The Obama administration fired a warning shot Monday across the bow of the Chinese cyberespionage juggernaut, laying out specific expectations from China and reiterating its vow to take unspecified “action” if the theft of proprietary data from US corporations continues unabated.

In his comments Monday, Mr. Donilon left no doubt the White House is shifting to a more aggressive stance – including demands for the investigation of cyberespionage cases conducted against US business. …

More significantly, though, Donilon for the first time laid out specific expectations that, if not met, could result in the unspecified US action – which in the past has been interpreted as leaving open the options not only for an offensive cyberattack, but for sanctions or even a military response – depending on the severity of the cyberintrusions.

“We seek three things from the Chinese side,” Donilon said. “First, we need a recognition of the urgency and scope of this problem and the risk it poses – to international trade, to the reputation of Chinese industry, and to our overall relations. Second, Beijing should take serious steps to investigate and put a stop to these activities. Finally, we need China to engage with us in a constructive direct dialogue to establish acceptable norms of behavior in cyberspace.”