U.S. Group Criticizes IT Spending Measure

Reuters reports that the U.S.-China Business Council has criticized a provision from the recently-passed government spending bill that would create roadblocks for several government agencies to buy information technology systems from China:

“The national security of the United States is critical, but it must not be used as a means of protectionism,” John Frisbie, the group’s president, said in a letter urging leaders in the Senate and the House of Representatives to block similar measures in the future.

“Product security is a function of how a product is made, used, and maintained, rather than by whom or where it is made. Imposing a country-specific risk assessment creates a false sense of security if the goal is to improve our nation’s cybersecurity,” Frisbie said.

The measure requires the NASA space agency, the Justice and Commerce departments and the National Science Foundation to get approval from law enforcement officials when buying new information technology systems, with a particular focus on whether the systems are “produced, manufactured or assembled by one or more entities that are owned, directed or subsidized” by China.

The letter comes after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a number of technology trade groups wrote Congress asking that future spending legislation not include a similar measure, which was aimed at preventing cyber attacks. A February report by security firm  identified a unit of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that had allegedly stolen large quantities of sensitive data from U.S. companies and government organizations since 2006, but the Chinese government has responded by accusing America of perpetrating cyber attacks against China as well. Faculty members at Shanghai Jiaotong University have also been linked to the PLA’s hacking unit via several co-authored papers.

Last month, the White House demanded that China crack down on hacking and start negotiating rules for proper behavior in cyberspace. And at the China Internet Industry Forum in Beijing on Tuesday, which was also attended by Chinese government representatives, senior U.S. officials continued to urge China to cease its cyber attacks and curb Internet censorship. From William Wan of The Washington Post:

Chinese officials stuck mostly to previous boilerplate responses to such accusations: China is in the early stages of its development; far from perpetrating cyberattacks, China is among the most frequent targets; andChina opposes the actions of rogue hackers.

One Chinese official, however, went on the offensive.

“Recently some people have cooked up this theory of a Chinese cybersecurity threat,” said Qian Xiaoqian, vice minister of China’s State Council Information Office. “It is a variation on the popular theory of a rising China threat.”

China has long opposed hacking, he said, and thinks “we shouldn’t militarize the cyberspace and attack other countries in violation of laws and regulations and also in violation of moral standards.”


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