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. 


Progress? US and China agree to talk about cyber rules

I guess public shaming does have a role…

From the NYTimes…

The United States and China have agreed to hold regular, high-level talks on how to set standards of behavior for cybersecurity and commercial espionage, the first diplomatic effort to defuse the tensions over what the United States says is a daily barrage of computer break-ins and theft of corporate and government secrets.

Talks begin in July, after Obama and Xi’s face-to-face. Why wait? I ask

Elsewhere, others are already questioning if the US should pursue a strategy developed during the Cold War, a time of set borders and gun-point diplomacy. 

Naming and shaming China over cyberspying

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks at the opening plenary session of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, June 1, 2013. Hagel will meet with defense ministers at the event and then travel to Brussels to meet with NATO defense ministers.

That seems to be the US’s strategy, with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel calling China out at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Asia Security Summit in Singapore on June 1. It’s pretty ballsy but apparently after the Mandiant report was published and publicized, some of the relentless cyberbreaches slowed for a while, so the US is just testing out a new public-shaming strategy.

China, predictably, has countered by questioned the US claim about its Asia pivot is not about containing China’s rise.

In any case, the world will watch to see what kind of language on hacking Obama uses in public with Xi when they meet next week. 

I suppose this US shaming behavior would be unthinkable if China were a Western power. Different times call for different types of diplomacy. 

(Photo: courtesy US Defense Dept)