Daily Video

July 9, 2013

U.S. and China Leaders Debate Cyber Security

Watch U.S. Fed Up With Chinese Cyber Theft, Say Analysts on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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Cyber security is on the agenda at a biannual meeting of U.S. and Chinese leaders this week in Washington for the very first time.

The talks are being conducted under the suspicion that China is stealing intellectual property by hacking into computer networks of U.S. companies. Security specialists say China is using theft as a national development strategy, stealing software for wind turbines, fiberoptic cable technology and blueprints for weapons systems.

China transitioned from stealing U.S. military and government secrets to industrial espionage around five years ago, says James Mulvenon, co-author of “Chinese Industrial Espionage: Technology Acquisition and Military Modernization.”

“We began seeing them go after companies at the heart of the American innovation economy,” Mulvenon told the NewsHour. “And so now it’s both the traditional classified computer network intrusion activity, as well as this new focus on commercial espionage.”

At Verizon, network engineers are monitoring Internet traffic by watching for online crimes. According to this year’s annual report on cyber-crime, Verizon found 96 percent of the world’s cyber-espionage came from China.

However, China claims that their actions are no different from the U.S.’s spying activities. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying in Beijing pointed out that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden says the U.S. has tapped Chinese telecommunications lines.

“China hopes a certain country can stop irresponsible attacks and accusations against China, start with themselves, and take practical action to strengthen mutual trust and cooperation, and jointly safeguard peace and security of the cyberspace,” said Chunying.

Congress is trying to tackle the problem with legislation denying visas to Chinese citizens involved in cyber-theft and blocking products that use stolen intellectual property from entering the U.S. market.
Both the United States and China have a lot on the line, plenty of mutual interests, and reasons to avoid escalating cyber-war, or trade war. The two countries continue their meetings this week.

Warm-up questions

1. What is a cyber-attack?

2. What is espionage?

3. Who is Edward Snowden?

Discussion questions

1. What did you find most interesting about this video?

2. How important do you think this issue is to Americans? Does it affect you?

3. Why do you think the Snowden controversy makes it more difficult for the U.S. to complain to China about cyber-industiral espionage?

4. Do you agree with Dmitri Alperovitch when he said that the U.S.’s spying activity is very different from what the Chinese are doing because it is not engaged in economic espionage?

5. Do you think the propsed legislation will effectively combat cyber-threats? Why or why not?

— Compiled by Elizabeth Jones for NewsHour Extra

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