Xinhua reports that top officials from the United States and China held their first cybersecurity meeting in Washington on Wednesday to address “international norms of state behavior and other crucial issues for international security in cyberspace.” The talk was arranged in accordance with an anti-hacking agreement reached during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s U.S. visit last September. The accord includes a pledge that neither country would conduct nor knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property for commercial gain.
It was the first meeting of the Senior Experts Group on International Norms and Related Issues, a mechanism agreed upon during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the United States last September.
The two sides held “positive, in-depth and constructive” discussions on issues concerning international norms of state behavior in cyberspace, as well as international law and confidence-building measures in the field, according to the Chinese delegation.
The two sides agreed to hold a second meeting within six months, it added.
The Chinese delegation was headed by Wang Qun, director-general of arms control at the Foreign Ministry. It also included officials from the Defense, Industry and Information Technology, Public Security ministries as well as the Cyberspace Administration of China. [Source]
Cybersecurity has long been a contentious issue for the two countries, with both sides engaging in regular accusations of hacking activities. Most recently, China-backed hackers were accused of orchestrating major data breaches at the U.S. government’s Office of Personnel Management and health insurer Anthem. These episodes, which compromised the personal information of millions of U.S. individuals, were preceded by similar cyberattacks on The New York Times and other U.S. companies. A Mandiant report has since attributed the attacks to a hacking unit within the People’s Liberation Army.
Despite reports suggesting that cyber-espionage activities originating from China have not entirely abated since last year’s Xi-Obama summit, U.S. officials acknowledged that there have been noticeable changes in Chinese behavior since the agreement was struck. Nike Ching at Voice of America reports:
U.S. officials provided few details about the talks, and they declined to engage in “grading” China’s follow-through on cyber commitments. However, the State Department called the meeting a “good indication that we stay engaged.”
[…] But there may be signs that the U.S.-China cyber agreement may be having an impact. Harold said that private-sector companies that provide cybersecurity have indicated that the Chinese cyber-espionage groups they were tracking have changed their behavior and their targeting.
“Not entirely, not in every case, but in large enough numbers, it appears to be … that the agreement of last September actually carries consequences in the real world for Chinese behavior,” he said. [Source]