China is not taking lightly the recent announcement that the United States has charged five Chinese military officers with conspiring to hack into computers of commercial entities in the U.S. for competitive and economic advantage.

In response to Monday’s announcement, China’s Assistant Foreign Minister summoned U.S. ambassador to China, Max Baucus, to complain about the indictment.

From Reuters:

China summoned the U.S. ambassador after the United States accused five Chinese military officers of hacking into American companies to steal trade secrets, warning Washington it could take further action, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Ambassador to China, Max Baucus, met with Zheng Zeguang, assistant foreign minister, on Monday shortly after the United States charged the five Chinese, accusing them of hacking into American nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade secrets.

Zheng “protested” the actions by the United States, saying the indictment had seriously harmed relations between both countries, the foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.

Zheng told Baucus that depending on the development of the situation, China “will take further action on the so-called charges by the United States”.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement Monday that “The United States fabricated facts in an indictment of five officers for so-called cybertheft by China, a move that seriously violates basic norms of international relations and damages Sino-U.S. cooperation and mutual trust.”

That spokesman also indicated that China had suspended the activities of a joint Cyber Working Group between the two countries, citing a “lack of sincerity by the United States for cooperation to solve cyber-security problems through dialogue.”

As Reuters noted, the indictment may create more tension between the U.S. and China.

The indictment is likely to further roil relations between China and the United States. Besides cyber-hacking, Washington and Beijing have grappled over a range of issues, including human rights, trade disputes and China’s growing military assertiveness over seas contested with its neighbors.

“The Chinese government and military and its associated personnel have never conducted or participated in the theft of trade secrets over the Internet,” the foreign ministry quoted Zheng as telling Baucus.

Zheng told Baucus that the U.S. attitude to Internet security was “overbearing and hypocritical” and urged the United States to give China a clear explanation on reports that Washington has long spied on the Chinese government, businesses, universities and individuals.

The U.S. Embassy to China spokesman, Nolan Barkhouse, confirmed the meeting but declined to provide more details.

Not surprisingly, reaction from the public in China has also been critical of the U.S.

From USA Today:

China announced Tuesday that government offices cannot install Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system in new government computers, following the end of support for the 13-year-old Windows XP system, reported the Xinhua news agency. While the decision likely involves cost, the news sparked online speculation that China aims at beefing up cybersecurity against U.S. agents.

China’s state-run media covered the indictment Tuesday, but mostly with a brief summary, highlighting the foreign ministry statements, and avoiding mention of the five soldiers’ names, their pictures, their Shanghai-based cyber espionage Unit 61398, and even the names of the American companies involved – Westinghouse Electric, U.S. Steel, SolarWorld, United Steel Workers Union, Allegheny Technologies Inc. and Alcoa.

Most comments online criticized America, with frequent use of the phrase “a thief crying ‘stop thief,’ ” as Edward Snowden’s revelations about U.S. cyberspying, including against multiple Chinese targets, have been well publicized in China. “There is no right or wrong, there are only the strong and the weak,” wrote Xie Zhijun, a construction company manager in eastern Dalian, on the micro-blogging service Sina Weibo, equivalent to Twitter.

Video report below from USA Today.

[Featured image: Reuters video via USA Today]


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