President Obama on Wednesday strongly hinted his administration is prepared to retaliate against China for a string of recent cyberattacks against U.S. interests.
Obama singled out “industrial espionage,” in which Chinese hackers are suspected to have stolen trade secrets from companies, as “an act of aggression that has to stop.”
Lawmakers and security experts have blamed China for a series of cyberattacks during the past year on major American corporations and the federal government. Earlier this year, a hack on the Office of Personnel Management compromised the personal information of 22 million people, and most fingers pointed to China.
Hacking concerns have loomed over a scheduled state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the White House on Sept. 25. Obama said he plans to raise the issue with Xi during meetings.
The White House is reportedly weighing sanctions against Chinese interests in response to the hacks, but they are not expected to be announced before Xi’s visit.
Obama did not detail what steps the U.S. is considering to retaliate against the Chinese, but expressed hope both sides could reach an agreement to avoid penalties.
"My hope is that it gets resolved short of that," he said.
Still, Obama warned China that the U.S. would win if the situation escalated into a cyber war.
“We’re still the best at this,” he said. “If we wanted to go on offense, a whole bunch of countries would have some significant problems.”