China urges US to stop politicizing cybersecurity issues
Five Eyes carefully plot, coordinate in smear campaign
Published: Mar 26, 2024 08:17 PM
The Five Eyes Alliance Photo: VCG

The Five Eyes Alliance Photo: VCG

The US, UK, New Zealand and Australia have expressed concerns over the so-called malicious cyber activities from China after releasing "evidence" of infiltration and hacking in recent days and then announcing sanctions, showing strong coordination. 

Such groundless accusations have been rejected out of hand on Tuesday by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which urged the US, the instigator behind the smear campaign, to stop politicizing cybersecurity issues and act responsibly in cyberspace.

The Biden administration on Monday US local time announced a criminal indictment and sanctions against seven Chinese individuals for allegedly conducting hacks against US companies and government officials on behalf of China's civilian intelligence service, CNN reported on Monday. 

The charges come as the British government accused China of being responsible for "malicious cyber campaigns" targeting the country's Electoral Commission and politicians. 

Both the US and UK claimed the Chinese hacking group APT31 was behind the cyber activities. It was accused of targeting the US presidential election in 2020. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Li Jian said at Tuesday's routine press briefing that the Chinese side has made technical clarifications and responses to the so-called APT31-related information submitted by the British side, and made it clear that the evidence provided by the British side was inadequate and relevant conclusions lack professionalism. But unfortunately, there has been no further response from the British side.

China firmly opposes and combats all kinds of cyberattacks, and is committed to working with all countries, on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, to strengthen cooperation and jointly deal with the threats of cybersecurity through channels such as bilateral dialogue or judicial assistance, Lin said. 

China's relevant cybersecurity institutions have released a series of reports on the US government's cyberattacks on China and other countries. Yet the US government has been silent about them. We urge the US to adopt a responsible approach in cyberspace and stop framing the innocent, the spokesperson noted.

New Zealand and Australia have also joined to condemn China over  "hacking activities," according to media reports.  

Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand Wang Xiaolong posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that China rejects outright the groundless and irresponsible accusations against China on cyberattacks or intrusions. "Accusing China of foreign interference is completely barking up the wrong tree. We hope the New Zealand side can practice the letter and spirit of its longstanding and proud independent foreign policy," Wang wrote. 

Lin, in response to a question by the Global Times, said that for some time, driven by its own geopolitical agenda, the US has encouraged "Five Eyes Alliance," the world's largest intelligence organization led by the US itself, to compile and spread all kinds of disinformation about the threats posed by the so-called Chinese hackers. Now along with the UK, the US is hyping up the so-called Chinese cyberattacks and even launching groundless unilateral sanctions against China, he said. 

The US and the UK once again hyped up the so-called cyberattacks from China and sanctioned China's individuals and entities. This is sheer political manipulation. China strongly deplores and firmly opposes this, Lin said. 

"We have lodged serious representations to relevant parties. We urge the US and the UK to stop politicizing cybersecurity issues, stop smearing China and imposing unilateral sanctions on China, and stop cyberattacks against China. China will take necessary measures to firmly safeguard its lawful rights and interests," the spokesperson said.

Chinese analysts believe this round of accusations was carefully plotted and conducted in close coordination among the Five Eyes countries - the US plays the boss and the UK is the secretary; the others, including Canada, which has not followed suit this time but has previously accused China of hacking and cyberattacks before, are more of a "yes man" in such a scenario.      

Lü Xiang, an expert on US studies and a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the Biden administration has been committed to enhancing the Five Eyes' presence and internal coordination on cyber matters to target US rivals and competitors, and the strategy works to some extent. 

To cooperate with the US in a smear campaign and a disinformation war is the easiest and costless task of being a US ally, noted Lü, who believes that when it comes to substantial benefits, the intelligence clique would break up due to varying interests. 

Analysts attributed the US and UK's intensifying smear campaign against China on cybersecurity to their anxiety over waning dominance in cutting-edge information technology. 

The US, in order to maintain its hegemonic status in the information and communication sector, has adopted two methods - slandering China and painting it as a threat, and cracking down on real entities and industry players, to poison the environment for China to develop high technologies, Lü said. 

The upcoming elections in the US and UK also motivated the two countries to intensify their smear campaign, as they twisted the fabricated charges from "stealing AI technology" they used previously to "attacking democracy." 

Blame shifting is an easy approach to divert public discontent over domestic policies amid election cycles, and accusing China of attacking Western democracy institutions caters to their long-term ideological bias, analysts said. But they warned such moves are also feeding a new cold war.