Huntsman: 'Symbolic' charges no deterrent

Former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman on Sunday said charging members of the Chinese military with stealing U.S. trade secrets would likely not deter future online espionage. 

Huntsman, a former GOP presidential candidate and Utah governor, said the criminal charges leveled last week by the Justice Department were largely symbolic. 

"At some point, we have to start getting serious about how we respond past the symbolic measures," he said on ABC's "This Week." "While this will ratchet up the level of discussion, I don't think it will do much to really stop the activity that is going on."

Last week, the Justice Department charged five members of the People’s Liberation Army with stealing trade secrets and planning documents from U.S. companies through online espionage, the first U.S. charges of their kind.

"This is symbolic," Huntsman said. "You put five PLA members in a most wanted poster. We are not going to make any headway on this until such time as we really target markets in this country and to say what is it that China wants more than anything — they want access to our market, they want to go public on our stock exchange, they want access to our banks and financial services."

Huntsman said the United States could expect backlash from China, noting the "laws of physics" apply to U.S-China relations. 

He also said it is important to distinguish U.S. security espionage with China's actions, which seeks to steal private trade secrets.  

Huntsman said the stealing of trade secrets costs the U.S. about $300 billion a year, with China making up about 70 percent of that.