Lew to press China on cyber spying

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will warn Chinese leaders next week that the country's cyber spying is endangering the country's growing trade relationship with the United States, the Obama administration said.

“This is an issue of very high concern and importance to the president,” a senior Treasury Department official told reporters on a call previewing Lew's trip to China. “You can expect Secretary Lew to discuss our growing concerns about cybersecurity when he meets with Chinese officials, highlighting that this issue has become a growing challenge to our economic relationship.”

“We're going to have these discussions with a view to pressing China to take serious steps to investigate and put a stop to these activities. And we expect to have China engage with us in a constructive, direct dialogue to establish acceptable norms of behavior on cybersecurity.”

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Lew, who was confirmed as Treasury secretary late last month, is scheduled to meet with officials of newly installed President Xi Jinping's administration on Tuesday and Wednesday.

He is expected to press the Chinese on enforcement of intellectual property rights, export financing, non-discriminatory treatment of public and private enterprises and China's transition away from export-led growth fueled by an allegedly undervalued currency. 

“It's important to deepen our relationship with their new leadership team” as China undergoes its once-in-a-decade political transition, the official said.

During a call with Xi congratulating him on his election Thursday, Obama also pressed him on cybersecurity, calling it a “shared challenge.” The comments signal that the administration is increasingly willing to call out China for hacking attacks against U.S. businesses and organizations.

“America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyberattacks,” the president said during this year's State of the Union address. “We know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private email. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets.”

This week, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon mentioned China by name.

“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,” Donilon said Monday. “The international community cannot tolerate such activity from any country.”

Obama signed an executive order on cybersecurity last month. And on Wednesday, he met with the CEOs of some of the country's top companies to build momentum for stalled cybersecurity legislation.

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