During the State visit of China President Xi Jinping to the United States in late September, the two countries signed an agreement that establishes bilateral commitments for making progress on stopping economic cyber espionage. Under the agreement, the U.S. and Chinese governments commit to not conducting or knowingly supporting cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets, or other confidential business information for the purposes of establishing a competitive advantage for commercial enterprises.
“Both sides are committed to making common effort to further identify and promote appropriate norms of state behavior in cyberspace within the international community,” stated a White House fact sheet on the agreement. In addition, the United States and China agree to establish a high-level, joint dialogue mechanism to “be used to review the timeliness and quality of responses to requests for information and assistance with respect to malicious cyber activity of concern identified by either side.”
The agreement was met with modest support from Congress and the business community.
“The new agreement between the United States and China on economic espionage would be a step forward if China actually abides by it,” said Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “And others like Iran and Russia will be watching closely how the United States responds to what is perhaps the greatest theft in history.”
The BSA | The Software Alliance, a software industry trade association, said it welcomes the agreement, as well as increased dialogue between the two governments. The Information Technology Industry (ITI) Council said the agreement contains outcomes for which the technology sector association has been advocating.
“The commitment is an important advancement on key topics, securing agreement that neither government will engage in cyber-espionage for economic purposes, and initiating a new mechanism for dialogue on cyber issues between security agencies in both countries,” the ITI said in a press release. “These are important initial steps to reducing bilateral tensions related to cybersecurity and begin to improve what has been an increasingly difficult business environment for information communication technology companies in China.”
According to a 2013 report by the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, China is responsible for roughly 70% of international intellectual property theft, and acquisition of science and technology – by legal or illegal means – is a core part of that country’s economic growth strategy.