The United States has finally called out China on its cyber attacks, and China has responded with ... something less than fury and a clenched fist. Considering China usually just reacts with denial, outrage and anger, we'll call this new development progress.
In a speech given to the Asia Society, President Barack Obama's National Security Advisor Tom Donilon singled out China as a cybersecurity threat and called on the country to acknowledge the problem and work with the United States to find a solution.
"We need a recognition of the urgency and scope of this problem and the risk it poses — to international trade, to the reputation of Chinese industry, and to our overall relations," Donilon said in his speech. "Second, Beijing should take serious steps to investigate and put a stop to these activities. Finally, we need China to engage with us in a constructive direct dialogue to establish acceptable norms of behavior in cyberspace."
"Increasingly, U.S. businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber intrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale," he explained. "The international community cannot afford to tolerate such activity from any country."
Usually, this kind of direct accusation would only compel China to issue harsh statements against the U.S. In fact, in February China declared that it is the victim of nearly 150,000 hacking attacks every month, with the U.S. behind more than 60 percent of them.
China's Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying did reiterate that the country is against cyber attacks, but she also greeted the call to the table with an open mind.
"Cyberspace needs rules and cooperation, not wars. China is willing to have constructive dialogue and cooperation with the global community, including the United States," she said.
As with many global issues, this is an area that requires mutual respect and cooperation from both countries for the problem to be solved. There's no guarantee that talks will go anywhere, but the first step is to get both parties to the table. Suddenly, that looks like a distinct possibility.