The United States and China announced Friday that the two nations have agreed to initial norms of cyber activities with the two nations saying each will avoid conducting cyber theft of intellectual property for commercial gain.
President Obama and Chinese President Xi made the announcement at a joint press conference at the White House this afternoon. The agreement draws a clear distinction between cyberespionage between government entities and corporate espionage for commercial gain.
China's alleged cyberspying operation against private companies has been a particularly frustrating sticking point for US interests.
According to a document released by the White House, the two nations have agreed not to “conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sectors.”
The term “or knowingly support” leaves China some flexibility, considering the country's bottom-up management approach to hacking and cyberspying, as were detailed in a report published this week by ThreatConnect and Defense Group Inc.
Richard Stiennon, chief research analyst for IT-Harvest and author of There Will Be Cyberwar, said, “This is a high water mark, as long as it isn't used by the current administration as an example of how we have solved the problem. This is a baby step.”