Snowden revelations effectively ended US naming and shaming on Chinese economic espionage – for now

by Chris Zappone

…But has the mass economic espionage ended?

Writing in Foreign Affairs, in a piece that has received a good amount of traction, George Washington University professors Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore note that the Snowden revelations have ended the US strategy of naming and shaming the Chinese for ecomomic espionage.

[Now the US ]may attempt, as the former head of U.S. counterintelligence Joel Brenner has urged, to draw distinctions between China’s allegedly unacceptable hacking, aimed at stealing commercial secrets, and its own perfectly legitimate hacking of military or other security related targets. But those distinctions will likely fall on deaf ears. Washington has been forced to abandon its naming and-shaming campaign against Chinese hacking.

Yet if China is pursuing a long-term plan of siphoning off US economic data, the issue will return. And simply because the global public doesn’t differentiate between mass spying for national security reasons and directed economic espionage, doesn’t mean the US won’t still have an issue with China. The question of course, is how big an issue it really is.

It will be interesting too if the Snowden revelations produce evidence of the US conducting economic espionage of the type China does. I don’t mean trade negotiating positions either – but business plans, IP and contact lists that were handed over to American businesses.