In an unusually direct appeal, the Obama administration on Monday called on China to halt its persistent theft of trade secrets from corporate computers and engage in a dialogue to establish norms of behavior in cyberspace.
The demands mark the administration’s first public effort to hold China to account for what officials have described as an extensive, years-long campaign of commercial cyber-espionage.
“Increasingly, U.S. businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber-intrusions on an unprecedented scale,” President Obama’s national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, said in a speech to the Asia Society in New York.
Donilon said China must recognize the risk such activities pose to the reputation of Chinese industry, to bilateral relations and to international trade. Beijing, he said, must also “take serious steps to investigate” allegations of commercial hacking.
The remarks were noteworthy because administration officials have been reluctant to call out China — or any other country — as a bad actor in cyberspace, to avoid antagonizing a major trade partner and world power.