Possibly doing something about Chinese commercial espionage

Reuters

Article Highlights

  • DOJ indicts Chinese PLA officials.

    Tweet This

  • This is a small step in public action by the US against Chinese cyber espionage, but not a big one.

    Tweet This

  • We should not act rashly, but we should act.

    Tweet This

The Justice Department today announced charges against five members of the Chinese military for cyber espionage conducted against American companies and a labor union. This constitutes an escalation of the American response to large-scale, government-sponsored theft of technology and trade secrets by the People's Republic. However, it is a small step toward meaningful public action by the US, not a big one.

Today's announcement is a diplomatic action, warning that members of the Chinese state can be prosecuted. But at this point it is merely symbolic, the US still has not actually done anything. What needs to be done is to arrest these people. If they remain within China, as is highly likely, then other action must be taken to punish the government and state-owned enterprises which benefit from economic espionage.

China has stolen hundreds of billions of dollars worth of information, some would say trillions, and has suffered no consequences. No government or firm will depart from such a lucrative path without facing serious costs. Stern words by the US do not constitute serious costs. Neither do threats of arrest which are never going to be fulfilled.

What does? It is not just Chinese government officials who can reasonably be charged here. Officers of Chinese state-owned enterprises can be as well. Many of these firms have benefited from commercial espionage.

It is to America's benefit that Chinese companies are increasingly investing overseas. This means more travel by corporate officers and, generally, more exposure of PRC assets to sanction. This does not just provide leverage, it also provides a rationale: if Chinese companies want to be able to operate freely around the globe, they cannot be the world's biggest thieves.

Attorney General Holder should work with the intelligence and business communities to develop a much longer list of those subject to arrest. Then people should be arrested.

There are a slew of arguments calling for caution. One is retaliation: American government officials and corporate officers will certainly be threatened in response, perhaps just for show but perhaps not. The US side must determine whether Chinese theft is a big enough problem that such risks should be faced. (If not, then perhaps American credibility is best served by shutting up about this.)

And there's that guy holed up in Russia (probably). Just as the US must weigh the benefits and costs of meaningful retaliation against Chinese spying, it must weigh the benefits and costs of curbing spying by the National Security Agency. The latter includes the cooperation of our friends and allies with regard to response to China.

Perhaps the determining factor: American spying has seemed to be partly based on the logic of we should do it because we can. Chinese IP theft was supposed to decline as the country developed; instead, it has increased with increased capabilities to steal. Our own example says this problem is going to become bigger rather than smaller. We should not act rashly, but we should act.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Derek M.
Scissors

What's new on AEI

Love people, not pleasure
image Oval Office lacks resolve on Ukraine
image Middle East Morass: A public opinion rundown of Iraq, Iran, and more
image Verizon's Inspire Her Mind ad and the facts they didn't tell you
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Event Registration is Closed
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.