4 ways Obama should work with US business to combat China’s cyberspying

The threat of Chinese cyberspying to US businesses is very serious. A report released May 22 by the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property states that: “China is two-thirds of the intellectual property theft problem, and we are at a point where it is robbing us of innovation to bolster their own industry, at a cost of millions of jobs.”

If the US wishes to stop this Chinese economic cyber-espionage, it will need to increase the costs and reduce the benefits to China of such activities. That will cause China and other competitors to rethink whether cyberspying on businesses is worth it. Government actions are important, but the key players in this game sit in the private sector. A true public-private partnership is needed.

Here are four ways President Obama should work with US business to combat Chinese cyberspying.

1. Threaten retaliatory actions

Jason Lee/Reuters
Delegates from China and US chat before the opening ceremony of the 6th US-China Internet Industry Forum in Beijing, April 9.

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.

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