News / Asia

Spying Revelations Affect US-China Cyber Security Talks

A copy of the South China Morning Post newspaper, carrying the latest interview with Edward Snowden, is displayed on a newspaper stand along with local Chinese newspapers, in Hong Kong, June 13, 2013.A copy of the South China Morning Post newspaper, carrying the latest interview with Edward Snowden, is displayed on a newspaper stand along with local Chinese newspapers, in Hong Kong, June 13, 2013.
A copy of the South China Morning Post newspaper, carrying the latest interview with Edward Snowden, is displayed on a newspaper stand along with local Chinese newspapers, in Hong Kong, June 13, 2013.
A copy of the South China Morning Post newspaper, carrying the latest interview with Edward Snowden, is displayed on a newspaper stand along with local Chinese newspapers, in Hong Kong, June 13, 2013.
VOA News
As the United States increases pressure on Russia to extradite fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, experts in China and Hong Kong - Snowden’s first choice of refuge - are beginning to gauge what impact his revelations will have on the ongoing efforts for global cyber security.

Before boarding a plane to Moscow, the former National Security Agency contractor told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post that the intelligence agency was monitoring telecommunications within China, and had targeted Tsinghua University, one of Beijing’s most prestigious schools, famous for training many of China’s current top leaders.

The school runs one of China’s six Internet backbones, the China Education and Research Network, through which the data of millions of people pass.

Benjamin Koo, a professor at Tsinghua’s department of mechanical engineering, says Snowden’s allegations, if true, suggest that the United States may have access to a huge amount of personal and academic data.

“This would be a severe violation of privacy to say the least,” he said. “Not to say [a violation of] intellectual property and also the ideas that we might want to keep to ourselves.”

Snowden’s allegations come ahead of next month’s U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, S&ED, where cyber security will be a prominent issue.

Since 2011 the Obama administration has named China as the source of a significant amount of cyber attacks against American government agencies and businesses.

This year the Department of Defense has for the first time officially attributed these attacks directly to the Chinese government, or agencies within China’s military apparatus.

In response, the Chinese government has repeated statements saying that China is itself a victim of attacks, with officials at China’s internet security agency, CNCERT, linking many of those attacks to the United States.

Many analysts within China agree that government-backed cyber surveillance is a standard occurrence in a country that is defending its interests in the digital age.

“If the NSA is funding a big program to do this, I would imagine - based on proportion - there will be a lot of politicians on our side that would be saying we should be putting a lot of money into it too,” says Koo, “Whoever is holding the lower end in this game is not going to feel comfortable.”

Media reports have linked some research centers in China, including Beijing’s Tsinghua University, to Chinese military-backed training centers for cyber-warfare against Western targets.

Nicholas Thomas, Associate Professor at the Department of Asian and International Studies of City University of Hong Kong, says that China has been very active in pursuing asymmetric warfare capacity.

“This is a lesson going back 20 years,” he says. “China has realized that U.S. information warfare capacity far exceeded its own and could prove to be the decisive factor in any conflict.”

But apart from cyber attacks for military and intelligence purposes, the United States has blamed China for stealing intellectual property from U.S. businesses as well.

A report released in the United States earlier this year calculated a loss of hundreds of billions of dollars each year due to Chinese hacking into commercial entities in the United States.

Analysts say that the report, which was published before the informal meeting in California between President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping, increased the level of public pressure on Mr. Obama to raise the issue during those talks.

Wu Riqiang, professor of international relations at Beijing’s Renmin University, says that it is unlikely that recent revelations about NSA spying on China will have a substantial impact on next month’s discussions on cyber security during the S&ED.

At the same time, Wu believes that Snowden has put the United States in an awkward position.

“The Snowden affair might dilute the attention that people in the United States put on hacking for economic motives,” he says.

Tsinghua University professor Benjamin Koo says that the allegations of the United States spying on academic centers in China is going to open up new territory in the two countries’ discussion on cyber security.

“It makes the two countries stand on the same footing,” he says.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs