News / Asia

    Will the US-China Cybersecurity Pact Work?

    President Barack Obama shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Sept. 25, 2015.
    President Barack Obama shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Sept. 25, 2015.

    The new cybersecurity agreement signed by U. S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping last week marks a significant first step for both governments to join forces in clamping down on commercial espionage in the cyberspace, analysts say. But many remain skeptical if concrete actions will follow.

    President Obama told a joint news conference on Friday that both countries had “affirmed the principle that governments don't engage in cyber espionage for commercial gain against companies" while President Xi stressed such cooperation would be mutually beneficial.

    Both nations agreed to investigate online malicious activity toward one another that take place within their respective borders "in a manner consistent with their respective national laws and relevant international obligations." The investigating nation will keep the victim nation updated "as appropriate" during such processes while the victim country won’t be involved in any of the investigations, according to the fact sheet from the White House. 

    Overseeing the investigative commitments are top-level officials from both countries who will meet for the first time by the end of 2015 and biannually every year after that.

    A Win for President Obama

    From the outset, the pact heralds a triumph for the Obama administration because China has, for the first time, admitted that cybercrime perpetrated by Chinese companies or individuals does exist and action should be taken. Yet it remains to be seen how China will curb hacking activities originated from its territory said Alexander Neill, a Shangri-La Dialogue senior fellow for Asia Pacific security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

    China has repeatedly claimed it’s as much a victim as a perpetrator for hacking attacks but rarely made public specific hacking incidents.

    Empty Promises?

    The deal’s significance, he adds, lies in substance, not in form, as it may turn out to create few tangible results, such as the Chinese government’s prosecution of perpetrators.

    “Evidence that it’s been successful is that China publicizes its companies or individuals who are perpetrating and successfully prosecutes them. Once we start to see that, then, that would show that China is putting its money where its mouth is,” the Singapore-based researcher said.

    Neither will the newly-established hot line in the U.S.-China cyber dialogue guarantee real investigation by Chinese authorities into the theft of intellectual property or trade secrets on its soil argued Nicholas Thomas, associate head of the City University of Hong Kong’s department of Asian and International Studies, sharing similar skepticism.

    US President Barack Obama and China's President Xi Jinping (R) walk from the White House to a working dinner at Blair House, on Sept. 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.
    US President Barack Obama and China's President Xi Jinping (R) walk from the White House to a working dinner at Blair House, on Sept. 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.

    That’s because China has not come anywhere close to matching the U.S. government’s crackdown on intellectual property infringements. He also said that tracing cybersecurity attacks remains complicated and difficult, and could reveal the methods and capabilities of U.S. cyberdefenses.

    “Now they do have this hot line that’s been set up to register complaints. But you’ve got to back up the complaints with evidence, which means, America will have to reveal its ability, in terms of tracking cyber intrusions,” said professor Thomas.

    The professor believes that the U. S. Justice Department’s indictment of five Chinese military officers last year, charged with hacking into U.S. companies, as well as the White House’s recent threat of imposing trade sanctions on China, put pressure on Xi to step up efforts in addressing the U.S. government’s cybertheft concerns.

    A Win For Whom?

    President Xi has given little ground to critics on issues such as China's human rights record or its military actions in the South China Sea. But the U.S. threats of sanctions over cybertheft may have gotten the attention of leaders who are already concerned over the performance of the Chinese economy.

    “If Xi Jinping had been confident of the resilience of his leadership, then, he may not have offered such concession. So, the deal on cyber [security] may be an indicator that [there is] some degree of vulnerability in the Chinese system at this point,” he says.

    Even though China says that it too suffers from cybertheft, there have been no publicized cases of companies that have suffered the theft of intellectual property by U.S.-based hackers.

    "How much of China's commercial information is stolen is difficult to assess. It is very difficult for us to defend IPR (intellectual property rights) in cyber space," Teng Jianqun, director of China Institute of International Relations’ department of American Studies, told the All China Journalist Association on Monday. "Both countries will benefit from the new agreement."

    Many more believe U.S. firms will gain more than their Chinese rivals. A 2013 estimate by the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property estimated annual losses of $300 billion, more than 50 percent of which was attributed to Chinese hackers.

    “The fact that a lot of U.S. companies are much more advanced than Chinese companies, they do have upper hands because there’s not much confidential information for them to steal or access for them to move forward. And so, you can easily see that it’s going one direction,” Peter Yu, law professor at Texas A&M University, said prior to the Obama-Xi summit talks.

    Saibal Dasgupta also contributed to this story.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora