years ago, but has been hampered to an extent by difficulty in getting back individuals deemed corrupt who have fled abroad.

“Both China and U.S. recognise that they need to strengthen international cooperation to fight trans-national crimes, and this is in the interests of both sides, and is needed by two sides. We will continue to strengthen cracking down on trans-national crimes on the basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit, including cooperation on fighting corruption and hunting for those who have fled abroad and are recovering ill-gotten gains,” Zheng said.

At a news conference introducing several U.S.-China business deals which are already in the works, Shu Guozeng, director of China’s leading governmental economic and financial affairs think tank, said the two world’s two biggest economies will sign several agreements during Xi’s upcoming visit to the U.S.

“Other than these three main projects, we will reach important consensus in the fields of trade, energy, culture, climate change, environmental protection, finance, science and technology, agriculture, law enforcement, military airspace defence, and infrastructure. We will sign on a series of influential co-operative agreements,” Shu said.

China’s Xi is set to visit Washington from September 22 to 25 on his first state visit to the United States.