What to do about China’s cyber theft: the politics of shaming

In what Reuters described as an “unusual step,” Canada singled out “Chinese hackers for attacking a key computer network and lodged a protest with Beijing.”

Officials said “a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor” had recently broken into the National Research Council. The council, the government’s leading research body, works with major companies such as aircraft and train maker Bombardier Inc.


Canada has reported hacking incidents before, but this was the first time it had singled out China.

The timing of the report is key, as Canada’s foreign minister John Baird was in Beijing, where he had a “full and frank exchange of views” with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi on cyber attacks.

This is similar to the US strategy of public shaming of Chinese officials over claims that hackers in China are systematically – but not neatly – plundering as much US intellectual property as they can.

It would be interesting to learn what advice Sinologists in Canada and the US are giving their governments about this issue today. The notion that public shaming has become a tool in the area of East-West cyber relations shouldn’t surprise. Look at the efforts of China and South Korea to shame Japan over the comfort women issue and other matters related to Japan’s imperial past.