China is being very defensive. Google’s recent exposure of more attempted Gmail hacking, targeting US government officials and Chinese human-rights activists, has made the Chinese government embarrassed and angry.
Suspected state-sponsored Gmail hacking is what initially caused Google to discontinue cooperating with China’s internet censorship policies.
Chinese: Google Is a “Political Tool”
Last week’s hacking incident and Google’s statements that indirectly point to the government as the source have the Chinese seeing red, so to speak. Claiming that China is being unfairly maligned, the Chinese are warning (though official publications of the Communist Party) that they may seek to punish or retaliate against Google in some way.
The Chinese government has consistently and angrily denied any involvement in Gmail hacking incidents. And it has never been entirely proven that the government was directly or indirectly involved. However Wikileaks documents (together with third party security analysis) strongly implicate (if not confirm) the hacking was carried out by the Chinese government or its surrogates.
Experts: Hacking Part of a Sustained Espionage Campaign
China says that Google’s implied accusations are “deliberately pandering to negative Western perceptions of China” and that Google has become a “political tool.” However Chinese Gmail hacking is reportedly part of a long-standing campaign by “cyberspies” in China to gain access to US defense and corporate information.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
James Mulvenon, a China and cyber-security expert, has been tracking a four-year phishing campaign against China specialists in Washington. He’s logged more than 100 rounds of attacks against 30-40 China specialists, many of whom have rotated in and out of government . . . The goal of this campaign in Washington appears to be to gather information from individuals who communicate with U.S. officials about China matters, Mr. Mulvenon said.If cyberspies gather sensitive but unclassified data from Washington research institutions and a smattering of U.S. officials, he said, “you get a pretty good picture of what’s going on in Washington as it relates to China.”
A New Cold War
Welcome to the new Cold War. Going forward it appears that the US and China will seek to maintain cordial relations publicly — China is the largest US debt holder and the US is a critical market for Chinese-made goods — while conducting computer-based espionage and counter-espionage operations against each other behind the scenes.
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