The US government can threaten retaliatory actions – be they economic, diplomatic, legal, or technical in nature. For example, the US could impose economic sanctions or deny visas to suspected cyberspies and/or their enablers.
There are certainly benefits to pursuing these ideas, but US options will be limited because of the trade-offs involved in increasing tensions with its largest trading partner. If China truly views economic espionage as a national security matter, it will strongly resist efforts to curtail such activity, especially if it views the US position as being hypocritical. The US may thus risk retaliatory actions on American companies or citizens if it pushes too hard on this issue.
Irving Lachow is a senior fellow and director of the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.