Don't let cyber security overshadow key China-US dialogue
Updated: 2013-07-09 16:40
BEIJING - As dozens of senior officials from China and the United States are converging in Washington for a high-level forum between the world's two biggest economies, much of the US media attention was drawn to the topic of cyber security.
On its own merit, the issue deserves a good discussion between the two sides, both major players of the Internet domain, and a newly-formed bilateral working group on cyber security met for the first time before the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) formally begins Wednesday.
While we can't deny that cyber security has emerged as a growing source of contention between the two countries, the problem was largely a product of Washington's dubious "cyber espionage" claims against China, and the issue shouldn't be hyped into something that would overshadow and obstruct talks on much more important issues between the two nations.
The creation of the S&ED mechanism is aimed at establishing a venue for Beijing and Washington to discuss and solve issues with across-the-board, strategic and enduring influences, and the dialogue's outcome not only affects bilateral ties, but also has regional and global implications.
Moreover, this year's dialogue is widely seen as a direct follow-up of last month's historic summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Barack Obama, thus would hopefully serve as a catalyst for fulfilling their agreed goal of building the bilateral relationship into an example of new-type ties between world's major countries.
Given the full-plate agenda of the upcoming event, any disproportional focus on a single issue risks losing the big picture.
Facing unfounded accusations on the cyber security issue, China has so far shown restraint and taken an open, constructive attitude, seeking talks with the US side on how to better safeguard the cyber space and formulate global norms for the domain.
For many Chinese, it is bizarre that how Washington can continue to pose as the biggest cyber espionage victim and demand others behave well after former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden revealed that US spy agencies hacked deep into China and other countries' computer networks, including those of government, military, research, educational and business organizations.
While admitting its extensive hacking activities, the US side now argues that while it did spy on other countries, it didn't do it for commercial purposes. However, without giving any details or proofs, it sounds like an attempt to cover one's old mistake with a new excuse, and a bad one.
Moreover, by dividing cyber espionage into "bad" and "good" activities, Washington is trying to dictate the rules for global cyber domain, which is a public space.
To complete the unprecedented task of forging new-type relationship between the world's largest developing nation and largest developed nation, trust-building is the first step.
Past rounds of S&ED have proved its indispensable value in enhancing high-level contacts and increasing mutual understanding between the two nations, and most importantly, in containing spats and building trust.
While Beijing has repeatedly said it is willing to manage disputes and work with Washington to build a safer and orderly cyber space, Washington's relentless efforts to make groundless claims against China and to tirelessly pressure China on the issue would undermine mutual trust, which is often hard to be built and easy to be spoiled.