U.S. officials prodded China to crack down on cyber-espionage directed at American corporations, opening high-level talks Wednesday with a sensitive jab on an issue that has become a core concern of American companies.
Both Vice President Biden and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew raised the matter in comments opening the two-day Strategic and Economic Dialogue, an annual session held between top security and economic officials of the two nations.
“Outright cyber-enabling theft that U.S. companies are experiencing now must be viewed as out of bounds and needs to stop,” Biden said, according to wire service reports.
Lew said that for economic relations between the two countries to succeed, U.S. firms had to be “preserved and protected from government-sponsored cyber intrusion.”
The issue has become central to the discussion since the United States accused China of routinely trying to hack into the computer networks of U.S. businesses and institutions.
Although the conversation has been clouded by the recent events involving former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, U.S. business officials said they are nevertheless expecting a clear signal from China this week that they take the issue seriously and understand how deeply it could affect commercial relations between the two countries.
The latest round of meetings is taking place as China is suffering a slowdown in its economy that has, according to many analysts, increased the pressure on the incoming Chinese government to speed the pace of economic reform.
As the sessions opened Wednesday, new data showed a rare drop in monthly Chinese exports — a sign of flagging demand around the world.
Lew, recounting actions taken by the United States to rebound from its financial crisis five years ago, said that China was now at a point “where significant and fundamental shifts in policy will be required to sustain growth in the future.”