No thawing of cyber tensions on Kerry’s Beijing trip

iStockPhoto / FCW 

Obama administration officials looking to revive a cybersecurity dialogue with China on a trip to Beijing this week came home empty-handed.

A senior White House adviser had expressed optimism that China would return to a bilateral cybersecurity working group that Beijing canceled after the Justice Department indicted five Chinese military officers on charges of cyber-espionage. But the diplomatic statements of Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi at a July 10 press conference stressed common ground while indicating that such cooperation is still lacking in cyberspace.

“The Chinese side believes that cyberspace should not become a tool for damaging the interests of other countries,” Yang said at the press conference. “The Chinese side hopes that the U.S. side would create conditions for the two sides to have dialogue and cooperation on the cyber issue.”

“The loss of intellectual property through cyber has a chilling effect on innovation and investment,” said Secretary of State John Kerry. “Incidents of cybertheft have harmed our businesses and threatened our nations’ competitiveness, and we had a frank exchange on cyber issues … and we both agree it is important to continue discussions in this area.”

Kerry’s “frank discussions” with Chinese President Xi Jinping on cybersecurity yielded no tangible progress on the issue. When asked by a journalist if the two sides discussed a recent New York Times report alleging Chinese hacking into the Office of Personnel Management, Kerry said they did not because he had only just heard of the incident before the bilateral meetings.

Cybersecurity has joined currency manipulation and Pacific/Asia security as a defining agenda item in Sino-American relations.

The State Department did not reply to questions from FCW on Kerry’s Beijing trip.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.

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