China Continued Cyber Attacks Could Harm Obama's Pivot to Asia and American Business


In prepared remarks at an Asia Society event in New York, Thomas Donilon made claims that the biggest, "growing concern between the United States and China is the continued Chinese attacks on American businesses."

He dove deeper into the issue, stating, "I am not talking about ordinary cybercrime or hacking. And, this is not solely a national security concern or a concern of the U.S. government. 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 emanating from China on an unprecedented scale."

President Obama recently signed Executive Order 13636 entitled Improving Critical Infrastructure Cyber security. Perhaps, given the absence of comprehensive cybersecurity legislation, the president's Executive Order is a necessary step in securing vital assets against cyber threats. 

Entities posing a meaningful threat to the cyber security of critical infrastructure assets include cyber terrorists, cyber spies, cyber thieves, cyber warriors, and cyber hactivists. 

It is unclear how future legislation will shape cyber security threats, but E.O 1363 has two main agendas that may help mold future policies: information sharing and protection of privately held critical infrastructure. 

Shifting U.S. priorities toward the Pacific “does not mean containing China or seeking to dictate terms to Asia,” said Donilon. The president has “engaged with China at an unprecedented pace, including twelve face-to-face meetings with Hu Jintao,” he said, referring to the departing Chinese leader.

Perhaps the president's hard work towards the region is paying off. China cooperated last week on tougher United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea, which has ignored repeated calls to suspend its pursuit of nuclear weapons. China had the power to veto UN action against North Korea, its increasingly volatile ally. Its choice to vote unanimously along with the United States, Russia, Great Britain, and France is a good sign.

In order to protect America's cyber infrastructure, the Obama administration must continue to conduct proactive talks with high-level Chinese officials, despite the change in leadership. Obama must bring together a divided House and newly rejuvenated Senate if he wants to help secure America's invisible borders, something that will be key if he hopes to successfully pivot to Asia.