In their remarks prior to their bilateral meeting on 6 September, as part of the G20 Leaders Meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia this week, President Obama and President Xi of the People's Republic of China greeted one another cordially, having spent time together most recently in June of this year, when they had occasion to discuss a wide array of issues.
Near the top of the list at that time, were concerns about cyber security; and less than one week later, on 14 June 14, the People of the United States of America charged Edward Joseph Snowden with espionage and theft of government property. Fleeing from the U.S. to Hong Kong days earlier, Snowden then fled to Russia, where he eventually received temporary asylum for a period of one year. A private contractor mistakenly entrusted with high-level access, Snowden was employed by Booz, Allan, Hamilton, whose majority interest is owned by the Carlyle Group, a global asset management firm. See the Booz Allan Hamilton Statement on Reports of Leaked Information here.
At the time of the meeting of the two Presidents in California, a recently-published book by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, “The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business,” Eric Schmidt – who is Google’s Executive Chairman, said that he believes that China is the world's "most sophisticated and prolific hacker."
In her article, “Silicon Valley Finds Itself At The Front Line Of The Global Cyber War” appearing in the Huffington Post at the time, Martha Mendoza notes:
”A recent government report found nearly 40 Pentagon weapons programs and almost 30 other defense technologies were compromised by cyber intrusions from China. …"
Ms. Mendoza also notes that the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, which is led by former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and former U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, had even recommended that President Obama and members of Congress reconsider laws against retaliatory hacking:
“Retaliatory hacking was a hot topic at the 2013 RSA Conference on tech security in March, where attorneys and sitting judges even held a mock trial over an imaginary firm that struck back. …
If counterattacks against hackers were legal, there are many techniques that companies could employ that would cause severe damage to the capability of those conducting IP theft."
That Conference was organized by those who have an interest in the use of algorithms relating to encryption of data – including the latest challenge of the digital age known as “Big data,” which will represent another extremely complicating factor. In his keynote address at that Conference, Art Coviello explains:
Big data has the potential to transform our lives for the better; our health, environment, our livelihood, almost every facet of our daily lives. Big Data is more than just a whole lot of data. It's the ability to extract meaning: to sort through the masses of data elements to find the hidden pattern, the unexpected correlation, the surprising connection. Did you know the volume of information in the world is doubling every two years and less than one percent of the world's data is analyzed, and less than 20 percent of it is protected?
It is clear that these issues represent a challenge to both nations, and to other nations struggling to find appropriate ways to make the best use of technology for the best interests of their people.
In the remarks which preceded the bilateral meeting, President Xi said that in the meeting at the Annenberg Estate in June of this year, the two had “reached important consensus of mutual interest in our bilateral relationship:"
"In particular, we agreed once again to building a new model of major country relationship between China and the United States. The Annenberg Estate is a beautiful and quiet place, and I still have fresh memories of your warm hospitality. So I take this opportunity to thank you again for hosting me. Since we met last time, our two teams have worked closely together to implement a consensus we have reached. The fifth round of the China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue produced bountiful results. …We have made solid progress in advancing practical cooperation in many different areas, and we have maintained close communication and coordination of major international and regional issues."
President Obama expressed his appreciation for China’s hosting of the meeting and noted his pleasure in seeing President Xi once again. The President agreed that they had “excellent meetings” earlier this year and that they were in agreement to continue to build a new model of great power relations based on practical cooperation and constructively managing our differences:”
As has been indicated, we’ve made significant progress on a range of issues, whether it’s cooperation on addressing climate change, expanded military-to-military consultations that ensure awareness and avoid potential conflicts or miscommunications. And we’ve had some extensive discussions through the Strategic and Economic Dialogue about how we can continue to grow the economy and give some momentum to global growth that creates jobs, prosperity, and balanced growth around the world.
So this gives us an additional opportunity to discuss some of the topics at issue here at the G20, as well as our mutual interest in addressing some significant global challenges, such as the challenge posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
And although there will continue to be some significant disagreements and sources of tension, I’m confident that they can be managed. And I want to reiterate that the United States welcomes the continuing peaceful rise of China and is interested in a China that is playing a stable and prosperous and responsible role, not only in the Asia Pacific but around the world.