US-China Reach Deal on Cyber Attacks (kind of)

US-China Reach Deal on Cyber Attacks (kind of)

The Announcement

What is the US-China Agreement

Joint text released by Attorney General

We welcome recent progress made with the People’s Republic of China on cyber issues of concern to both the United States and China.  Through the efforts of President Obama and President Xi Jinping, as well as officials from both sides, we have made several key commitments focused on concrete actions and arrangements to address our differences on cyber issues.  These include:

  • The United States and China committed that both sides should increase law enforcement communications regarding malicious cyber activities, including breaches of sensitive information, and provide timely responses to requests for information and assistance concerning those activities.  Further, both sides agreed to provide updates to the other side on the status and results of those investigations and to take action, as appropriate.
  • The United States and China committed that neither country’s government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sectors.

What’s Next

  • As a means of ensuring that these commitments are upheld and responses are provided in a timely and comprehensive manner, the United States and China committed to establish a high-level joint dialogue mechanism on cybercrime and related issues.  We will co-chair the dialogue for the United States, with participation from representatives of the FBI, the U.S. Intelligence Community and other agencies.  China will designate an official at the Ministerial level to lead representatives from the Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of State Security, Ministry of Justice and the State Internet and Information Office.  This dialogue will enable both sides to periodically assess our progress; address any issues related to investigative cooperation or information exchanges; and outline means for relevant agencies on both sides to enhance cooperation.
  • Further, the two countries will establish a hotline to address urgent issues or difficulties that have not otherwise been successfully resolved.  We look forward to scheduling the first session of this dialogue before the end of the calendar year.


  • These commitments do not resolve all our challenges with China on cyber issues.  However, they do represent a step forward in our efforts to address one of the sharpest areas of disagreement in the U.S.-China bilateral relationship.  The United States is prepared to fulfill our commitments and make reciprocal efforts.  We expect China to do the same and have been clear with the Chinese government that their words must be matched by actions.


Kennethy Lieberthal, a Brookings Institute Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies explained:

The significance of this agreement is in China, for the first time, publicly committing that it will not conduct [economic cyberespionage].  In the past, they have simply denied that they have engaged in these or other cyber activities and that they’re the victim and not the perpetrator.

Only a great optimist will say that now we’re home-free on this. But [the agreement] at least provides a very high-level, agreed-upon way to engage on this issue and a public [acknowledgment] that this is an issue of genuine consequence.

Washington, including members of the Obama administration, remain skeptical that the Chinese will comply.