BEIJING • China's government does not engage in the theft of commercial secrets and does not support Chinese companies which do this, President Xi Jinping has told the Wall Street Journal.
"Cybertheft of commercial secrets and hacking attacks against government networks are both illegal; such acts are criminal offences and should be punished according to law and relevant international conventions," Mr Xi said in the written interview, published yesterday ahead of his United States visit.
"China and the United States share common concerns on cyber security. We are ready to strengthen cooperation with the US side on this issue."
US President Barack Obama and Mr Xi are expected to have an intense back-and-forth about the issue when the Chinese leader visits the White House this week.
Cyber espionage, human rights and China's claims to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea are the thorniest issues, said Mr Jeffrey Bader, who formerly advised Mr Obama on Asia policy at the National Security Council.
"None is solvable in the near future, but the administration will want dialogue or reassurance from the Chinese that they will not take steps to aggravate any of these problems," said Mr Bader, a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington.
Mr Obama last week escalated the fight over cyberspace, saying the US was preparing measures to show that economic espionage will not be tolerated.
"This is not just a matter of us being mildly upset," Mr Obama said.
China earlier this month sent its top domestic security official to Washington to discuss cyber-spying tensions. The White House said National Security Adviser Susan Rice had a "frank and open exchange" with Mr Meng Jianzhu, secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party, and the country's domestic security chief.
The official Xinhua news agency said that Mr Meng had reached "important consensus" with the US. Both countries agreed it is "vital" that they cooperate on fighting hacking, Mr Meng said, adding that China will punish anyone who hacks from within China's borders or steals corporate secrets.
"China's position on opposing hacking and stealing commercial secrets online is resolute," Xinhua cited Mr Meng as saying.