Friday, March 1, 2013

How to stop China's hacking.

Scott Paul, President
Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM)

China's hacking, brought to you by U.S. trade policy.
Washington still doesn't get it. We've known for years that China hacks government networks, industry computers, and advocacy groups like ours.
A study released last week by a Virginia-based cyber-security company confirms this: The Chinese military is responsible for a series of sophisticated computer hacking attacks on more than 140 American companies.

These hackers have stolen everything from product design blueprints to business strategies, and have also made a persistent effort to gain access to the controls of our infrastructure, including oil and gas pipelines and our electrical grid. 

The Obama administration has known about China's cyber hacking for some time. But the White House has sat on its hands because it believes calling Beijing out for cheating could undermine our overall relationship. In fact, the Administration still sometimes refrains from specifically identifying China as the hacking extraordinaire it's proving itself to be.

News flash: When China uses its military to steal from American companies, it undermines our relationship. And when it starts groping for a hand on our power switch, we need to rethink what we're getting in return.

Our official strategy -- twisting like a pretzel to avoid offending the Chinese government (even when we catch them stealing from us) -- is clearly not working. So why not try something else?

We run an enormous trade deficit with China every year, including a record $315 billion in 2012.  China uses that money to spy on us. So here's an idea: Why not use our trade relationship to force Beijing to play by the rules?

Contrary to what some Washington insiders suggest, getting tough on China's cheating won't start a trade war. Just like anyone else, China responds to pressure. In fact, when Washington has actually moved to address China's currency manipulation, Beijing has responded by budging the value of its currency incrementally (see the chart, above).

Yes, we have a large, complex relationship with China.  But it's really not rocket science: Calling out Beijing for flouting the rules gets results, a point I made this morning in an editorial for CNBC.
If China's cyber-hacking concerns you, keep yourself up to date.  Follow the conversation on our blog, ManufactureThis, and on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr.