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China voices strong opposition to US cyber-espionage law

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Government spokesman says limiting government purchases of Chinese IT "sends a very wrong signal"

china / chinese flag (STOCK)
china / chinese flag (STOCK)

China has come out in strong opposition to a new US law that restricts government purchases of Chinese technology, saying the measure threatens to harm economic relations between the two countries. The provision, passed Thursday as part of a larger US spending bill, requires NASA, the Department of Justice, and the Commerce Department to consult with federal law enforcement before procuring Chinese IT systems. The law purportedly aims to mitigate the risk of cyber-espionage, but as Reuters reports, Chinese authorities say it could have drastic consequences.

"severely damages mutual trust between the US and China."

"This will directly impact partnerships of Chinese enterprises and American business as they conduct regular trade," Shen Danyang, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, told Chinese media Saturday. "This abuse of so-called national security measures is unfair to Chinese enterprises, and extends the discriminatory practice of presumption of guilt. This severely damages mutual trust between the US and China." Shen went on to say the bill "sends a very wrong signal."

The US provision comes at a time of heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington. Last month, a report from security firm Mandiant blamed China for a series of high-profile cyberattacks, while a 2012 Congressional report said Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE pose serious risks to national security.

Beijing has consistently denied accusations of hacking and cyber-espionage, describing American claims as "groundless." The country launched its own counter-accusations last month, when it claimed that the US is reponsible for the majority of cyberattacks on its military websites.

"an excuse to take discriminatory steps against Chinese companies."

The commerce ministry spokesperson went on to say that the US should eliminate its new law, though Stewart Baker, a lawyer who first drew attention to its passage, says it's unlikely to be dropped from future legislation. "Once a provision ends up in the appropriations bill... it tends to stay there unless there's a good reason to take it out," Baker told Reuters earlier this week.

Shen's comments echo earlier statements from Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, who said Thursday that the law "uses Internet security as an excuse to take discriminatory steps against Chinese companies."