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Cyber Deal Expected to Halt Disputes

By Liu Xin (People's Daily Online)    22:51, September 21, 2015

China and the US are reportedly negotiating what might be "the first arms control accord for cyberspace," with analysts believing that the agreement, if reached, could serve as a role model for other countries to solve cyber-related issues.

Experts, however, also urged the US to restrain its behavior under the accord as the country has adopted a double standard on cyber security, blaming others for attacks while monitoring the activities of foreign senior officials at the same time.

China and the US have been negotiating with urgency in recent weeks with the goal of announcing the agreement before Chinese President Xi Jinping's State visit on Tuesday, a US official involved in the talks was cited by The New York Times as saying on Saturday.

The deal would address attacks on power stations, banking systems, cellphone networks and hospitals, and it could be the first arms control accord for cyberspace, with each promising to not be the first to use cyber weapons to cripple the other's critical infrastructure during peacetime, the report said.

"The deal, if nailed by China and the US, shows that the two countries are trying to put a halt to cyberspace security disputes by reaching an agreement to protect common interests," Ni Feng, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

Ni said that the agreement could be regarded as a "no first-strike capability" in the cyberspace field.

"It shows that the US treats China equally and considers it as a competitor. This accord would show that China and the US are beginning cooperation in a new field," Jin Canrong, vice director of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.

Top of summit agenda

"Since China has the largest group of users and the US has the most developed Internet technology, the agreement would improve global cyberspace security," Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times.

Wu said that the agreement would set an example for other countries to solve disputes on cyber-related issues, but warned that the US should also respect the binding effect of the accord, should it be reached.

"The US has always adopted a double standard on cyber security. It accuses other countries, especially China, of industrial espionage or other cyber attacks while the US monitors other countries' senior officials or political figures almost constantly," Wu said.

According to The New York Times, an initial statement between Obama and Xi would be a more "generic embrace" of a code of conduct adopted recently by a working group at the United Nations rather than "a specific, detailed mention" of a prohibition on attacking critical infrastructure.

The United Nations document on principles for cyberspace provides that no state should allow activity "that intentionally damages critical infrastructure or otherwise impairs the use and operation of critical infrastructure to provide services to the public."

"Disagreements on what should be listed as 'critical infrastructure' might be an obstacle for the two countries to reach the agreement," said Ni.

"It should be made clear that China and the US have very a different understanding on cyber security and cyber attacks. The US has accused China of cyber attacks for a long time, but the US has the strongest capability in both cyber attacks and defense," a military expert, who asked for anonymity, told the Global Times,.

Build trust

The important thing to reach agreement is to build mutual trust on cyber security between the two countries amid a rising number of recent disputes, Wu said.

Assistant Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang on Thursday called on China and the US to build mutual trust and collaboration on cyber security, making the cyber security issue a highlight of Sino-US cooperation, instead of conflicts.

Zheng's remark came after Obama warned China over industrial espionage and the Obama administration was considering targeted sanctions against Chinese individuals and companies over a spate of cyber attacks against US commercial targets, several US officials were quoted as saying by media.

According to Saturday's report, the negotiations under discussion do not focus on espionage or theft of intellectual property.

"The US is just trying to pressure China to accept the rules it set in the Internet field by blaming China for these attacks," said Wu, adding that it is difficult to trace the origins of hacking attempts.

"Cyber security is important for the US and it will lose more commercial interest and technology advantages if it is hit by cyber attacks. The US needs to take this opportunity to restart cooperation with China," said Ni.

China suspended a Sino-US working group on cyber security issues in May 2014 after the US, for the first time, indicted five Chinese military officers for the alleged hacking of US companies. China has denied the accusations.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Editor:Luxiao Zou,Bianji)

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