The Chinese government has not taken well to charges by the United States government that several of its military officials have been hacking into American corporations with the purpose of stealing trade secrets. In an aggressive report, mostly relying on evidence from Edward Snowden, China decries “unscrupulous” surveillance by the U.S.
The report, compiled by the Internet Media Research Center of the People’s Republic of China, was published in full on Xinhua this week and accuses the United States of widespread surveillance of both government leaders and the general public. “As a superpower, the United States takes advantage of its political, economic, military and technological hegemony to unscrupulously monitor other countries, including its allies,” the report alleges. It goes on to dismiss “anti-terrorism” as a reason for surveillance and, instead, describes various NSA programs as exposing “its ugly face of pursuing self-interest in complete disregard of moral integrity.”
The report relies heavily on information published in various publications with the aid of Edward Snowden and does not reveal any new information. It also relies significantly on “leaked documents” as a source, without links or even references to specific documents when not quoting from a newspaper that published Snowden’s revelations. It serves as a litany of complaints against the United States government, rather than a source of new information, as it lists the number of countries allegedly affected by U.S. surveillance.
The report does attribute some previously unpublished information to “leaked sources.” For example, it accuses the Obama administration of arguing that “big data is the new oil,” but it does not provide a source for that quote. A cursory Google search for the phrase and the United States government yields only this very Chinese government report as a source.
The report also claims that “American civil rights organizations have issued a statement to protest against the massive collection of mobile phone data by the NSA,” but it does not cite that statement, instead it only references a member of the American Civil Liberties Union.
While much of the report focuses generally on Internet surveillance crimes, China does accuse the United States government of outright hacking. “Documents revealed by Snowden to Der Spiegel prove that the United States has conducted mass cyber-attacks on China, targeting Chinese state leaders and the giant high-tech company Huawei,” the report notes. It adds that the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and “Chinese banks and telecommunication companies” were subject to NSA spying. “[W]hen the United States was putting pressure on China over the issue of cyber-attacks, it failed to mention its own mass cyber espionage on Chinese Internet,” the report alleges, claiming that “U.S. officials had always declined to comment on the issue when questioned by journalists after China had accused America of secret snooping operations.”
Unlike many of the accusations in this report, the indictment from the United States Department of Justice against five military officers in Shanghai accuses them of spying on private corporations, including Westinghouse Electric and U.S. Steel. Each officer is being charged with 31 criminal counts, including conspiracy, and are believed to have been working out of the same military building in Shanghai. The counts parallel the findings of a 2013 report by Mandiant that found that the Chinese military was behind a series of cyber attacks in the United States, one that Xinhua immediately dismissed as a stunt. The Chinese government is not likely to extradite the officers to the United States.