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U.S. presses China on cyberattack

In their first meetings with China’s new leaders, U.S. officials this week pushed for an acknowledgment of the unusual nature of cyberattacks originating from China aimed at stealing U.S. corporate secrets to benefit the Asian giant’s state-owned enterprises.

For years, China’s response to such accusations has been to argue that it suffers as much from cyberattacks as other countries do. But according to U.S. officials, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew pressed Beijing officials yesterday to distinguish between common criminal cyberattacks and those apparently emanating from China with the intent of hurting private U.S. firms to benefit Chinese government-backed companies.

“This is a very serious threat to our economic interests,” Lew told reporters at the conclusion of his two-day visit to China.

Lew brought up the issue at considerable length yesterday in a meeting with China’s new premier, Li Keqiang, said a senior U.S. official who was not authorized to speak on the record. Li and others acknowledged the harsher tone coming from Washington on cyberattacks but did not indicate a shift in the Chinese position, the official said.

The visit marked the first opportunity U.S. officials have had to meet in person with new Chinese leaders since the monthslong lull ahead of last year’s U.S. elections and once-a-decade leadership transition in China.

In their first months in power, Chinese leaders have promised reforms in the face of widespread skepticism on the part of a public increasingly disillusioned with the Communist Party’s authoritarian rule.

They repeated pledges to undertake economic reforms in private meetings with U.S. officials this week but tempered them with calls for patience, saying they would be carried out in a gradual manner, yielding incremental progress, U.S. officials said.

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