Chinese diplomats in Washington have accused the United States of hypocrisy after authorities in Beijing were charged with economic cyber-espionage earlier this week.
Unresolved allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spied on a U.S. company’s Chinese competitor have resurfaced amid growing anger from Chinese officials over accusations that the country’s military hacked into U.S. databases to steal trade secrets.
“Large amounts of publicly disclosed information show that relevant U.S. institutions have been conducting cyberintrusion, wiretapping and surveillance activities against Chinese government departments, institutions, companies, universities and individuals,” Chinese Embassy spokesman Geng Shuang told Al Jazeera.
Geng added that the U.S.'s accusation was based on “fabricated facts” and re-emphasized earlier statements by China’s Foreign Ministry that joint U.S.-China activities to maintain cybersecurity would stop due to a “lack of sincerity” from counterparts in Washington.
On March 25, The New York Times, citing documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, reported that the agency had breached the servers of China’s international telecom giant Huawei.
Huawei is a leading competitor of its U.S. counterpart, Cisco Systems.
China subsequently demanded answers amid suggestions that the NSA had itself engaged in economic espionage.
“We do not use foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of — or give intelligence we collect to — U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line,” NSA spokeswoman Vanee M. Vines told Al Jazeera, adding that the NSA “deploys various foreign intelligence techniques to help defend the nation.”
Adam Segal, an expert on cybersecurity and China, who is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Al Jazeera that although Washington never confirmed the New York Times report, “it has clearly undermined U.S. efforts to get some traction with the Chinese on this issue.”
Segal doubts that the U.S. breached Huawei’s email archive for economic reasons.
“My sense is that we don't give intelligence to U.S. private companies,” he said.
“If we turned and gave intel to Cisco, Juniper wouldn't be too happy,” he said, referring to Cisco’s domestic competitor.
Huawei declined to comment on the latest allegations by the U.S. against China, but company spokesman William Plummer told The New York Times in March about revelations that the NSA had spied on the company’s operations: “The irony is that exactly what they are doing to us is what they have always charged that the Chinese are doing through us.”
U.S. officials have long attempted to block Huawei investment in the U.S. telecom sector, claiming that the company provides information to Chinese intelligence.
“There has been widespread suspicion that Huawei has ties to the Chinese government and that it might have backdoors in its programs that provide information to Chinese intelligence,” Segal said, “The U.S. on numerous occasions has shown its displeasure in investing or purchasing U.S. companies in the telecom market.”
Huawei has alleged that the security concerns repeatedly raised by U.S. authorities are designed to block competition for U.S. companies such as Cisco and Juniper.