US sanctions against Chinese companies could prompt Beijing to cancel President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States later this month, a report says.
The Financial Times reported earlier this month that the United States was preparing to impose sanctions against Chinese companies linked to the alleged cyber theft of American intellectual property.
Three US officials told the British newspaper on September 3 the sanctions possibly would be announced this week, just days ahead of the Chinese president’s visit.
Former US administration officials and experts told the Washington-based The Hill newspaper on Sunday that sanctions against China could cause the cancellation of the scheduled visit, because Beijing is very upset about the potential of economic sanctions ahead of the trip.
“The Chinese right now are getting very concerned because they understand this will create embarrassing optics around the visit for them,” said Samm Sacks, China analyst at the Eurasia Group.
According to experts and former White House cyber security officials, the Obama administration will anger Beijing just days before the Chinese leader is scheduled to land in Washington.
On Friday, President Barack Obama told members of the US Armed Forces that Chinese cyber attacks are unacceptable.
“We’ve made very clear to the Chinese that there are certain practices that they’re engaging in that we know are emanating from China and are not acceptable,” he said.
Sacks said if Washington does not announce “the sanctions soon, it makes the Obama administration look weak.”
Jason Healey, a former director of cyber infrastructure protection at the White House, and some others believe the news about sanctions are being leaked to send a message to the Chinese delegation as it prepares to make the trip.
“My sense was that the leaks were happening to try and create some kind of pressure on the Chinese as they come into the summit, to get some type of traction with them,” said Chinese cyber policy expert Adam Segal, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Washington has for years accused the Chinese government and military of conducting computer-based attacks against the US, including efforts to steal information from federal agencies.
It claims that the Chinese military has made cyber warfare capabilities a priority over a decade ago and often blames people linked to it for hacking into US companies’ computers to steal secrets.
Beijing says Washington’s cyber attack accusations are hypocritical, since intelligence leaks have revealed that the US itself is most active perpetrator of cyber espionage against foreign countries, especially against China.
“We hope that the US stops its groundless attacks against China, start dialogue based on a foundation of mutual respect, and jointly build a cyberspace that is peaceful, secure, open and cooperative,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing on Friday.