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Edward Snowden grabbed all the headlines this weekend, admitting he was the one leaking the information about National Security Agency surveillance. This news totally overshadowed what I thought was a more important national-security story: President Obama’s summit with China’s president Xi Jinping.
Let’s be honest here. The news that the government spies on people is about as stunning as, well, China being a cyberthreat. The difference is that the government has been monitoring citizens since the founding fathers got together in Philadelphia; whereas, Chinese hacking of the Internet is a relatively new thing and the implications may be much more dire for national security, not to mention our economic well-being. The discourse right now should be on how we can protect our intellectual property and keeping that property, particularly in the defense industry, from being used against us.
As Kenie Ho, partner at the global IP law firm Finnegan, said to me in an email:
It's good that President Obama and President Xi are meeting. Intellectual property is often the most important asset of any business, especially in high-tech nations like the United States and China. As companies in these two countries do business in the global economy, it is important that they treat each other fairly. Cyber-theft and IP theft have no place between nations that respect and do business with each other. Such activities only inhibit growth and innovation in the long run because they prevent the building of trust for collaborative development and research.
Unfortunately, as the summit ended, it appears that Obama and Xi have a long way to go to come to some sort of agreement. There has been a lot of finger pointing between the two countries over the past few months, each accusing the other of hacks and cyberspying. It looks like that conversation is still at an impasse. According to Yahoo!:
Obama's national security adviser Tom Donilon said resolving cybersecurity issues would be "key to the future" of the relationship. Obama told Xi that "if it's not addressed, if it continues to be this direct theft of United States property, that this was going to be very difficult problem in the economic relationship and was going to be an inhibitor to the relationship really reaching its full potential," Donilon said during a briefing with reporters following the summit.
Now we wait to see what happens when the next cyber incident between the U.S. and China occurs.