This past Friday, President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that the United States and China had reached a “common understanding” to fight state-sponsored, corporate cyber espionage between the countries.
During a joint press conference, President Obama said that “neither the U.S. nor the Chinese government will conduct or knowingly support cyber theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information for commercial advantage.” President Jinping added that “both governments will not engage in or support online theft of intellectual property.”
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson released a joint statement that outlines the U.S. government’s position on the U.S.-China agreement. According to the joint statement, the respective governments agreed to, among other things, “increase law enforcement communications regarding malicious cyber activities” and “provide timely responses to requests for information and assistance concerning those activities.” To support these commitments, the countries agreed to “establish a high-level joint dialogue mechanism on cybercrime and related issues” including a “hotline” to address urgent instances of cyber theft of intellectual property. General Lynch and Secretary Johnson will co-chair the joint dialogue on behalf of the U.S., while 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.”
The announcement was met with a healthy degree of skepticism given the abundance of evidence that Chinese entities have been involved for many years in coordinated theft of intellectual property and the loss of billions of dollars in value to domestic corporations. Whether the newly-established joint dialogue between the nations reigns in theft of corporate trade secrets will be a question for practitioners to examine as the dialogue comes “online” in the coming months.