President Obama has a message for his Chinese counterpart when the two meet next week: China needs to restrain its digital snooping.
Concerns over cyber espionage from China are expected to be among issues the President raises with President Xi Jinping at a meeting in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the White House said on Wednesday.
The Chinese have allegedly stolen business plans, technology blueprints and other information from hundreds of U.S. companies, including financial firms, since 2006, according to reports by digital security firm Mandiant and others.
"I want to reiterate and you've heard it from the President and from senior members of his national security team that this is a very high priority, the issue of cybersecurity," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
Carney noted that Tom Donilon, the president's national security advisor, recently returned from a trip to China, where he pressed officials about cybersecurity.
"He raised our growing concerns with many senior Chinese officials on this matter and made clear that the United States will do all it must to protect our national networks, our critical infrastructure, and our valuable public and private sector property," Carney said.
The diplomacy echoes earlier messages from Donilon, who in March accused the Chinese of stealing business secrets from U.S. corporations, adding that "the international community cannot afford to tolerate such activity by any country."
The upcoming meeting between Obama and Xi, the first between the leaders since Xi became President, comes amid reports that the Chinese have renewed their cyber theft from American businesses. Chinese cyber spies also have infiltrated designs for advanced American weapons systems, the Washington Post reported on Monday.
The Chinese government has denied the allegations. "Given that cybersecurity is a common issue facing the international community, we need to sit down for calm and useful discussions and work out relevant rules to safeguard a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters Wednesday when asked whether Chinese hackers had swiped secrets from Australia's intelligence service. "Groundless accusations do not help solve the issue."