At a summit on Saturday, Secretary Hagel mentioned the increasingly dangerous battles taking place on the cyber frontier (alluding to the fact that many of them are being instigated by the Chinese government), as well as the United States’ ‘strategic pivot’ to Asia, as reasons why the U.S. and China need to establish a closer working relationship and nail down some basic ground rules. Via the NYT:
In remarks directed at China, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke Saturday of a “growing threat” of cyberattacks against the United States and called on America and its allies to “establish international norms of responsible behavior in cyberspace.”
Speaking to an audience of defense analysts and defense ministers from Asia and Europe at the annual conference of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Mr. Hagel said the United States was “cleareyed about the challenges in cyber.”
“The United States has expressed our concerns about the growing threat of cyberintrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military,” he said in a speech largely devoted to the Obama administration’s defense posture in Asia. At the same time, Mr. Hagel emphasized the need for more talks between the American and Chinese militaries to build trust and reduce the risk of miscalculation at a time of mounting rivalry.
A representative from China, as ever, didn’t take too well to that. She insisted that China isn’t at all convinced the United States wants a “comprehensive” working relationship and is only out to contain China’s oh-so-glorious and pending military rise (a subject about which they’re especially touchy — they’ve been increasing defense spending in recent years hand over fist to try and catch up with us in military might):
Maj. Gen. Yao Yunzhu, director of the Center for China-America Defense Relations at the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Science, challenged Hagel to better explain America’s intentions for its military buildup across the region. …
She said the Obama administration’s new focus on the Pacific has been widely interpreted as an “attempt to counter China’s rising influence and to offset the increasing military capabilities of the Chinese PLA. However, China is not convinced.”
She asked Hagel how he can assure China that the increased U.S. deployments to the region are part of an effort to build a more positive relationship with Beijing.
“That’s really the whole point behind closer military-to-military relationships,” Hagel responded. “We don’t want miscalculations and misunderstandings and misinterpretations. And the only way you do that is you talk to each other.”
Even if the United States is trying to kill several geopolitical birds with one strategic stone, I’d bet on China continuing to do everything they can and think up excuses to wriggle out of any agreements and confrontations about locking down cyber-intrusion — they’re plenty aware that it’s one of their best chances to catch up to the United States’ defensive swagger. President Obama has his big summit with China’s president next weekend in California, but I can’t say I’m counting on anything substantive coming out of it on the cyber-warfare front.