The Pentagon directly accused China of various cyber crimes against the United States in its annual report released yesterday, a significant escalation from the administration’s previous policy of merely suggesting that much of the world’s cyber espionage originates in China. The New York Times has the details:
While some recent estimates have more than 90 percent of cyberespionage in the United States originating in China, the accusations relayed in the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on Chinese military capabilities were remarkable in their directness. Until now the administration avoided directly accusing both the Chinese government and the People’s Liberation Army of using cyberweapons against the United States in a deliberate, government-developed strategy to steal intellectual property and gain strategic advantage.
The report (available here in pdf) lays bare a concerted strategy by the Chinese government, the military establishment, and civilian corporations to improve Chinese military and commercial competitiveness by stealing secrets from the US and others. Consider:
China’s defense industry has benefited from integration with its expanding civilian economy and science and technology sectors, particularly sectors with access to foreign technology….
Differentiating between civil and military end use is very challenging in China due to opaque corporate structures, hidden asset ownership, and the connections of commercial personnel with the central government. Some commercial entities are affiliated with PLA research institutes, or have ties to and are subject to the control of government organizations such as the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.
China continues to leverage foreign investments, commercial joint ventures, academic exchanges, the experience of repatriated Chinese students and researchers, and state-sponsored industrial and technical espionage to increase the level of technologies and expertise available to support military research, development and acquisition.
No one expects the US and China to go to war in the next month or two. In fact, it’s good to see that the Pentagon is investigating and being forthright about the capabilities and intentions of a great American rival that is actively waging a low-level war to get access to our most important industrial and military secrets.